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Advent as an Act of Worship

Advent as an Act of Worship

In January, I goaled to finish all the books I put down, but never finished. Thankfully, the list was pretty short. One book on the list was Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Amazingly, I had not finished the final chapter – the chapter on Celebration.

Foster claims, in one way or another that all the acts of discipline double as acts of worship. Worship is defined as “the feeling and expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” If celebration is a discipline, but also an act of worship, then we are called to practice the discipline of celebration, but also to celebrate as an act of worship to our God.

A discipline and worship go hand in hand.

Fast forward to December. Advent. The weeks leading up to Christ’s birth. The weeks of anticipation at the birth of the Baby King. The word “advent” comes from two Latin words, “ad” and “venire” meaning “to” and “come” respectively. In the season of Advent, we are literally waiting, with joyful anticipation, on the coming of Jesus. It’s already been foretold to us, we are just waiting for the moment to unfold.

The team at She Reads Truth, in their Joy to the World Advent study writes, “Celebrating Christmas is an act of worshipping the living Savior who will come again to make all things new… Jesus has come and he is coming again. This is the heart of Advent.”

When I read that line, it struck me right in the gut. Don’t get me wrong; I “celebrate” Advent every year. I usually do some kind of Advent-specific study. Usually do a calendar of sorts. Usually am checking off the days till Christmas Day.  I’m also making endless Target runs, wrapping a mountain of gifts, baking cookies and making many a lunch date. December is the new May when it comes to how full my calendar is… So am I celebrating Christmas “as an act of worship”?

Jesus celebrated. He attended a wedding and made sure the celebration kept going by turning water into wine (John 2). He celebrated all the aspects of the Jewish religion by regarding time in the synagogue. He lived in the moment and celebrated life with his best people by his side, regularly having meals with them. You know you’ve truly reached the stage of adulthood when your people don’t all bring chips and salsa to the party! Bacon wrapped Brussels sprouts anyone?!

But I guarantee it wasn’t always easy for him to celebrate. As a Jew, he would have celebrated the Passover as commanded by scripture, but he also spent a portion of his final days celebrating what we know as the Last Supper (Matthew 26, Mark 26, Luke 22 and John 13). You better believe that act of worship came with a cost.

Advent as an act of worship is a heart posture. And this act of worship may cost you something. It may require you to put down your old way of thinking, or your sword, or your glass. You can do all the calendars you want, all the cookie shares you want, and all the preparations you want, but until your heart is postured toward the coming King, those will all just add to the busy-ness of Western culture’s December. And they will leave you empty.

Advent for a Christian looks radically different from Advent for a non-Christian. Christians are anticipating and celebrating the One who is coming and the One who has already come. Advent is the waiting on the Baby King because he is the Savior of the world. Advent as an act of worship looks like posturing your heart to receive the Savior King. It looks like posturing your heart toward family members and neighbors, but also giving out of the abundance that we have already been given. It looks like singing songs of worship, bowing in reverence, putting aside time to be with people you love, and still keeping heart space to let the Lover of your soul speak to you.

Advent, as an act of worship, is radically other centered. And at the same time radically God centered. And it looks different from the world’s preparations for Christmas.

And it is fulfilling.

When December 26th rolls around and we are buried under wrapping paper, leftovers, and dysfunctional families, we can look back and see Emmanuel, God with us, who came as a baby at Christmas time and who would die in our place, for our sins. That should change the way I look at Advent. That should change the way I look at the people who ring the kettle bells and who bag my groceries. It should give me extra doses of grace for the “tough” family member and remind me that the heavy moments trying to schedule everyone’s arrival are pointing us towards something – someone – else.

They are pointing us to Jesus.

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