November 26, 2020

iMonk Classic: The Mood of Advent

I have several friends who are doing Advent in their Baptist churches for the first time, and they have lots of questions about candles and logistics. I wish there were more questions about Advent itself.

For example, the mood of Advent is dark and serious. It’s not the mood of Lent, which is a particular kind of seriousness as the shadow of the cross extends over our path. It’s the mood of darkness that comes because the world is in darkness.

We need a savior.

This is the time that we stop and see that the powers of evil are entrenched in the world. Evil authorities and and evil persons are having their way. A good creation is being ruined. Hearts made for love and light are imprisoned, crying out and empty.

There is war, terror, the loss of innocence and the curses of ignorance, poverty and death. The wise men of this age are propagating nonsense. Men and women made in God’s image are addicted to the worst the darkness has to offer. They think backwards and cannot find their way out of the dungeon. They have lost their will to live and love, and have settled for the cheapest and palest of imitations.

Advent’s darkness includes the failure of religion to bring any light to this fallen and dying world. Religion has become as empty as fool’s errand as can be imagined. The religious take themselves seriously, but the world hears the hollowness of it all.

In the Christian family itself, the prosperity gospel makes a mockery of the very savior it claims to proclaim. Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.

The real center of Advent’s dark mood is that we need a savior. We who sing and go to church for musicals and eat too much and buy too much and justify the season by our strange measurements of suffering.

We light candles and wait because, after looking around and taking stock, there should be no doubt that we need a savior.

Ironically, after 2,000 years of offering our Savior to others, we- Christians- need one more than ever. When we mark ourselves has “having” Christ more than “needing” Christ, we miss the Spirit of the Advent season.

Despite the fact that the world needs a savior, those offering him and his story to the world look no more “saved” than anyone else. In fact, with an extra facade of religion or two, we seem to be in every bit as bad a shape as the world we call “lost.”

The mood of Advent is that we are all lost. Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.

Can we find a way to celebrate Advent as those who NEED to be saved? As those who NEED a savior? Not as those who know for certain that someone else does?

Scripture says that we who had not received mercy have now received mercy. Those who were nobodies are now the people of God.

The key to Advent is not living as if we are the people of God and always have been. The key is to live as if we need a Savior, and he has come to us, found us, saved us and is there for everyone in the world.

The mood of Advent isn’t “come be religious like us.” It is “We are all waiting for our Savior to be born. Let us wait together. And when he comes, let us recognize him, together.”

When the day dawns, let us all receive him. We go to the manger and worship. We give to him our gifts. We take his light to the poor.

Until then, we are the poor, the weak, the blind, the lonely, the guilty and the desperate. We light candles because we who are in darkness are in need of a great light. We need a savior.

So we wait amidst the ruins, we protect the lights we hold in hope. We sing to one who is coming. We look and wonder. We pray for his star to take us, once again, to the miracle.


Originally posted December 2007


  1. Steve Newell says

    The beauty of Advent is its dual meaning. We are waiting for the coming of Christ’s coming and also his second coming. Many of the readings is a combination of Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and New Testament readings on the end of times.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And in the liturgical calendar, Advent builds up like the Second Coming then loops around to the Nativity, cycling the liturgical year.

      (I burned out on Second Coming hysteria during the heyday of Hal Lindsay and Christians For Nuclear War in the mid-Seventies; all the horrors of The Tribulation, Antichrist, and Armageddon in lip-smacking detail. Didn’t stop having flashbacks until around a dozen years later.)

  2. Ronald Avra says

    Good post from the archives.

  3. I cannot believe how timely this seems to me. Thanks for re-posting it.

  4. I’ve written a short “skit” that will be used during our church’s Christmas Eve service that contrasts two “narrative” viewpoints of Advent. One person is very excited about the season and views it like being in line for a roller coaster, with each day being one step closer to the front of the line. The second person is much more subdued and reflective, not being able to “force” herself to get excited, not wanting to stand in line for the coaster.

    Each person then “notices” the other person, the reflective person seeing the joy in the other, the joyful person seeing the “pensiveness” in the other. The skit ends with each of them asking, “What does it mean, God? Do you understand?”

    The service then moves into a song that conveys how God entered our world and lived as we live.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The skit ends with each of them asking, “What does it mean, God? Do you understand?”

      NOT with the Joyful One delivering a Jesus Juke or Scripture Smackdown on the Pensive One!

      • Lol. No. And hopefully you know me better than that. We really wanted to point out the semi-tension of the season between those who are incredibly joyful with those who are struggling. This isn’t to be a downer to those who are joyful or shame those who aren’t, but just point out we all have different takes on Advent, one view being as shared in this iMonk classic.

  5. Burro [Mule] says

    Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.

    The theme of Christianity ought to be this. This is hard for somebody like me who is so out of step with, well, this board at the least, to realize that even if I get you all to agree with me I’d still need a Savior, just as badly as ever.

