Advent means arrival. During Advent we contemplate and celebrate the arrival of our Messiah. However, the purpose of Advent for Spirit-filled followers of Christ is not to pretend to long for the coming of Christ, whose presence we are already intimately familiar with. For us, Advent is an opportunity to cultivate a deeper longing for what God wants to pour into our lives next and for what God wants to pour into the world through us as individuals and as churches.
The point of Advent isn’t to recapture the spirit of waiting and anticipation of people who lived more than 2,000 years ago. It’s about entering more fully into our own hope and expectation that God’s presence will flow into our own time and culture in new, exciting and surprising ways.
Meister Eckhart puts it this way: “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? . . . What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture?”
Advent reminds us of God’s desire for Christ to be born in the soul of every human being. But Advent confronts those of us who have already experienced this rebirth, and are aware of Christ’s presence within us, with a pressing question: What divine expression of life does God want to birth through us next, both personally and as a church?
We need to regularly reflect on this question with openness to God’s Spirit. If we don’t, we may become spiritually barren. We can lose our capacity to give birth to new expressions of God’s life in the world.
Jesus says many curious things. One of those puzzling statements is found in Matthew 13:12: “To the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Jesus’ math here is unorthodox. If Johnny has zero apples, you can’t take any apples away from him. So what does Jesus mean by saying “the man who has nothing, even what he has will be taken from him”? How is this even possible?
When we look at the context, we see Jesus is talking about spiritual understanding in this passage. Matthew 13 begins with Jesus telling the crowd a story about a farmer who sows seeds on four different types of soil. Then Jesus tells his disciples the meaning of the parable. He explains that true spiritual understanding occurs when the seed of God’s message takes root in our lives, produces growth and bears fruit. When God’s message fails to manifest externally in our lives in tangible ways that benefit others, we have not truly understood God’s message.
In Matthew 13:12, Jesus is saying that those who have gained no genuine spiritual understanding will eventually lose even their capacity to understand the wisdom of God. If we habitually resist the germination of God’s seeds in our lives, we eventually become infertile soil. We become spiritually barren. Of course, Advent also reminds us that nothing is impossible with God, including the barren giving birth (Luke 1:5-25).
The message of God always comes to us with a call to change, grow and act. God’s message rarely comes to us as ideas to appreciate and affirm. God’s word must be embodied in our lives, attitudes and behaviour. This is the core message of Christianity: the Word became flesh! This isn’t merely a statement about Jesus; it’s intended to be a way of life for us. The word of God must become materialized in our lives. As James says: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only. Otherwise you deceive yourselves” (1:22).
Advent reminds us that God’s revelation to us is also something God wants to reveal in us and through us. The season of Advent challenges us to open ourselves to the arrival of God’s revelation in our lives, which will give birth to new and fresh expressions of divine life for our time and culture.
If my reflection on Advent has only served to confuse or overwhelm you, I offer this: Entering the spirit of Advent is as simple as holding this question: “What’s next, God?” and then waiting for an answer with hope and expectation.
Troy Watson is getting into the spirit of Advent.