What comes to your mind when you hear of Advent?
As you ponder that question, let me tell you about a recent article I came across in The Washington Post. The headline read, “People are regretting spending $800 on a Chanel advent calendar featuring stickers and a dust bag.” According to the article:
Christmas may not be canceled this year, but fashion house Chanel just might be — at least by underwhelmed customers and angry social media users.
The luxury brand promised fans an advent calendar “unlike any other,” filled with surprises they “could treasure for years to come.” Shaped like an oversized Chanel No.5 perfume bottle, the limited edition calendar is made up of 27 boxes numbered from 5 to 31, which creators said would include an array of treats including makeup and perfume.
But for many who spent more than $800 on the calendar, opening the doors resulted in limited luxuries and a lot of disappointment…
I’m not sure whether to laugh or shake my head in disgust but let me make one thing very clear: If we want to completely miss the redemptive work of God in this season, let Advent be co-opted by our own consumeristic impulses and make this season about ourselves.
Two texts from scripture for this past third Sunday of Advent focused on joy come from Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Philippians 4:4-7. Though the circumstances under which the prophet Zephaniah speaks and the circumstances of the apostle Paul are different, they do have two things in common. Both summon the people of God to rejoice and both did so in some difficult circumstances. For Zephaniah, he prophesied during a time when Israel was full of idolatry, violence, and corruption and therefore was suffering under the judgment of God. The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians from a prison cell where he just might be killed.
How can a prophet and an apostle speak of joy and summon the Lord’s people to rejoice amidst such difficult circumstances? Both saw the work of God in the coming of the Lord. One, namely Zephaniah, spoke of a day when the Lord would come to renew and restore the people of God. That’s the picture of salvation that Zephaniah depicts for us. The other, Paul, lived between the coming of the Lord and the second coming of the Lord, knowing the mystery of the faith . . . “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” For both, their joy is anchored in their faith that knows the redemptive work of God within history.
I understand that life can be very difficult at times. Sometimes the grief and pain that comes with life can seem almost unbearable. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, for he has come and is coming again. If you want something you call joy but can disappear as quickly as it seems to appear, then there’s an $800 Chanel Advent Calendar you can buy but if you want an unending joy, then fix your eyes on Bethlehem. For in Bethlem comes the birth of a baby boy named Jesus, who has come to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21).