Advent opens the Christian year. December 3, the first day of Advent, is New Year’s Day for Christmas. Our big story about Jesus begins here. Advent is a season of four weeks including four Sundays. The word comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.”
Here at First Baptist Peoria our Advent theme is THE SEASON OF AWAKENING. There are indications that the church in America is asleep at the wheel. We seem to be driving the bus from side to side, barely avoiding collisions and on the precipice of the ditch on each side of the road. The church needs to wake up! Jesus often demands that his disciples be awake, alert, and on guard. St. Paul tells us in Romans 13: “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” In Revelation 3 the church at Sardis thinks she is alive but Jesus says she is dead. Then Jesus says, “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come to you.”
Perhaps we have been lulled to sleep by the Gnosticism that afflicts the church. Our form of Gnosticism thinks that the spiritual contrasts with all the things that make life good. Therefore, to be spiritual, the church has told us, is to be anti-body, anti-sex, anti-pleasure. To be spiritual in this sense means to be moralistic but dull and asleep. This kind of thinking, of course, goes against the entire witness of the Bible that God’s people have an embodied existence. The church is the “body” of Christ. We are a biological people, and we need to wake up and resist the spiritualization Gnosticism that afflicts the churches.
More likely, we have been thrown out of kilter by the emergence of postmodern philosophy. While almost no one can actually define what postmodernism means, there is some agreement that postmodern philosophy means that there is no truth. We now live in a post-rationalist world which “sometimes retains the form of reasoned argument but actually works on spin and smear” (N. T. Wright). There are only opinions and points of view, and all opinions and points of view now get equal time. In addition, all big stories, known as metanarratives, are power grabs that are riddled with abuse, oppression, and the desire to control people. Postmodernity has destroyed the larger metanarratives (like the Christian faith) that might explain how and why we are in the mess we are in, and the evangelical Christians are leading the parade. There is no salvation left in the Americanism that now passes for Christian faith among so many. There is no redemption, only play; and the play turns out to be a witches’ dance on the edge of a volcano as we fail to address the global problems that keep erupting while we play at power politics and winning and losing as if it all were just a game.
This Advent we need an awakening.
Wake up! We are the body of Christ.
Wake up! We are an alternative politics to the secular politics of the left and the right.
Wake up! Jesus is coming!