Let’s Recapture the WOW of Advent!
My firiend, Ward Tanneberg, President of CASA Network (that’s not the child advocacy group) is my guest blogger this week. He shares some thoughts about Advent that stand in stark contrast to the prominent secular worldview we see around us today. Ward uses his own recent experience with his daughter doing a movie marathon together. What does a movie marathon have to do with Advent. Well, read on and see for yourself. Then ask yourself what Advent means in your home.
Advent is a WOW word!
It comes from the Latin adventus, a translation of the Greek word parousia. It is a word commonly used when speaking of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. What a great idea. A time for followers of Jesus to share together the ancient longing for Messiah’s first appearing, and to anticipate his Second Coming.
Last Saturday, Michele and I did one of our infamous “movie marathons.” It goes like this. She arrives at our apartment about 8:30 in the morning, we walk a few blocks to Lincoln Square, indulge in a four-shot latte and pumpkin scone (to build up our strength!), spend the next hour determining how many movies we can schedule and see, one after another, in a single day, and then we’re off.
The two of us have made this father/daughter date many times, but it had been over a year since our last. Six movies tied our personal best. It may not sound like fun to anyone else in our family, or to you for that matter, but to us…well, let’s just say we arrived home after midnight, full of popcorn and junk food, and deliriously happy!
In the movie, Gravity, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), in the midst of a life and death crisis in outer space, acknowledges that she’s never prayed before. No one ever taught her how. But she wishes she could. And the only religious icon shown is a Buddha statue sitting atop a shelf in one of the capsules. Not too inspiring looking. Very Zen. Very “No one is coming, so I must save myself.”
In Philomena, a movie from Martin Sixsmith’s investigative book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, Judi Dench is the English mother of a boy born out of wedlock, taken from her by the Catholic Church and given away for adoption. I agree that by all standards, humane or religious, what happened to Philomena and her son was a grievous injustice. And, yes, religious people perpetrated it. We are left with yet another movie with yet another one-sided example of why religion, especially Christianity, is hurtful and hateful and has no social redeeming value.
12 Years a Slave, is a story with strong moral and religious overtones, based on events in the life of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in the pre-Civil War United States, abducted from upstate New York and sold into slavery in the South. Facing terrible cruelty at the hands of malevolent white “God-fearing” slave owners, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but also to retain his dignity. The religious scenes depict Christianity as hypocritical at best and abusively cruel at its worst; and the Bible is on the side of slave owners.
In none of the movies with religious or ‘Christian’ themes did one walk away feeling good about Christianity. Even though all, or at least some, of the story lines may be true, if this one-sided exposure to the Christian faith was all I knew about God and the Messiah’s first coming, I wouldn’t be at all excited about his Second Coming either.
Welcome to the secular worldview of Advent, “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.”
For followers of Steve Jobs, it’s the advent of the personal computer, the iphone and ipad; for 2 million shoppers who bought one at Walmart on Black Friday, it’s the coming of television; for politicians and illegal immigrants, it’s the time “to hope ~ and fast ~ for immigration reform” (Washington Post Nov 29, 2013); for most of us who are grandparents, it’s the arrival of Santa at a shopping mall near you.
Advent. It is many things to many people.
To the Christ follower, Advent is a picture of our spiritual journey, the further journey you and I as individuals, and we as the people of God collective, are walking together, affirming our faith that Christ has come, that he is present in the world today, that he is coming again in mighty power. Danish theologian/philospher, Soren Kierkegaard famously said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Advent is like this.
The Prophecy candle takes us back to the ancient seers who, centuries before, predicted his coming (amazing!). The Bethlehem candle reminds us that God always keeps his promises (always!). The candle of Joy celebrates the birth of the Christ-child, the promised Messiah (so sing and dance and shout for joy!). The candle of Love exemplifies that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17. (Incomparable!)
And, finally, the Christ candle, awakens us to the fact that Jesus is the Lamb of God, his birth was for his death, his death was for our birth. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!‘” John 1:29.
So light the candles. Look up. Remember his promises. There is no doubt about it. Advent is a WOW word!