Advent is Like Being in Prison

Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

Expectation!  Advent is the 4 week long season of joyful expectation before Christmas.  So, the question is, what are we joyfully expecting?  What are you all charged up and waiting for in these four weeks?

Are you waiting for the arrival of a relative, perhaps Mom and Dad from Chicago or some other distant place, for a Christmas and New Year’s visit?  Perhaps you’re waiting on your son or daughter coming home from College?  Maybe it’s the latest doll or lego toy set or video game you’re expecting under the tree; or a new IPAD; or a new dress; or some designer Jeans?

But as nice as all of these things may be for us to expect, Advent and Christmas are not about waiting for any of those things.  Tonight we have carefully selected readings to guide you through the real meaning of what we are waiting for.  They tell the story of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  That means, they tell the story of how God sent His only son, Jesus, to become man, and take on our human nature.  And Jesus became intimate with us, living and experiencing life as we do.  He, though God, was not and is not, some distant, remote God who we cannot identify with.  No, He lived as one of us, suffered through life like all of us do; and died like all of us will.

Only he was resurrected, returned in glory, and promised all of us who believe the same glory.  That’s what is so special about Advent and Christmas- the realization that we will not just live this life; but, we will live forever with Jesus in glory if we believe and follow the Gospel message.

So, just what should our experience of this expectation for this four weeks of Advent really be then?

Some of you may be familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was a Lutheran minister imprisoned and executed by the Nazis because he spoke out, and acted on his convictions.  This is what Bonhoeffer once wrote about Advent while in prison:  “Life in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent.  One waits and hopes and putters around; but in the end, what we do is of little consequence.  The door is shut and it can only be opened from the outside”.

Amazing, isn’t it, how clear things can be when we are forced to reflect on them.  Bonhoeffer had no choice- he was imprisoned.  He had the time, and he took it, to reflect.  Bonhoeffer recognized that while we live this life, it is like we are in prison.  We are imprisoned by our limitations- our body constrains us in many ways.  But our minds constrain us even more.  We are constrained from recognizing the magnitude, the complexity, and fullness of the love of God and what He has in store for those who love him. So, the question is, when, and if, the door opened to the Kingdom of God.  Will you be ready for it?

You and I are so fortunate that we have Advent every year to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and to get ready for the Coming of Christ.  The Christ child is one coming- the coming that brings us the hope of eternal life.  But the second coming of Christ is also heralded during Advent.  It is that coming that all of us simply must be prepared for.  And so, what really matters is whether or not you are ready when that door opens; and that coming will happen for each and every one of us.

We can hope for and kind of anticipate the joy of living in glory forever with Jesus.  We do that in joy every Christmas day with the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  That’s why we gather around with our families and celebrate at Christmas; and we share gifts with each other to show that we understand what God did for us- the fact that God shared such a very special gift with us, te gift of His son.  And so, we shower special gifts on others as God showered his gift on us.

But the cold, hard, fact is that we are imprisoned here until that door opens with the Second Coming.  And so Advent is really about reflecting on whether we are prepared for the Second coming of the Lord so we can benefit from the hope and the promise of everlasting life.

Just what is God asking us to do to get ready for that?  He is asking us to think about where we are going in our lives.  He wants us to find and root out the things that are hindering us from that goal; and then repent of anything that is holding us back before it is too late.  Repentance is what we are all called to do in this four weeks; repentance, a basic change in our lives.  So we can truly live to see the full glory promised us by the Lord.

And we need four weeks because we are always so busy- busy getting ready for the joy that only really comes if we repent.  Not only that, it is hard to face the reality of who we really are and change that.  The devil tries to mask, to shield, to hide us from facing that reality.  We need time to break through and think it through- all of us.

As you leave here tonight, take with you the great and unbounded joy that eternal life in the Kingdom is yours.  But also take comfort in the fact that God has given all of you time- time to repent and find your way to use this Advent season wisely; to get ready for the Lord’s coming.

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