I’m sure I must have heard about Advent growing up, but it is not something that I ever remember noticing or thinking about. It certainly wasn’t something that was emphasized in my church tradition. Christmas was, but that’s not quite the same thing. We were often reminded to not get lost in the presents and decorations, and to keep our eyes on the true meaning of the season, but that’s slightly different than Advent.
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” It is the opportunity for Christians to not only celebrate the birth of Jesus but to remember the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we join in the “waiting” process.
I like how St. Bernard talked about the “three advents” of Christ. He named as first that advent which has already happened in historical time and space and which we now commemorate each Christmas, the one in which Christ entered the world through the womb of Mary to “seek and to save that which was lost”. The third and final advent is based on what the Bible calls the parousia, the advent in which Christ will return and to take us to himself. St. Bernard then referred to the second, or middle, advent as the “time of visitation” by which Christ is now present and active in each of our lives. It is the waiting in everyday moments of life. It is the waiting for healing, for restoration, for courage, for patience, for mercy, for love.
I didn’t pay much attention to Advent growing up, but I’ve come to really enjoy and appreciate what it represents. Something as simple as “waiting” can be a very powerful and transformative exercise.
So here’s what I’ve committed to do. Every time I am waiting for something this Christmas season – whether i’m on hold, standing in a line, or waiting for my kid to finish one of his epically long sentences – I am choosing to reflect on Advent. I am thinking about the ways I am waiting for God, waiting for transformation, waiting for renewal.
Here’s to hoping that you too find a way to make this Advent season a meaningful opportunity to connect with God!
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
Leave a Reply