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This Is Not How It Should Be – Advent readings

 

 
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Author: Graham Gladstone
 
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Posted December 1, 2015 by

One year ago I wrote an article entitled “This is not how it should be.”The basic idea is this: the world, as we know it, is not the way it should be. Violence, conflict and injustice are painfully widespread, and there seems to be no end in sight. Some people are content to say, “that’s just how the world is.” My contention is that from God’s perspective “this is NOT how it should be.”

In my article, I argue that we should understand Advent as an act of protest, insisting that this violence, conflict and injustice is not just “how things are”—they are not what God intends for His world. God created us and intended for us to live in harmony and selfless service of His Kingdom but the Fall introduced these evils into our world. Advent is an opportunity to say ‘this is not how it should be’ and as surely as Jesus came once as a baby, He will come again to set things right, to restore the paradise conditions that God intended for the world.

This year, I am attempting to work this into my congregation’s worship by structuring our Advent readings around the idea. For those unfamiliar with the Advent wreath tradition, some churches light a candle each week for Advent, to mark time according to God’s timing, to symbolize our “waiting.” Often times, the focus gravitates towards “waiting for Christmas” (the first Advent – Advent = coming); I’m attempting readings that will focus our hearts on the second Advent – when Jesus returns to make things right – “the way they should be.”

The Readings
In order to create some sense of consistency in the readings, I have attempted to establish a template that will allow us to reflect on the various realities in our world. I have chosen in our four weeks to reflect on interpersonal conflict (bullying), sickness, violence, and death as those that will most likely resonate with our particular congregation. Given the needs of your congregation, you could sub in other themes – that’s the beauty of the template. I could see value in churches addressing racial tension, hunger, mental illness, any number of themes really – simply by reflecting on “what is not as it should be?”

The template
The following is my template, which could be adapted to address the needs of your congregation.

 

2015 Christmases ago, the world was a very different place. They didn’t have _____ or ______; they certainly didn’t have ______.

But they did have ______, just like we do. ______ (Sentence reflecting on that issue).

This is not the way it should be.

Jesus came once, that first Christmas, to forgive our sins, and to give us hope for the future, when God will reign in His good and just Kingdom. (When people would no longer _______).

Bible verse

That will happen once Jesus has come again.

Jesus came once and He will come again to put things the way they should be, in line with God’s perfect and gracious will. Let’s pray. Come, Lord Jesus. Prepare our hearts for when You come, and make us instruments of your _______ until your return.

 

An example
To give you some idea of how this would look in our church, here is my “filled in” reading of the first week of Advent.

 

2015 Christmases ago, the world was a very different place. They didn’t have _____ or ______; they certainly didn’t have ______. (I’m leaving it to the families to come up with some ideas together).

But they did have violence and conflict, just like we do. Just weeks ago, we saw terrorist attacks, people hurt and killed, families scarred by violence.

This is not the way it should be.

Jesus came once, that first Christmas, to forgive our sins, and to give us hope for the future, when God will reign in His good and just Kingdom. When people would no longer fight each other, putting each other in danger.

 In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all– the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.

3 People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.

4 The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. (Isa 2:2-4 NLT)

That will happen once Jesus has come again.

Jesus came once and He will come again to put things the way they should be, in line with God’s perfect and gracious will. Let’s pray.

Come, Lord Jesus. Prepare our hearts for when You come, and make us instruments of your peace until your return.

 

In practice
While the practice of Advent and Advent candles may be foreign to some churches, those churches that do practice it realize the various pastoral benefits it provides.

  • Parents and children can be asked to do the readings and light the candles together – you can have three (or more?) generations all together doing ministry for the benefit of the church.
  • It also prevents the lead-up to Christmas from becoming “four little Christmases.” Advent is really for anticipating Jesus’ coming – the first time AND the second time. We need to have a future orientation if we are to faithfully engage with this world as citizens of the next.
  • A further benefit of this particular set of Advent readings is that they call people into God’s Kingdom work at a time when it is so easy to get distracted by the busy-ness of the Christmas season. Coming face to face with the reality that “this is not how it should be” is a good prompt that we are to be the hands and feet of God in the world.

Once I have finalized all four readings, I will post them at gwgladstone.ca in the Worship Blog for anyone interested in reading or using them.

Graham is a long-time worship leader with an M.Div. (Heritage Seminary) and a passion for seeing the God of the Bible receive the praise He deserves. He is now the preaching pastor at Langford Community Church near Brantford, Ontario. Connect with Graham at gwgladstone.ca or @gwgladstone.


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