By Ben Gosden
Senior Pastor, Aldersgate UMC Savannah, GA
First, read Psalm 96:1-3
Advent is an amazingly powerful time of year. In the midst of all the holly-jolly, yuletide festivities of an over-commercialized holiday season, the Church has the duty and the delight to offer a unique word — to declare, if you will, that God is getting ready to do something big.
Advent is the time of year when we remind ourselves, and the world around us, that schmaltzy carols and candy canes just can’t hold the theological freight of a world where things like political division, murder, genocide, heartache, poverty, hunger (I could go on and on) are all too common.
The Psalmist tells us to “declare God’s wondrous works among all people” (96:3). And that’s what we’re charged to do in the church this season. We’re not to be about the work of ushering in Santa Claus or yuletide cheer. We’re not the worry so much about making Christmas memories or putting on Sunday School parties. That work is much too small.
Advent is when the church declares to the very ones who labor daily “beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low” that God is busy writing a new song where those former things will pass away — “look, now … for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.” In other words, pay attention because God is writing a new song.
During Advent, we join our voices with the voices of churches and Christians around the world — saints throughout the ages — and we learn the notes and harmonies of this “new song” God is busy writing. It’s a song marked with the hope that things like life and love and mercy will, in fact, triumph over the evil we witness in our world. It’s a song that declares God’s Messiah is on the way to right these wrongs.
So for those who have strong voices, sing. Boldly declare God’s works among us. And for those whose voice may be weak because life’s crushing load is just too much some days, listen. God’s writing a new song in your midst. And there are friends around you learning this song and preparing to belt it out with you and for you. Or to put it like hymn writer, Edmund Sears: “O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”
1) Think of a major world event or ongoing struggle where a song of hope is needed. Where do you see God’s “new song” being sung int he midst of this situation?
2) What are your favorite Advent/Christmas carols? Spend time daily reading through a carol this Advent and reflect on the deep themes of hope and longing.
3) How can you learn to sing God’s new song with your voice? How can you sing it with your life in service to others?