3 Things to Aim for in Advent

Express Lament
A few nights ago, I read a tragic story in The Washington Post about a murder/suicide about an hour’s drive from my house that claimed the life of a young mother and her infant while the 5-year-old daughter took a bath upstairs. She didn’t know anything was wrong until her Mom didn’t come to get her out of the bath, at which point she got herself dressed and then made the terrible discovery downstairs.

This kind of story makes me unspeakably sad. And angry. And confronted by the evil, sinful brokenness that has infected this world. And I don’t know what else to pray besides “Jesus, please come back quickly.”

We all read news stories like that, or hear of yet another case of incurable cancer, or read of more threats of war, or see the villages in the Philippines completely wiped off the map in the latest typhoon, and deep inside of us we know it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Advent is a time when we can (and should) sing songs and pray prayers of lament, crying out to Jesus to come back, and to come back soon, and to “make the sad things come untrue.” If we skip past Advent without giving our people an opportunity to express these cries, we do them a disservice.

Let your people lament. And lament in hope. Because one day Jesus came as a baby, and he’ll one day come again as King.

Give People Space to Be Still
Christmas parties, travel, buying presents, wrapping presents, buying a tree, decorating the house, having a good time, baking cookies, hanging lights outside your house, raking leaves, keeping everyone happy, sweeping up broken ornaments, watering the tree, sending out Christmas cards, getting a family picture taken, baking the pie, trying not to gain 20 pounds and, oh that’s right, trying to make it to church too.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are the most insane weeks of the people in your congregation’s whole year. We all feel it. I especially felt it last year as Catherine and I prepared to welcome baby girl number three, and release two new albums (great Christmas present idea!), and manage the Andrew Peterson concert two days after our new baby came, and the list goes on. All of us have our own long lists this time of year.

Wouldn’t it be a great gift to our people on Sunday mornings if we gave them some space to be still? Between songs. During a song. Between readings. After the message. During communion. Whenever.

Find some time in your services to intentionally leave some space for people to be still. Even just 30 seconds can be powerful. Just say something like: “This morning we’re aware that all of us are experiencing the usual pre-Christmas busyness and pressure and anxiety. We’re just going to take a few moments to pause, and be still, and enjoy God’s presence, and before we sing this next song let’s allow the Holy Spirit to help us to slow down. To rest. To remember our need for a Savior.” … Something like that. It will bless people.

So whether you’re in a really liturgical church or a really informal church, I’d encourage you to use the season of Advent to help your congregation anticipate the coming of Christ and the coming of Christmas, to lament all the brokenness and sadness that we long for him to redeem, and to see Sunday mornings as opportunities to rest in the grace and love of God that’s displayed in the cradle, on the cross, in the empty tomb and on the occupied Throne.

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Jamie was born and raised in Florida as a preacher’s kid. Since age 14, he has been leading worship pretty much every Sunday of his life, experiencing all of the joys and trials of church ministry. For over 10 years, Jamie has been writing at his blog, Worthily Magnify, in the hopes of helping worship leaders lead better. In 2006, Jamie married Catherine, and they now have four wonderful kids: Megan, Emma, Callie, and Jacob, who keep them busy, laughing, praying, and very grateful to God.