I am a slow learner. Over the past decade I have worked to understand the liturgical year more and incorporate key elements into my Pentecostal ministry. I am still learning. (The upside of that is I will probably die while I’m still learning something.)
We are entering the season of Advent and while I had worked to incorporate Advent reading on Sundays, along with the lighting of Advent candles and preaching from the given Lectionary texts, I am still learning what Advent is all about.
My latest acquisition is called Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge. I am just getting into it, but here is what stands out to me the most from the very first pages: as Pentecostals, why do we not incorporate this season more into our church life?
(Okay, short answer: because Pentecostals typically have a very weak ecclesiology.)
But let me make a case FOR doing something… well… “churchy.” There was a time when being Pentecostal meant an avid belief in the Second Coming of Christ. We sang about it. We made movies about the Rapture (more to scare us than encourage us… but we tried!). We genuinely focused on Jesus coming again. Missions was about getting the gospel to every corner of the earth to get people ready for the coming of Christ.
We have lost that. We’ve needed some revisions on our “rapture theology” to be sure… but in the process we’ve lost our attention to something very important: the second coming of Christ.
What Rutledge unfolds for me right away is that Advent is not about a “lead up” to Christmas. Advent should stand alone, or mostly alone, because it should be a season that looks beyond our present time, beyond history, and gets us longing for the coming of Christ again.
Advent is the season of last things.
(Quick caveat: I am about to say I’m a traditional Pentecostal and it IS ironic, since I have moved away from a classical Pentecostal denomination into the Anglican Church this year. I get it.)
As a traditional Pentecostal (and I will always have those roots), I have to ask: Why have we ignored Advent in this way? We have an opportunity to move away from the pre-Christmas hype and focus on a core doctrine of Pentecostal theology… and we kick that aside because… it sounds “mainline” or “liberal”?
In this season, I want to grasp again that anticipation of Jesus coming again. I don’t have to get crazy about “the Rapture.” I just need that longing the CHURCH has always had: to see Christ come again. And Advent gives me 40 plus days to focus on just that.