Advent Makes New People
“Advent creates people, new people.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
December of 1943, this young pastor experienced Advent in a unique way. He wrote these words in a letter, written in the weeks preceding Christmas, in his Nazi prison cell. He discovered there what Advent truly is, a time of waiting in the dark, waiting for freedom, for new life, for the birth of hope. These words struck me when I read them. How does Advent create new people? In what manner should I be a new man on Christmas day? Advent comes to prepare ourselves for the wonder and joy of the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:4-6).
What does Christmas mean?
“Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low.”
The valleys are the pits in our lives. Christmas does not deny our suffering, but it gives it meaning. What have we lost in our life? Where are we wounded? Our pain is real, but it is no longer meaningless, because of Christmas. Christ was born into a dark world, but his birth cracked open the window of heaven. Christmas reminds us that God is with us even in our suffering. Our valleys are filled with hope.
The mountains and hills are the proud and evil doers in our world. Every year I appreciate King David’s words more:
“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me” (Psalm 3:1). “Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; protect me from those who are violent, who plan evil things in their minds and stir up wars continually. They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s, and under their lips is the venom of vipers” (Psalm 140:1-3).
There are so many evil doers in our world. We see them every day in the news. People lying and deceiving, tearing apart our country, or hurting our children. Christmas is the reminder that all this evil will end. The mountains will be brought low.
“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good” (Psalm 37:1-3).
What does Christmas mean?
“The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.”
This is about our heart. We all know our flaws. Sometimes just living with myself is exhausting, and I know I am not alone. Christmas means a savior was born who will make us new, completely new. Everything will be healed; everything perfected.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people…Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:3,5).
Christmas comes as a reassurance that God will heal us.
What does Christmas mean?
“And all flesh shall see the salvation of God”
We will see God. For over a year now, every month I take one of my children with me to the Wichita Mountains. We wake up before sunrise and get there right at the crack of dawn. It has been a new experience getting to share the beauty of nature with a child, with eyes so fresh. On our walks, we take frequent stops and simply look: the sky is different out west. It is bigger. There is nothing quite like watching the sun rise over miles of boulders and plains. Beauty moves us. It moves us because it is a glimpse into God’s beauty. Every thing beautiful is an infinitesimal glimpse, a minute sample, of God’s beauty. Christmas means we will finally see God himself, God in all his glory.
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
So what do we have to do now? We have to prepare. Just a few are days left before Christmas. We have not been fasting for nothing. All our talk about Advent was to prepare us for Christmas. We fast in order to feast. We have to prepare ourselves to hold onto the grace through the twelve days ahead.
The Christmas season is about cherishing and savoring God’s incarnate presence in our life.
Christmas lasts for twelve days. We must feast for twelve days. Americans do not know how to feast. We gorge ourselves — that is not feasting. If we fast all Advent, and then, come Christmas day, we go right back to our normal lives, all our fasting was for nothing. We need to prepare ourselves now to make room in our hearts and our schedules to keep the joy of Christmas all twelve days, and then all of January through Christmastide until Candlemas.
Make your plans now. Set aside special meals for each day. Keep singing Christmas carols. Go on walks and be deliberate to marvel at everything. The stars, the trees, even the bitter breeze are different because of Christmas. Let’s join them in delighting in God. Our culture has lost the art of feasting. We need to reclaim it.
How does Advent create new people? Advent teaches us the art of waiting and longing for a savior. By Christmas time, we should be eager for the feast. We should be ready to stop walking around with our heads downcast, and take time to cherish God’s gifts.
May God bless you and keep you through the holy season ahead!