Intro to Advent


This devotional is written by Matt Coombs. Matt is one of the leaders at St Mary's and is married to Pip.

Genesis 1:14

And God said, "Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons, and days and years.
The word seasons in the creation narrative actually means appointed times. Other translations may say 'sacred times' instead of seasons.

I know this year has been utterly crazy, but don't you also think, how is it the end of November already? Where did the time go? That feeling often happens when there aren't moments that properly break up the year. This year has been a bit like that for me. Extended periods in my flat, no proper holidays, birthdays not being properly marked.

This word 'seasons' refers to the ways we as humans interact with time.

The poet says: there are these movements in the sky of the celestial bodies: sun, moon and stars that break up time. The sun and moon break the day into 24 hour periods. The cycles of the moon break up the months, and the movement of the earth and the sun breaks up the years.

The point of this breaking things up into segments of time, these seasons, appointed times, sacred times... is to create space for us to meet with God.

The law of Moses sets out a pattern for God's people to rest on the sabbath. A rhythm or work and rest. Work for six days, rest on the seventh (Leviticus 23:3). This is ancient wisdom that we should rediscover - you are not a machine and need rest.

It also sets out times for festivals, or sacred times at appointed times or seasons (that word again) (Lev 23:4,5). Step out of your usual routine and take a look back to the past and look to the future, celebrate, otherwise each day will blur into the next.

Advent is one of these seasons, these sacred, appointed times. To stop, to slow down, to look back and prepare to celebrate that Jesus has come. It is a time of anticipation. A season of hope.

I wonder if you're truly anticipating Christmas? Have you seen a child excitedly expectant for Christmas Day - physically hopping up and down, breathless with excitement.

Do you feel like that?

No, me neither.

The seasons before this season of advent we have been battered and bruised. This year has taken its toll. It's hard to anticipate anything good because we are so expectant that things will be worse. Our hearts have developed layers of resistance. Calluses. Coldness.

This means that we lose the ability to anticipate. To hope.

Instead of mounting joy and expectation - what we really think is please don't let us down like everything else.

Advent is a season where we open ourselves up to God and we ask God to come into those places where our hearts have lost the ability to be filled with wonder and awe and anticipation. We ask God to go in and heal and transform and restore and reconcile and put back together what is broken.

Advent is this deeply intimate, personal season, where there are things that have gone on in the last season in my heart, but at this appointed time I am asking you, God, to do something about that, because I can't do it on my own.

The thing about having seasons in life and rhythms is that sometimes we are filled with joy and sometimes we are filled with despair. Sometimes we celebrate and sometimes we grieve.

The thing about the season of advent is that we ask God to meet us not necessarily way up on the mountain, but down in the valley. Not in the ways we have it all together but in the ways we are barely holding on.

Pray this morning that God would gently soften your heart. That healing would come. That anticipation and hope would begin to bubble up.

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