Questions and Reflections

Category: Advent

Reflection: Meme Advent

I know the stress of the holiday season is getting to me when I'm laughing way too much at liturgical memes. Liturgical memes are images shared online that poke fun at the things we do in church. As a professional religious person, I know I'm already going to laugh at any liturgical meme I find. But when the never ending to-do list of the Advent Christmas season begins to overwhelm me, I start laughing at these images longer than I should. I'm soon annoying my non-church nerd friends by sending them jokes about writing Year C (the label for the cycle of readings we used last year) on my checks and whether raisins in raisin bread can be consecrated as the body of Christ. Yet the meme I return to every year at this time comes from the movie Mean Girls and how on the third Sunday of Advent, we light pink.

Today is Gaudete Sunday which is Latin for "rejoice." In the 800s, a special Gregorian chant was created to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. In the middle of a season filled with Biblical images about the end of the world, Jesus' second coming, and with John the Baptist calling us all vipers, it's sometimes hard to rejoice. The early church wanted to break through our sense of doom and gloom and remind us why we gather together. We are here to celebrate how God continues to break into our lives with guidance, love and hope. The opening word of that special chant was simply "rejoice." And during this season when we are overwhelmed by our to do lists, rejoicing is hard. We know that the journey to Christmas isn't always a Hallmark movie. An unexpected crisis will interrupt our plans, and we will find ourselves consumed by the broken relationships in our lives. As we get closer to the longest night of the year, it can feel as if a shadow might overcome us. And in these moments, we might not be able to rejoice on our own.

Which is why, I think, the liturgical calendar interrupts our expectations and reminds us to "rejoice." We are connected to a God who loves each of us as we are. And that love transforms our brokenness, our problems, our sins, and the ways we don't love ourselves and others. The liturgy—what we do in worship on Sunday morning—is a structure to tell the truth about God, ourselves and our world. It gives us words when we don't know what to say, and it helps us pray when we can't anymore. And the liturgy reminds us that Christ's light will always shine. So today we light a pink candle instead of a blue one. We remind ourselves to rejoice. We celebrate that no matter what we do, we know Christmas will still come. And we are blessed to trust that Jesus will lead us into a life where love never ends.


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A Reflection on Advent

"Why Advent?" That's how Luther Seminary's professor of preaching, Karoline Lewis, began her weekly reflection this week. And as we start a brand new church year today, "why Advent?" is our question too. What does this season mean since we've been buying giant Christmas inflatables of Santa with a jetpack and the droids from Star Wars wishing us a Merry Christmas since before Halloween? 

It's easy to skip to Christmas because so much of our schedules are devoted to what's coming: holiday concerts at school, scheduling trips to visit family and friends, buying special gifts, and digging through our piles of boxes finding that one with the Christmas star for the tree. Christmas is coming. We all know it is. And we all have a to-do list a mile long to make our Christmas happen. 

But God's Christmas has happened. Jesus already showed up in a manger. We might think December 25th is a month away but the Christ-event, from birth to Cross to Resurrection, is part of our reality. Advent is not a season where we're preparing for Christmas. Advent is a season where we are honest about our world and our lives. We live our lives in a paradox. Christ has come and Christ is coming. We are claimed by God but still living into God's unfolding future. God loves us but we still struggle with what that love means. Advent is four weeks where we are honest about the brokenness of our reality and our lives. And Advent is four weeks where we proclaim that God enters into our brokenness because that's just who God is.  So "why Advent?" Because we're still here, living broken lives in a broken world, and living into God's promise that we are loved anyways.


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