Do We Misunderstand Advent and the Gospel?
I was in an Evangelical worship service recently where a young woman sang a song that seemed rather disjointed to me. The singing was fairly good, but the lyrics were odd, at least in my book. She began singing about the Christ being born and that this was such a wonderful gift, that He would die on the cross for our sins. Did she just jump 30 years?
Now, certainly the death of Jesus for our redemption is crucial, but I don’t think this is the crux of what Christmas and Advent are supposed to be about. Still, I think the Evangelical church on the whole has failed to grasp this. We are focused on the death and resurrection of Christ and salvation from sin (and specifically guilt), and that is absolutely a positive thing. Yet I fear the church has become so focused that it has let slip other aspects of life with God and the work that Christ did.
Advent is indeed waiting period of the birth of the one who would eventually die to be the propitiation for our sins, but it is also the waiting period of the birth of God Himself, proving that God had not abandoned His people despite 400 years of seeming silence. It is the waiting that leads to the life and ministry of one who showed that God’s love and work deals with the concrete problems of humanity – our inability to escape from sinful habits, our poverty, our disease, and so forth. It is the highlight of the waiting period that we are still in, waiting for the culmination of this age when we will be with the Lord fully amidst a new and perfect Heaven and Earth.
Yes, the cross is the crux of history, and apart from the cross, everything else in creation will ultimately collapse into meaningless or destruction. But the cross is not the principle focus of Advent, and it is not the only aspect of the gospel. The more we encompass of the gospel and the better we understand the seasons of Christian history and its calendar, the more we are open to what God desires to do for us and in us and through us. Yet the Evangelical church seems fuzzy on this aspect of Advent and the fulness of the gospel. Or am I the one who’s off?