    • Christiane says

      Hello Burro,

      I read ‘Advent isn’t about the ‘saved’ telling the ‘lost’ to ‘get saved”;

      and I think that sometimes it seems more like witnessing the smug ‘lost’ telling ‘the saved’ to ‘get saved’ and to give the ‘lost’ credit for it . . . .

      how cynical of me, yes . . . . . but I no longer abide the image of the ridiculous Roy Moore on his little pony with that silly cowboy hat being called ‘Godly’ by his followers. If HE passes for ‘Godly’, you know that the ‘saved ‘ really are ‘lost’ and don’t realize it, which is the saddest thing there might be as they spend their time in righteous pose pointing the finger at others and claiming they ARE ‘saved’ . . . . I mean, if they don’t get Roy Moore’s pretense, how do they know about their own mess????

      lately, this has all been too much for me. Next year has got to be better.

      • Burro [Mule] says

        It’s hard for me to worked up about Judge Moore. When I was 26, I dated a 14 year old She married one of my best friends (This was overseas. I don’t know what immediate post-Franco Spain considered a dateable age, but nobody seemed to care). Then, the next year, I dated a 17 year old, in the good ol’ USA. Nothing happened and since I am an obscure Mule with no political ambitions, nobody accused me of any shenanigans. Of course, I was always a perfect gentleman in my dealings with young women. I think that is one of the reasons why I enjoyed rather limited success with them.

        If Moore did all the things he was supposed to do, then he is a boor and a cad. I’m opposed to him on political grounds. I have always been a Gerald Ford-George HW Bush-Bob Martinez Republican of which there are practically none in evidence these days (outside of Maine).

        I do not expect things to get saner next year. I expect the Democrats to swerve hard left and go full sexual Stalinist. After having offered poor Al Franken on their ju-ju altar, they will press for a political gender gap that will make our present alienation look like Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. By this time next year I expect a Republican of Judge Moore’s stripe to admit that he thinks white people are better than others, be completely unapologetic about it, and still win his election, despite being scorched by the media.

        No, I don’t look for saner heads to prevail, alas.

        • As a progressive, I am beginning to be more apprehensive about the McCarthyite-like potentialities of the Me Too Movement. I could easily see how this could turn from a moral/social crusade into a government led action like the Red Scare. Just as with the Red Scare, there is a real phenomenon happening that needs to be attended to, and calls out for remedy; and there is also the possibility that reaction to this crisis may result in a purge, wherein an accusation suffices as proof, and the innocent and guilty alike are swept up in the frenzy to extirpate the evil. Right now this is happening in the public realm, not as a matter of official government policy, and still there is potential for the innocent to be falsely accused and suffer from a judgment of guilt in the court of public opinion; it is not too hard to imagine it translated into official policy, and becoming truly pernicious. I’m ambivalent about this entire subject.

          • john barry says

            Robert F. I share your good concerns. Perhaps Billy Graham/Mike Pence policy of not being alone with member of opposite sex is where we are headed. Video every meeting, every private setting. How do you codify common sense, basic morality and courtesy. I think the Al Franken issue was way overblown for various reasons. I worked with many a good strong female managers and out of professional respect and their own “defensive” skills they got to the point where they were considered equal co workers who just happened to be women except for a few total hopeless jerks. Tricky issue for sure. Sadly politics is defining the issue that is hard enough already.

  6. john barry says

    Christiane, I was really getting into the excellent presentation of Advent and its relevance to the spiritual journey. I think Steve Newell in the first post summed it up pretty well for a novice like me. Now I know it can also raise the possibly that it is the advent of the political system. Love how you tie it all together. Without a doubt I would say your own appreciation, understanding and relevance of Advent is deep and real. As someone not that familiar with the observance of Advent I like what I have learned and it strikes a chord. how you swerve into current political trials and tribulations is what makes you so unique and sincere in my opinion. I believe 40 is a “magical” mystic number in the Bible and perhaps Roy Moore is hoping it will be a good number for him. The only thing Roy Moore can save the people from in Alabama is the Democrat Party , People in both parties , in all parties can overlook a lot to get the political candidate they feel represent them into power on Capitol Hill not heaven. Shout out to Mule for remembering Bob Martinez, I live in Florida and rarely hear his name. He was one the few people I know Cuban heritage that had a southern accent . In Florida that covered a lot of demographics. In the service I knew a guy who dated a girl so young she drank scotch and wa wa. An old Henny Youngman pre political correct vintage joke. . Mule, I think the politician you described about the white politician running on the white platform was Democrat George Wallace whose last campaign victory in the primary was Michigan before he got shot by someone who disagreed with him to say the least. So as they say history may repeat itself.
    As with Advent it good to look forward and to look back as long as we learn something I was out today riding my horse then someone came out of Wal Mart and unplugged it, stopped me in my journey.