Expecting Advent

Kelly Soifer | Dec 11, 2009

I subscribe to several weekly emails from various ministries. In the past week, all of them sent messages about Advent. Regardless, I read each of them with a sense of interest and curiosity. Since I grew up in an unchurched home, Christmas memories are not about dressing up for church, nativity scenes or the lighting of Advent candles. Despite 30+ years of knowing Christ, Christian traditions are still a bit foreign and intriguing.

These Advent emails were all the more intriguing to me this year because, unexpectedly, I was asked to teach about Advent in two distinctly different contexts: to an adult Sunday school at my church, where the ages range from 40-75, and to the student body of a Christian high school where I am the Campus Pastor. I thought it would be a cool challenge to keep my lessons essentially the same for both age groups (either that or Im really lazy and didnt want the extra work).

After only two weeks of this grand experiment, I have concluded that no one, whether aged 14 or 75, knows much about Advent! What a sad state of affairs. Advent dates back to the fourth century and is a remarkably symbolic, powerful spiritual exercise. Before I started preparing these lessons, I thought Advent was about cute little kids, candles and calendars with candy. So did everyone else! Boy oh boy, are we missing the boat. Consider this: did you know that the circle of the wreath is to remind us of God himself, his eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end? That the green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness and eternal life? Candles are used to symbolize the light of God coming through the birth of his son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. This is rich stuff!

Advent is not only a reminder of how God-followers waited for Messiah 2,000 years ago; Advent guides us in our own wandering today as we wait for that dear Messiah to come again for us. In other words, its not just about the first coming; its about his Second Coming too. Advent is intended to be practice for an entire life of Advent faith, where we wait daily with hope and expectation.

After my first lesson, a dear older man named Woody came up and said, I have to admit, I came today out of habit. This (adult Sunday school) is just what I do every Sunday. But after hearing what Advent really is, I realize I need to come each Sunday much more expectantly. If an elderly retiree recognizes that he still has things to learn about Advent, we all probably have some things left to grasp. In my next post, Ill let you know how the students responded.

Kelly Soifer

Kelly Soifer is a veteran youth pastor with more than 25 years experience in Young Life and the church. She is the Assistant Headmaster and Campus Pastor at Providence Hall, a christian college preparatory school in Santa Barbara. She also serves as a ministry consultant with the Free Methodist Conference of Southern California and Youth Ministry Architects, specializing in strategic planning and leadership development. She is a Fuller Seminary graduate, a committed bicycle commuter and proud Italian scooter owner. Kelly blogs at kellysoifer.blogspot.com, and publishes at Youthworker Journal and ymtoday.com. She twitters @kellysoif.

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