Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It’s a solemn season when we reflect on the past and look toward the future. Advent reminds us why Christ needed to come into the world, and why we need him to return. As the world observes the approaching Christmas holiday by urging you to buy more, eat more, and do more, the church asks you to slow down, to remember, to mourn. The world’s message is a lot more fun, but all it seems to get us … is more of the world. The conflict. The need. The emptiness.
No one wants to be a wet blanket tossed over the Christmas party buffet, but Christmas without Advent is like celebrating a graduation for someone who never went to school: the cap and gown are nice for a day, but ultimately there’s nothing inside. The season of Advent is our preparation for the Christmas graduation. It is a time for exams – examination of ourselves, examination of our relationship with Christ, and examination of the world in all its brokenness. At the end of our forty-day term, we understand why the world needs Christ. And like graduation, Christmas is a watershed moment. It marks the completion of one journey, and the beginning of another. What we learn during Advent is celebrated on Christmas, but then we have the responsibility of putting that knowledge to work to better ourselves and the world.
Advent means we have the opportunity to prepare and graduate every year. Like any school experience, you get out of it what you put into it, especially if you are wise enough to retain and build on what you learned before. Every year we learn what more we can contribute, and understand better how that all depends on surrendering ever more completely to our dependence on our God. The wiser we get, the less we know.
So if Advent is our school term, the communion table is our study group. Here we check in with our adviser, and learn from our fellow students. But we can’t just sit in the room with our noses buried in our own books; we must become invested in each other’s success. To know when to tutor, and when to be tutored. To dedicate ourselves to one another, because that is the condition of the full ride scholarship paid for with the life of Jesus. Whatever our life circumstances, the offer is available. Communion is the ultimate student union.
Pop quiz: Who does Christ invite to the table? Answer: Everyone.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.