Theology

Who We Keep Leaving Out of Advent

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We lose sight of the Spirit of Advent—and I don’t mean what you think I mean.

Of course, Advent is training in the art of waiting, learning to anticipate and long for the coming kingdom of God. Advent is learning to say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Advent reminds us of the glorious coming of the Son in the first advent, and the return of the Son in the second advent. We hope, we wait, we hope.

And after the journey of Advent, we arrive at Christmas. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  We have specific family rituals and rhythms for Christmas—gift exchanges and Christmas gatherings with cherished friends.  These rituals and rhythms remind us that Jesus is the greatest gift from God.

The discipline of waiting followed by the celebration of the greatest gift are both important factors in the spirit of Advent.

But I’m talking about the “Spirit of Advent” with a capital “S.” Because when it comes to Advent, we forget the role of the Spirit.

The Spirit – Last to Arrive at the Scene of Redemption?

Growing up, I learned next to nothing about the Holy Spirit. Up until high school, I don’t even know if I knew about the Trinity. All I ever heard about was the Father, the Son, and all they had done.

It wasn’t until high school that our church started talking about “spiritual gifts.”  But these weren’t taught  with the full Pentecostal presentation of the Spirit.  Rather, the Spirit was like the silent partner in the Trinity—the One who just pointed toward the Son with a sign that said, “Go that way.”

In college, I learned about being immersed in the annual liturgical calendar.  That’s when I learned about celebrating Pentecost every year—remembering how the Spirit was poured out on the church for blessing and mission.

And in each of these I learned that the Spirit always comes after. The Spirit comes after the advent of the Son, after the resurrection, after the ascension. The Spirit comes after to point to the work of the Son. The Spirit comes after to remind the disciples of the truth.

But the Spirit actually comes before.

This is the one thing we forget about Advent and the story of Christmas: the Spirit is not the last to arrive—He is already on the scene working.

The Spirit is not the last to arrive; He is already on the scene working. #Advent Click To Tweet

 

The Spirit Leads the Way

The gospel of Luke opens up with an amazing display of the Spirit at work.

  • Zechariah—the father of John the Baptist—receives a Spirit-enabled vision about his son who will be filled with the spirit and power of Eljiah in order to prepare the way of the Lord.
  • Mary is told the Holy Spirit will come to hear and overshadow her so that she might bear the Son of God.
  • Mary visits Elizabeth—the mother of John the Baptist—and Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit.
  • At the birth of John, Zechariah is filled with the Spirit and prophesies and sings.
  • John the Baptist grew and was strong in the Spirit.

What we get in Luke is an explosion of Spirit at work.

And this is after the Spirit of prophecy had left Israel for about 400 years.  There hadn’t been any prophets who spoke, no prophecies to hear—nothing for 400 years!

And now the Spirit is everywhere in preparation of the Son’s advent.

The Son and the Spirit Are Always on Mission Together

The Spirit and the Son (or the Word) have always worked in tandem.

We could say that the Word of God as revelation is always conjoined to the Spirit of God as presence.

  • The prophetic Word only comes through the prophetic Spirit.
  • The revelation of God through the Word is always accompanied by the residency of God through the Spirit.
  • The Torah (Word) is always joined to the Temple (Spirit).
  • The Word of God in creation is only “spoken” through the Breath/Spirit of God.

So the Spirit’s work should come as no surprise in Advent.  The Incarnation of our Savior comes through the activity of the Spirit beforehand, not just after.

Longing for the Spirit of Advent

If we long for the coming of Christ, then we need to long for the Spirit to be unleashed in our lives.  If we hope for the coming King, then we must hope for the filling of the Spirit. If we wait for God’s kingdom to come, then let us yearn for the Spirit to be poured out.

If we wait for God's kingdom to come, then let us yearn for the Spirit to be poured out. #Advent Click To Tweet

If we forget the work of the Spirit this Advent, then we are in danger of missing the work of God in Advent.

When You send Your Spirit, 
they are created, and You renew
the face of the earth. Ps. 104:30

Veni Creator Spiritus (hymn)

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come
from thy bright heav’nly throne;
come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thine own.

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7 responses to “Mission Hidden in Plain Sight: The Gospel in Everyday Life by Cyd Holsclaw

  1. Cyd,This is a beautiful reflection. I think the recognition of Christ’s presence changes the way I am present to a given situation… it moves from chore to opportunity. Starbucks conversations are not interruptions but gifts. Thanks!

  2. DavidA vision is a picture of what we want to be in the future. The vision statements of most businesses are more statement than vision. They usually consist of too many phrases jammed uneasily together in a single sentence. The ones that really stick out are often their because the CEO insisted, even though it spoils the flow of the statement.
    Vision is carried in the imagination. To share a vision, it must be transferred from imagination to imagination. A simple statement cannot do that unless it is really well done. Artwork can help because it is visual, but it needs to done well. I have seen vision graphics that fail because they have too much stuff jammed in, just like the vision statement. Sharing a vision needs pictures, words, telling stories, description of the way we do things (tikanga in Maori). The right songs can help too.

    On a different topic. I have just completed the first five chapters of Towards an Evangelical Political Theology. It is really challenging. I was not familiar with Zizek (studied philosophy to long ago). When I read the blurb I wondered why you would want to go there, but was pleasantly surprised. You make a really good job of explaining his philosophy simply, and his framework turns out to be really helpful for exposing some of the antagonisms and flaws in modern evangelicalism. I hope that the chapters that look at the solutions are as good.

    As one who is interested in what the Torah teaches about economics and the way that Jesus builds on it, I am constantly intrigued with the way that Americans get really wound up about the Ten Commandments displayed in courthouses, yet totally ignore what the Torah teaches, as if it were totally irrelevant to modern life.

  3. Thanks for this special post. My passion is helping people reintegrate their faith with their daily work. Practicing the presence of Christ as we work for the common good brings deep meaning to our vocations – be it at work, in my family, or visiting my hurting neighbor. Thanks for reminding us that there is this amazing partnership between the presence of Christ and our human activity.”Without His presence, our activity is merely an obligatory checklist. Without our activity, His presence remains hidden and intangible to a world that is waiting to see Christ incarnate in His people.” – That is very well said…
    Thanks again!

    1. Bob, thanks for sharing your passion to help integrate faith and daily work. I appreciate your comment and would love to hear more about how you encourage folks to see Christ’s activity in their daily lives.

  4. […] one of the Missional Church’s most read websites, David Fitch’s Reclaiming the Mission, Cyd Holscaw has written a wonderful article entitled, “Mission Hidden in Plain Sight: The Gospel […]

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