The Advent is a celebration of the first coming of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the first coming while anticipating the second coming. Yet there are many who have rightly complained that the Advent season has been abducted by other gods. We all recognize mammon has been given as much attention during this time of the year as Christ (if not more). This has led many to declare the season a lost cause. Jim West has complained that the Advent season has been too anthropocentric (humanism?), therefore he will not be celebrating this year (see here).
I have never been part of a church community that gave much attention to Advent. This year my wife and I are part of the Imago Dei Community here in Portland, OR. The Advent season begins for us this Sunday. Those who are familiar with the ‘Advent Conspiracy‘ know that Imago Dei was part of the inception of this project. We won’t give up on Advent; we have decided to rethink it.
So how do we combat the materialism surrounding the Advent season? How do we challenge the humanism that has disturbed Jim West? I think we must rethink gift giving and we must rethink humanism in light of the incarnation. In the incarnation God gave his only begotten Son to us (John 3:16). This giving was relational, not materialistic.
Rather than giving our loved ones gift cards or junk that will sit in a closet for the next few years we need to become more creative and meaningful with our gifts. We need to think of ways to make our giving less about money and more about relationships.
This does not mean that we cannot spend money; it means we might spend money on making a trip to be with our loved ones (even if this doesn’t include gifts) or we might spend less money while making our gifts instead. This form of gift giving takes more time and thought that the traditional “Oh, let us just give them gift cards from Target”.
How to we combat humanism? We do so by emphasizing the incarnation, which is what the Advent season is all about. We must proclaim the fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14). If it were not for the incarnation of the Son of God there would be no salvation for “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is only by the incarnation that this was possible, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
As Athanasius wrote, “God became man so that man might become god” (On the Incarnation 54:3). We can only participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 2:4) because the Son participated in our nature (Romans 8:3). This is what Advent is really about God giving of Himself to the world.
As Christians we must celebrate Advent. We must not become discouraged because there are other things being worshiped during this season other than our Savior. Instead, we must give even more attention to the “reason for the season”, Jesus Christ our Lord!