By Jeremy Linneman
Jeremy Linneman is lead pastor of Trinity Community Church, a church he planted in Columbia, Missouri. Prior to planting Trinity, he was a staff pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for seven years. He is author of Life-Giving Groups: “How-To” Grow Healthy, Multiplying Community Groups (Sojourn Network, 2017). Jeremy and his wife, Jessie, have three sons and spend most of their free time outdoors.
We’ve waited all year, and it’s finally here: Happy Advent!
Advent is the beginning of the church year—the season of four Sundays leading up to Christmas. And so I can also say: Happy New Year!
I love Advent because it’s a collision of two worlds: Our dark, broken, tired world, and the world of our Father, of Jesus the eternal Son, of the Holy Spirit—a world of life without lack.
Perhaps you grew up in a Catholic or Anglican tradition and know the seasons of Advent by heart. If not, the riches of Advent have so much to teach us about the birth and life of Jesus. There are four main movements in the Advent story.
Advent is the season of expectation: Israel waited for thousands of years before God sent the Messiah to save them, and for over 400 years, Israel had no prophets, no great kings, no brave warriors, no revival, no Scripture… Just waiting.
Israel spent more time waiting between the Old and New Testaments than our country has even existed.
Into this darkness, a Light shines. The old prophet Isaiah wrote:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
That phrase “deep darkness” is original to Isaiah: He takes two Hebrew words, “darkness” and “death,” and crams them into a new phrase. It can also be translated as “death shadow.” Literally, upon those living in the shadow of death, a Light has dawned.
After the four Sundays of Advent, the Church recognizes two full weeks to celebrate Christmas—the fulfillment of God’s promises. Two weeks of Christmas, not a single day, allows us to fully appreciate and celebrate God’s sending of his own Son to rescue us. If you had waited 400+ years for something, you think a single day is going to be enough?
I believe it’s Richard Rohr who has written, “Christians know how to celebrate for a moment; we don’t know how to sustain a celebration.” Advent teaches us to cultivate a long expectation in the same direction, and Christmas offers us a season to sustain a long celebration.
Of course, Christmas is so commercialized in our country, it often feels like Christmas is the season the runs from Black Friday to Christmas Day, and then we pull down the lights, remove the ornaments, shake out the dead tree, and box up the decorations. Instead, what would it look like this year to focus your December on waiting and December 25th through January 4th on celebration. All has been fulfilled. Our king has come!
I love the Luke 2 narrative more than any other: The shepherds are out in the fields in the deep darkness, the death shadow of night, when an angel appears. (And I always hear the reading in the youthful voice of Linus in Charlie Brown’s Christmas movie.)
Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
And suddenly, one angel isn’t hardly enough, and a whole hosts of angels appear. The heavenly choir takes a deep breath and sings aloud:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests! (Luke 2:14)
Indeed, all has been fulfilled. Good News: A child is born, our King has come, our long-awaited salvation has been born. Great Joy: True joy is found here in this God-Child; the second fruit of the Holy Spirit will rest too on all those who belong to this Jesus. All Peoples: What began as a promise to Israel is now extended to every tongue, tribe, and nations. Let all people hear the good news: Your great joy has arrived!
After the expectation of Advent and the fulfillment of Christmas, the Church enters the season of Epiphany—which is the time of manifesting new life or proclaiming the Good News of Christmas.
Epiphany Sunday is the first Sunday in January, and the season of Epiphany takes us to Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent in February. (Epiphany Sunday is usually marked with a feast. Why don’t we feast this much anymore?!)
This Christmas moment is no longer just a moment; it’s a commission, a way of life. We are sent by this grown-up Jesus into all the world to announce the Good News / Great Joy of Christianity.
The posture of Advent is expectation. But we take this posture with the full knowledge of fulfillment and new life. (We know how the story ends!)
Each year, we can find ourselves like Israel in the OT before the birth of Christ. Faithful, but going through the motions. We need God to break through. In Advent, we recognize our dryness and make rooms in our hearts for Christ. It’s a season of waiting and expectation. Come Lord. That’s what the word “advent” means: “arrival” or “coming.” It means: “God has come into our world.” And expectantly: God is coming again.
This Advent, consider these questions:
Where has God called you to wait? Where does he have you in a season of expectation?
Where do you feel like you’re in the wilderness—lacking direction, warmth, light?
Perhaps you’ve been praying for something all year, but after eleven months, you’ve given up the prayer. This Advent, take it up again.
What are you asking God to do in your life, in your church, and in your city?
Come Lord Jesus.