Advent Warning…Advent Hope

My wife and I love Advent above all the seasons of the  Church year. There is something about the chill in the air, the smell of greenery in the church, the great Advent hymns and lessons, and of course the approaching Christmas celebration which makes it all  so rich. Those  lessons from Scripture are filled with dire warnings, but also with hope.

Traditional interpretations of those passages would say that they are either literal or symbolic descriptions of “the end times” and warn us to “clean up our act” before impending judgment. Other scholars (even conservative ones like N.T. Wright) would hold that the prophets (and even Jesus) were warning of very real cataclysms which were about to occur — in Jesus’ case the likely destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans — if his people did not change their violent ways and follow him  toward a different kind of Kingdom.
Either way, it is clear that God cares about how individuals and nations conduct their affairs, that the future is even now rushing in upon our present, and that our actions have consequences — eternal ones. So, let us use this season of Advent, not only to prepare for the Christmas celebration, but to examine our lives and the life of our nation, in the light of this great Collect for Advent 1:

“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.” Amen.

3 Responses to “Advent Warning…Advent Hope”

  1. Catherine Says:

    I’m glad to see there are other voices blogging about Advent today. I’ve just posted mine as well,
    here. I’m happy to “meet” you!

  2. rwk Says:

    Oddly, I’ve never found both messages to be contradictory. Isaiah carried both hope and warning in spades. The Tabernacle was both real and symbolic of the coming crucifixion. I don’t see why the fall of Jerusalem was not just a real prophecy but also a shadow of the age to come.

    I am attending a church in Mexico City while travelling and after having played the flute for them in a couple of services they were asking what might be a good “Advent Hymn”. There are the “old standards” like O Come Emmanuel, but in the end I offered “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”. They were a little taken aback at first reading, but the more they looked at the words they realized it touched on very real Advent themes and adopted for the next four weeks.

    One way to start advent…

    Let all mortal flesh keep silence and with fear and trembling stand
    Ponder nothing earthly minded for with blessings in His hand
    Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.

  3. ecubishop Says:

    I agree, rwk, there need to be no conflict between hope and warning nor proximate and eschatalogical judgment. That’s the beauty of Scripture (and of our God!)

    Thanks too for the wonderful “new” Advent perspective from “Let all mortal flesh…”!

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