Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What I Want for Advent

I'm a nerd for worship planning ... In case you didn't know that.  I love the summer months because with a more relaxed schedule (no children's or youth choirs), it's a great time to think and dream ahead.  The next big thing on my radar is Advent.  Yes, I'm already thinking and dreaming on Advent.  I'm the worship pastor that drives senior pastors crazy, because, well, I want to know what you're thinking about Advent ... Like, right now.

Most pastors out there probably don't know what they're thinking about Advent yet.  I mean, in the UMC, we're just coming off of Annual Conference season.  Many pastors are moving, many have just retired.  Youth groups are on mission trips, families (even pastor's families) are on vacations.  Churches are gearing up for the arduous time of writing the church budget for the coming year and hoping and praying that the annual stewardship push in the next few months will come through.  We're planning the kickoffs to our fall ministries ... The list goes on.  Summer really isn't a slow time in the life of the church.

Yet, still, I'm praying, dreaming, discerning, what I want for Advent this year.  Not Christmas.  Advent.

Advent is this season of being in-between the past and the future.  I've heard it described as a time of 'already ... but not yet'.  Advent is a preparatory time, but not for Christmas as we know it.  It's a preparatory time for the next Christmas, that day when Christ will come again.  When the Great Mystery of Faith will be a mystery no more.

I'm already prepared for the annual struggle of how many Christmas carols I'm to program in worship during the Advent season.  I'm not personally a fan of singing Christmas carols during Advent, and that makes people uncomfortable at times.  But it's a time when we're supposed to be focusing on waiting.  We're not supposed to like it.  I mean, who does like to wait?  To me, singing Christmas carols before Christmas Eve seems like cheating.  It's like opening a present too early.

But ... as a pastoral musician, I don't draw too hard of a line.  As the season builds to Christmas, I'll throw in the occasional Christmas carol.  I mean, I do want to keep my job!

So, what do I want for Advent?  I want to pray for this, starting now:
"A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;
a branch will sprout from his roots.
The Lord's spirit will rest upon him,
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of planning and strength,
a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.
He will delight in fearing the LORD.
He won't judge by appearances,
nor decide by hearsay.
He will judge the needy with righteousness,
and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
Righteousness will be the belt around his hips,
and faithfulness the belt around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
the calf and the young lion will feed together,
and a little child will lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze.
Their young will lie down together,
and a lion will eat straw like an ox.
A nursing child will play over the snake's hole;
toddlers will reach right over the serpent's den.
They won't harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.
The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the LORD,
just as the water covers the sea."
Isaiah 11:1-9 CEB
How are we supposed to help bring this vision about if we don't start planning now?

But, even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.