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December 20, 2015

The Aching of Advent

By Todd Korpi

To say that 2016 was an interesting year across the globe would be something of an understatement.  The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The extra who helped Kevin McAlister find his way to the hotel lobby in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was elected President of the United States.  The Brits left the European Union.  Probably most stunning of all, it’s looking like my Detroit Lions might have a shot at clinching their division for the first time since Bill Clinton started his first term in office.

Joys and Pain in Church Planting

Reflecting on a year as it comes to a close can be filled with both joy and sadness. For church planters, who are on the front lines of the advancement of the Kingdom of God (and usually have the scars to prove it), this reality is no different.  Lives have been changed as a result of you responding to the call that God placed on you and your family to pick up shop, move to a city, and begin a new work.  At the same time, few could possibly understand the sacrifices you’ve likely had to make this year so that new Light can shine in the darkness.

The cold, hard truth is that there’s something about the season leading up to Christmas—what the Church’s liturgical calendar has historically called Advent—that seems to magnify pain and need. Human nature is to reflect back on this year and highlight our failures more than our successes.  If you’re in a context like mine, where the night comes early and the snow can fall so hurriedly as to drown out all other noises except one’s own thoughts, this time of year can be painful.

Reflecting and expecting between to aeons

But there’s something about Advent that calls for a sort of aching.  Not guilt, not shame, not condemnation–but aching.  You see, Advent has theologically been a time where the Church recalls its position as a people stuck in between to aeons of time.  It is a season where we reflect back on the first coming of Christ—the God-man that stepped into the brokenness of this world one night through the obedience of a poor teenage Jewish girl in Roman-occupied Palestine.  The Prince who triumphantly entered this realm to the greetings of livestock and the wonderment of shepherds would grow up to broker peace with His blood on a cross and ultimately triumph over the kingdom of darkness, and even death itself, in His triumphant resurrection.  It is a season where we remember that Light shined into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.

In a year where perhaps the injustices, oppressions, and brutalities of our human race have been most pronounced, the Church stands as an intermediary between the age which is and the age which is taking over.  In one hand we reflect upon the first coming of our Lord as a suffering servant, and in the other hand, we look in eager expectation for His second coming, when He will split the eastern sky and in His name, as the song says, all oppression shall cease.

The aching of Advent is a time where I believe we are most aware of how close the heavenly realm is and how it stands in stark contrast to the struggles of earth.  But the beauty of Christmas finds its fulfillment in Easter morning.  The aching of Advent—every death, every injustice, and every heartache will give birth to a glorious resurrection.  That is the hope of the Christian Church in its fullness.

Benediction

So while you’ve undoubtedly had both triumphs and defeats this year; while we’ve all laid our eyes on profound accomplishment and untold tragedy, let’s not be given to despair.  Whatever you’ve faced–lonely pastor, flat-broke church planter, hurting pastor’s spouse–I honor you.  You’re the great heroes of the modern Church and as this year’s events pass into the annals of history, rejoice in the aching of Advent.  Let’s rejoice in a Savior who is not finished with the work that He began that first Christmas day.  Off in the distance breaks a new and glorious morn…His second advent is just around the corner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd Korpi

Todd Korpi (@toddkorpi) and his wife Tara planted and pastor The Cathedral, a life-giving church in Flint, Michigan and is a homiletics researcher for the Docent Research Group. Todd and Tara live in downtown Flint with their three daughters and a golden retriever named Karl Barth. He has a B.S. in Church Ministries from Evangel University and an M.A. in Global Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. His debut book, "The Life Giving Spirit: The Victory of Christ in Missional Perspective" is scheduled to be released in 2017. Find out more about Todd and The Cathedral at www.thecathedral.is

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