Ask A Pastor
By Pastor Scott Osenbaugh,
The Healing Place (Nashville Assembly of God)
Many, many years ago (okay, more than half a century ago, but that seems so stark), Advent was a time with almost as much excitement as Christmas itself. There was the ceremonial lighting of the Advent candles each week at church, while at home my sister and I both had the Advent calendars — open a little cardboard “door” each day of December to claim the small candy item. Of course there was all the hurry and hubbub of “the season”; there was a time when my parents went a little large on the decorating, my mother did a lot of cookie baking (the brown-eyed susans were my favorite), and through my father’s professional contacts, we went through the annual visits to his coterie of friends and associates, usually with the obligatory exchange of cookies.
As to church — Advent was less, in my juvenile mind, a time of preparing for the coming of the Lord as it was the countdown to Christmas Day with the opening of presents and the eating of a really huge meal. For us, it was generally a ham as the main dish, which has always made me wonder how a piece of pork wound up as a celebration of the birth of a Jewish boy — but such it was. The week after Christmas, everything — all the lights, the decor, the trees, the candles, both here and at church — went back into storage for another year. Come the following December, it was time for Advent again, time to anticipate Christmas one more time.
Now that I am no longer part of a liturgical tradition (the Assemblies of God is considered a “free church”), Advent simply doesn’t have the luster it once had. It is a man-made tradition; there is no “Advent” season in the Bible, and the scheduled Bible readings and celebratory rituals associated with Advent simply do not come into view in our churches as they do in those who still hold to a liturgy. It’s not that we Pentecostals are impious or nonchalant about the coming of Jesus. Instead, it has more to do with the emphasis within the very heart of the message of the Word of God which we believe needs to be proclaimed. The Gospel is less about the birth of the Lord and more about His great sacrifice on the cross for the sin of mankind and His resurrection from the dead in triumph over death, hell and the grave. The apostle Paul never really considers the birth of Christ but repeatedly in his letters speaks of the power of the cross or of the resurrection.
I am glad for the season, for the time of focus on the birth of Jesus. But the joy abounds more so in His passion, His resurrection, and His promise He would come again. And when He does come again, it will be without prior notice, to claim His Church, the saved, who are waiting for His return. Now that is a time of “advent” for which I am thrilled to wait.