A story told is the breaking of the silence.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
“He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:2-3).
“Before the foundations of the world, He chose us in Him… in love” (Ephesians 1: 4).
“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).
In the breaking of the silence, as in the breaking of bread, a story is told to nurture the life of the world.
Man shall not live by fact alone.
Stories as factual accounts of what has occurred are true stories. Stories as symbolized themes acted out through a writer’s created characters and plotlines are fiction. Factual accounts, from their very bedrock, carry wisdom; fictional stories can as well, to the degree that they reflect bedrock reality — the way life really works. While facts articulate events, wisdom perceives meaning. Wisdom utilizes interpretive eyes.
Thus, in the breakage of the silence, the story told interprets reality. “In the beginning was the Word.” The Father’s Logos is the Author of the universal story, primal and ultimate. The Logos is the main character in the story. The Logos through the Spirit is the Interpreter of the nonfiction story.
Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. We discover divine law and principle embedded within canonical story from Genesis through Revelation. Cosmic meaning.
We crave meaning. Why do we crave meaning? Because the Logos is Meaning and we were created in His image. Fallen, we hunger for our very purpose. Yet, all we, like straying sheep, lust to craft meaning and purpose on our own. Vanity. Our vain imaginations only produce despair.
‘Tis the season for repenting — turning around — facing the patient Light of the World.
The season of Advent reviews the story. Review — to see again, the story told by the Author Himself, calling us to Himself. What is the story line in our fallen cosmos? The saving Hero is coming– advent (Genesis 3:15): the ancients were called to wait in hope. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Then He comes– minuscule, incarnate cells fearfully and wonderfully dividing and diversifying. The Light of the World is born (John 8:12). The Bread of Life is broken for the life of the world (John 6:35). The I AM the Resurrection prepares to come again (John 11: 25;14:1). Again, waiting, waiting, waiting. And through our waiting, we are being transformed, from one meaningful Christ-engraving upon our renewed hearts and lives to another.
I have a number of advent devotional books. (Three are listed below.) However, growing up in the home of a Brethren pastor, I never witnessed the practice of Advent (or Lent and such). My family did not practice religious rituals that were perceived as “human traditions” and “vain repetitions.” We had no creed but the motto, “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.” I admire the Brethren’s high view of Scripture and its authority. Hmm. I’ll explain no more right now. (I’ve started another post, which could become another series, that delves into denominational focuses and my growing understandings regarding “faith traditions” and denominations.)
Fortunately, Paul and I were a part of a Baptist church in the 1980s (very similar to the Grace Brethren) that introduced the tradition of the Advent Season to us, and we accepted this lovely practice as one of many ways of passing on our biblical faith to our children and others. Repetition need not be “vain.” Actually, children love repetition. Repetition, intentionally designed (and even sometimes not), is key to core learning — as necessary food on which higher levels of thinking feed.
We did not adhere tightly to the advent model (lacking sufficient discipline), but we used the practice and still do to varying degrees. Paul and I are reading from two Advent devotionals this year, one published by Moody Bible Institute, and one picked up at a Lutheran Seminary that is just five minutes from our house. Both are simply laid out yet rich in meaning (listed below).
Last Saturday, we hosted a Christmas brunch for relatives of ours that live in or near Fort Wayne, Indiana where we now live. We had my sister and brother-in-law and two of their adult children and spouses with their children (four children and eight adults in total). The little ones (ages 4-7) happily explored our house, feeling so at home, chattering, prancing, playing with toys I laid out in or around an indoor children’s tent.
They also played in our “cowboy room” and ran around with the stick-ponies (hobby horses). The adults visited all together for awhile and then clustered into smaller conversational groups. I hovered around, observing the children, participating in various conversations here and there, checking on the buffet, puttering in the kitchen, or filling glasses. Whatever.
Then Paul and I read an Advent devotional chapter from the book, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, An Advent Devotional, by Asheritah Ciuciu (Moody Press).
We were all sitting around the table (which we had placed smack-dab in the middle of our rearranged, spacious living room), with the four children sitting on parents’ laps. Paul began by asking, “What is Advent?” It was quiet for two seconds, and then seven year old Silas exclaimed, “Countdown!”
