Here we are, rushing headlong through Advent toward the Christmas festival and I throw a Methodist code word at you. If you are a student of Methodism, you are probably familiar with the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a guide for our theological reflection. We employ Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason to the questions we seek to answer. While there may be a bit of a linear bent to the quadrilateral, certainly Scripture is primo or our first look, the four angles are held in tension with one another.
The season of Advent is a four-week period preceding Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting, watching, and preparing for the gift of the Christ child. In the midst of the busyness of the season, it invites us to slow down, take a breath, and be mindful during what can be a barely controlled crash on Christmas day. Traditionally, there are four themes that play out during the four Sundays of Advent: Hope, Love, Joy, & Peace.
We have discussed hope and love as we moved through the first two Sundays of Advent. As this is the third Sunday, we will spend our time talking about Joy. I’ve been thinking about the four themes of Advent, and have realized that we may have a tendency to think of them as linear. Hope? Check (whatever that is), Love? Check (I think). Joy? Will be able check that off Sunday. That only leaves the Peace square to be punched next week and we can yell, “Christmas!” Nope.
The four themes of Advent work together, not unlike the quadrilateral. Each compliments and reinforces the other. As we move toward Christmas, the optimum will be for us to find ourselves suspended in the space defined by each theme: hope, love, joy, and peace. This will complete and balance our spirit as we again come to the manger in Bethlehem and witness the Advent quadrilateral brought to life.
In the temptation to simply fall headlong into the Christmas melee, take a moment…consider a life defined by hope, love, joy, and peace. How might that change your experience of Christmas? How might that change your life?
Being the third Sunday of Advent, we will visit the prophet Isaiah (35:1-8) and Mary as she visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55). We’ll spend our time revisiting hope and love, as we add joy into the mix.
See you Sunday,
PS: Our Christmas Eve Service will be Dec. 24 at 6:00 pm. It will feature candle light and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We will meet on Christmas day at 10:30 for a service of lesson and carols, a retelling of the Christmas story. Yes, I know Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. Yes, I know many of us have Christmas traditions on Christmas morning. Yes, I know there are many congregations who have cancelled services for Christmas morning. Somehow, I simply can’t imagine saying, “Yes, Jesus, I know it’s your birthday, but I’m simply too busy.” This is not aimed at guilting you into attendance on Sunday morning, but it is a reminder that we will gather as a community of faith to observe the birth of the Christ, which seems, at least to me, foundational to the formation and maintenance of the community.