As I have looked forward to our Advent worship series entitled “The Questions of Advent”, I have been remembering the questions of the season that would have concerned me most when I was a kid. Back then, the main question I had as Christmas approached was probably “I wonder what Santa will bring me this year?” As I’ve gotten older, I must admit that there is still the tendency to be consumed by material questions such as “I wonder when I will be able to do my Christmas shopping?” and “What do I get for people who don’t need much?” In all of this, I am realizing that the stress that many of us feel this time of year has to do with our frantic attempts to come up with answers to questions like those.
On the other hand, the Adventstories contained in the gospel of Luke offer us questions of a very different nature. As the well-known characters of the story (Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, etc.) are confronted with the opportunity to play a role in the story of Jesus’ birth, without exception their first reaction is to ask a question of the messenger (usually the angel Gabriel). And while their questions are very natural ones to ask given their situations, they are also of a much deeper, more spiritual tone than the ones that we obsess about this time of year. And they are questions that face us (whether we realize it or not) any time we sense God calling us to a new opportunity to serve. For example, Elizabeth’s question in relation to her assigned role as the mother of John the Baptist (especially as a woman who considered herself much too old to give birth to a child)—“Why has this happened to me?” is one that we can’t help but ask of God when we sense He is calling us in a new or unexpected direction.
It is my hope that as we examine these characters and their questions in the weeks before and after Christmas, we will come to a deeper understanding not just of the Christmas story, but also how this familiar story can bring us to some deeper, more personal questions about its meaning in our lives. My sense is that if we begin toponder some of Luke’s questions, those more material questions that have been weighing on us will have much less pull on our thoughts and our time.
You will also have an opportunity to participate in a deeper way by taking part in a small discussion/study group (on Tuesday or Sunday mornings). These groups will focus on the book Exploring Advent with Luke: Four Questions for Spiritual Growth. In this book, author Timothy Clayton discusses the questions asked by Luke’s characters in greater depth than will be possible during the worship services. If you are unable to attend the small group sessions, we have extra books available in the office (including study guides) for anyone who is interested in learning more.
I hope you will plan to join us for these meaningful services. And I also hope you will bring those Advent questions that are causing stress in your life with you—hopefully after hearing and pondering the questions of those original players in the Christmas story, you will be able to leave them behind!