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What are we waiting for in Advent? And what are we celebrating at Christmas?

Facebook live conversation offers reflections on ‘longing for God’ and ‘watching for Christ’s future coming’

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

David Gambrell (left) and Cynthia Campbell (right) during a ‘Facebook Live’ conversation Wednesday about the waiting and celebrating we do during Advent and Christmas.

LOUISVILLE — As part of an ongoing series designed to engage Presbyterians in conversation and learning around the seasons of the Christian year, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continued its occasional Facebook live series on Wednesday afternoon.

The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Mission Agency, hosted a conversation in the Highland Presbyterian Church sanctuary, offering reflections on the theological, liturgical and pastoral themes of the Advent and Christmas seasons. Gambrell was joined by Highland’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Campbell.

Gambrell first talked about of “the double meaning of Advent,” and how we tend to focus on Christ coming to us in the Incarnation while overlooking the call to watch for Christ’s second coming when the Bible says God’s realm of righteousness, justice and peace will be restored.

“The lectionary passages help us to understand what it is we are waiting for,” said Gambrell. “They focus first on the future coming of Christ, and then shift to the story of Christ coming to us at Christmas.”

Campbell then observed that lectionary passages in Advent this year focus our anticipation on the coming of Christ in the broadest terms possible, before narrowing.  “Advent goes from the big picture, arc of history,” Campbell said, “to the presence of Christ.”

Advent scripture readings begin with the second coming of Christ and the reign of God who cares for the poor, the marginalized and the hungry, she explained. They then move to the prophet Isaiah calling on God to come and be present in the world and finally narrows to John the Baptist —the forerunner to the reign of God — and to the Annunciation of Mary.

Campbell plans to focus on Isaiah in her preaching this Advent. “This year, with so much anxiety at home and internationally, I’m feeling this longing for God. Isaiah describes it as ‘God breaking through the heavens’ and entering our world.”

You can view the entire conversation on Advent and Christmas on the PC(USA) Facebook page.

In 2017, the first Sunday in Advent is December 3. The fourth Sunday in Advent falls on December 24, the same day as Christmas Eve, making this an unusually short Advent season.

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