Pumping the Brakes

Advent began last Sunday. This is a season to "pump the brakes," pay attention to our heart more and spend quiet time with God. The season of Advent is a time to prepare to experience the birth of Jesus for the first time or another time. Advent is a time to settle down from the craziness, zaniness, and busyness around us and change our focus. May I suggest we all need Advent, especially this year, for at least three reasons? First, we have so much in our lives that changes each year. Second, the spiritual life of our congregation is recalibrated each year TOGETHER. Third, competing expectations all around us want us to speed up and keep up; when we actually need to pump the brakes!

What is the history of Advent, and why do we designate this time each year? Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve each year. The length of Advent varies depending on the day of the week Christmas Eve falls. This year's Advent is 27 days.  In his book, A Primer for Church Worship, Hoyt Hickman writes, "as early as the fourth century, Christians saw that Christmas-Epiphany needed a preparatory season comparable to what Lent was for the Easter cycle. This eventually became Advent as we know it, which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues to sunset on Christmas Eve. The word Advent means 'coming.' In Advent, the church has celebrated its hope and expectancy in the comings of Christ- past, present, and future."  

Why do we still need an Advent? First, a season of Advent is necessary every year to gain perspective of changes of the last twelve months. Bishop Leeland used to say decorating a Christmas Tree reminds him of all that has changed since the last time the tree was up and adorned. What changes have happened to us over the previous twelve months? Our families? Our circumstances? Our nation and world? The good news of the birth of Jesus is like an anchor to give us reassurance with all the changes of the last year.

Second, experiencing Advent together as a congregation recalibrates us each year as a church family. There is so much that happens in the life of a congregation each year. This year we have seen more of our people come back from the Covid quarantine days of 2020. We still have some members missing from the in-person worship because of health concerns. However, there is a large group of Livestream viewers that are faithful to tune in each Sunday. When we think of all we have been through as a congregation the last twelve months; Advent helps us recalibrate together. Our common spiritual journey of worshipping Jesus, the newborn King, renews our church family.

Third, we need Advent to calm us, slow us, and yes, "tap the brakes" when our lives are out of sorts. I do not need to convince anyone there is a lot of craziness, zaniness, and busyness swirling around us. If it were not for Advent, we likely would think speeding up and doing more and living into unrealistic expectations are all normal.  It is not. It is insane! Advent is essential; otherwise, we might not ever "tap the brakes" and reflect.

May all of you find a way to "tap the breaks" this year during Advent and take care of your heart and soul! Hope to see you this week in person or Livestream for week two of Advent!


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Philip McVay

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