AN INVITATION TO ADVENT

 

This year, we'll have a daily devotional, beginning Nov. 27, walking us through the steps of Advent in anticipation of Christ's coming, at Christmas.  You can access these devotionals by signing up for the daily email, or by following along on our Instagram story.  These devotionals were written by Laura Cave, in our community, who also writes at The Advent Collective.

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Every year, New York City prepares for Christmas like no other city on Earth. The Rockettes high kick at Radio City while sugar plum fairies leap across the stage at Lincoln Center. At Rockefeller Center, a 100 foot tall Norway Spruce sparkles with 50,000 lights. The Salvation Army rings their bells. The audience stands to their feet for the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s Messiah. Nearly every doorway and lamppost is festooned with ribbons, and lights. A snowfall during these weeks is enough to make your heart burst. The magnitude of light, song, motion, and frenetic energy is enough to wake even a tired, cynical New Yorker’s heart to wonder. On the facade of Macy’s, scrawled in white lights, is a single word: Believe.

We love the transformation of the city and celebrating Christmas with dear ones, but have you noticed a weary half-heartedness that sets in around Cyber Monday? We take our already busy schedules and add holiday parties, shopping lists, travel, and credit card bills. I’ll deal with it in January, we think to ourselves. 

When we were children we had such wild anticipation for Christmas, didn’t we? But now the nuclear bliss of Christmas often stands in stark contrast to the little and big griefs, injustices, and unfulfilled longings we carry. Losses feel heavier; the lonely feel lonelier. We see everything that’s unresolved and feel, in the lethargy of our hearts, that this sudden joy isn’t honest.

If only there was a Christmas joy so potent it can’t be dismantled by our intellect or wounds — a joy that defrosts apathy and disarms bitterness.

And then the words of Isaiah echo across the ages:

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress ...The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:1a, 2

In churches across the city, a much more inconspicuous tradition is about to unfold. Simple evergreen wreaths are laid on pedestals with four candles nested in the branches. The liturgy of the wreath has, for hundreds of years, helped people like us prepare our hearts to receive again the gift of Christmas joy -- the light of the world who is Jesus Christ, the son of God born at Bethlehem. It may be a little old fashioned, and it may lack the sparkle of our city’s more celebrated traditions, but in its rich wisdom, the liturgy of the wreath can point us to the joy we seek.

At Church of the City, each week in December, we’ll light a candle on our wreath during our Sunday gatherings. In the days that follow, we’ll press into the meaning of Advent with daily reflections to help us prepare our hearts to receive this great light.

Maybe you count yourself a Christian or maybe you just know you need more light in your life. Either way, will you join us?