Each year Advent seems to sneak up on us as Thanksgiving comes to a close; and this year is no different. 2020 has been a hard year for many of us and yet in God’s grace He has allowed us to finish it out in the season of Advent: a season of hope, love, joy, and peace.
Advent is a season set aside for waiting and watching, longing and looking for the Messiah. Through liturgies, calendars, wreaths, and more, we lean into the tension of anticipation, counting down the days until Christ’s arrival with expectancy and hope. Even as we celebrate Christ’s first arrival, we watch and ache for his promised second coming, when God will dwell with us forever and everything fractured will be made new (Rev. 21:3–5).The Gospel Coalition | 2020 Has Felt Like Advent All Year
If we’re not careful, we can fall into familiarity and miss the beauty of this season. We can surround ourselves with busyness and distractions and at the end of the month realize that we got sucked into consumerism once again. Perhaps you know that feeling all too well. This is why, as a church, we have decided to be intentional about setting aside weekly practices to prepare Him room in our hearts. These disciplines are from the book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, by Justin Whitmel Earley. They are designed to intentionally resist what the world tells us is important and embrace the good that God has created for us to partake in. Earley explains that he put them into practice “to get my body to believe the peace that my head professed but my heart refused.” This is the hope for our church this Advent.
Each Sunday we will pair an Advent candle with a practice that we can all do together throughout the week. You can learn more about each discipline below.
Week One: The Hope Candle | Fasting
As we light the Hope candle on the first Sunday of Advent we will commit to fasting in some way throughout our week. There is something uniquely biblical about fasting from food for a set of time, but you can also choose to be intentional about fasting from social media, shopping, or television. The goal here is to remove a distraction for a set period of time and commit to prayer. It is in fasting and prayer that we are reminded on our total dependency on God and find our true hope in the coming of Jesus.
Week Two: The Peace Candle | Scripture Before Phone
As embarrassing as it is to admit, most of us find ourselves looking at our phones first thing in the morning. Perhaps it is your alarm clock and you’ve justified having it close to your bed. Unfortunately, once that glowing light is in our faces, it is so easy to find this urgency to reply to texts, emails, or scroll through social media. This habit is subconsciously forming us to find our identities in what our phones yell at us versus what God says matters in His Word. In the second week of Advent we will light the Peace candle and commit to reading scripture before getting on our phones each day. Our devices promote hurry and anxiety, but steeping our souls in the Word first each morning will bring us back to the peace on earth that Jesus came to bring.
Week Three: The Joy Candle | Sabbath
Sabbath is a spiritual discipline that we can all benefit from but perhaps you’ve had a difficult time figuring out what that looks like for you and/or your family. When we remember the Sabbath we set aside time to enjoy God by ceasing from work to appreciate the good gifts He has put in our lives. As we follow the gifts upward to the Giver, we find ourselves in a place of worship where we are brought back to the truth that joy is found in Christ alone. As we light the Joy candle on the third week of Advent, we will commit to observing the Sabbath together as a church. For more encouragement on what this day of rest could look like, check out this sermon from Kolburt, but it needn’t be any more complicated than setting aside 24 hours to worship and rest.
Week Four: The Love Candle | Kneeling Prayer 3x A Day
In our final week celebrating Advent we will encourage kneeling for prayer three times a day. In setting aside this time throughout our days we reorient our hearts to our dependency on the Lord and His Spirit within us. While it may feel awkward or uncomfortable to kneel in prayer, we have to remember that this physical act is doing something to our hearts. In his book on Prayer, Tim Keller says,
Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.Prayer by Tim Keller
It is in this frequent and intimate conversation with God that we can most experience His love and cultivate our relationship with Him. In His mercy and justice He sent His Son to live the life we couldn’t live and pay the penalty we deserved for our sin — all to restore this right relationship with Him. During Advent we celebrate this nearness of God as we reflect on the radical love shown in Christ’s coming. So as we commit to this life-giving habit of kneeling prayer three times a day, let us treasure in our hearts the love we have received from Emmanuel: God with us.