I smiled. I hadn’t thought of defining Advent this way, but it works. Silas connected the countdown to counting down to Christmas, and while the commercial world has hijacked the advent idea as counting down to any kind of a Christmas (Santa, reindeer, chipmunk, and chocolate bar calendars), Silas’ family celebrates Christmas as a chosen time to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. So, “Countdown!” (Hmm. If we’re counting to Dec. 25, maybe it should be called a “Countup.”)
The word, advent comes from the same Latin root from which we have the word, adventure. Oh, my, how fascinating! Every story is an adventure. The world’s cosmic story — God becoming human to rescue us from sin, ourselves, and satan — is the Adventure of the Ages!
Advent = ad (to) + venio (come) = to come. Advent.
Our dear Noah Webster wrote in his original (1828) dictionary that advent means “a coming; appropriately, the coming of our Savior, and in the calendar, it includes four sabbaths before Christmas….” He adds that advent “is intended as a season of devotion, with reference to the coming of Christ in the flesh, and his second coming to judge the world.”
From the devotional, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Paul and I read the chapter entitled “Jesus is the Light of the World.” Each chapter has a title, theme verse, lesson, challenge, prayer, and suggestions for further study. Many Christians are not used to praying written prayers (except for the excellent practice of incorporating Bible verses into extemporaneous prayers), but carefully written prayers penned by devout followers of Christ throughout church history clear up to today offer us rich insight to help us mature as we grow closer to our Lord and to one another within the Body of Christ. Here is the prayer offered at the end of this chapter:
“Oh, great Light of the World, fill up my soul with Your dazzling presence. Thank You for shining Your light in my life. Open my eyes to see the wonderful works of Your hand all around me, and help me do the work You’ve called me to without complaining or arguing, shining like the stars within this crooked and dark world. Awaken my soul to You, and help me to shine brightly right where You’ve placed me.”
God broke his eternal silence with a story that began, “Let there be Light!” And it was so. He continued to tell the story and to be the main character in the story, so much so that he became Emmanuel, “God with us.” Joyfully, the stars sing to His glory, but we have had to be called — coaxed, chided, disciplined (all in love that does not feel like love), forgiven, re-created, comforted, and transformed in order to see His light, to see by His light, and then gladly to join the joyful song.
The Advent devotional I obtained at Concordia Theological Seminary a few miles south of our home here in Fort Wayne includes this lovely hymn entitled “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns.” The words caught my attention with their beautifully shaped picture of biblical truth, but I was nearly mesmerized when I sat at my piano playing and singing the music, over and over. My ears and heart heard a stunning blend of melancholy and majestic joy.
Why melancholy? Because in Advent we still wait, longingly anticipating the fulfillment. Then, why joy? Because, as the Living in Hope Advent devotional I’m reading says, “Faith treats the future as if it were already accomplished, because God has promised.”
Faith gives birth to joy.
So the story speaks to us, day by day. He is not silent! During this season of Advent we focus upon His first coming. Emmanuel: God with us. And we focus on His second coming: A New Heaven and a New Earth. And we recognize that in every day of the year, not just during these four weeks, we are enfolded in His Cosmic Advent-Adventure — His Kingdom that has come and is coming.
The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
by John Brownlie
The King shall come when Morning dawns and light triumphant breaks, when beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes.
Not as of old a little child, to bear and fight and die, but crowned with glory like the sun that lights the morning sky.
Oh, brighter than the rising morn when Christ, victorious, rose and left the lonesome place of death despite the rage of foes.
Oh, brighter than that glorious morn shall dawn upon our race the day when Christ in splendor comes and we shall see His face.
The King shall come when Morning dawns and light and beauty brings. Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray: Come quickly, King of Kings.
Click the following to listen to this hymn (I prefer it sung at a slightly slower tempo in order to savor the message so purposefully carried to us in this minor key):
#1 The three Advent books I reference in this post are the following:
A. Unwrapping the Names of Jesus. Asheritah Ciuciu. Chicago: Moody Press, 2017. This is a family devotional designed particularly to use with children but is great for adults as well. This author did not grow up with Advent either, so her story at the beginning is interesting, especially for Christians from nonliturgical backgrounds. The author has a website especially designed for women: https://onethingalone.com/.
B. Living in Hope (A Study for Advent). Moody Bible Institute’s December 2020 devotional magazine entitled Today in the Word.
C. Devotions for Advent 2022. Canticles of Luke. Prepared by students of Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri and Fort Wayne, Indiana).
#2 Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House), 2006.
Two Bonus pictures for making it to the end of this post: