by The Rev. Neal McGowan
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
~ Psalm 90:12
Death in Advent? Shouldn’t we be thinking about a cute baby soon to be born? Yes! Advent is all about preparing in excitement for the birth of Jesus. We prepare for our celebration of the incredible gift of Jesus for our world. However, Advent is also a time when we look ahead. We look forward to the day when Jesus will return. The opening Collect from The Book of Common Prayer for the 1st Sunday of Advent looks back at Christ’s birth, the time when Jesus “came to visit us in great humility,” but it also looks forward to “the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead.” We look backward and forward in anticipation of Christ’s first and second coming.
When we look forward to Christ’s return, we are looking forward to the end of all things when the world as we know it now ends and Christ reigns triumphant for all eternity. All this thinking about the end of all things should lead us to contemplate our own end. The world as we know it will one day end. Each of us will also reach our own end. Death is a reality for all of us (even around Christmas).
So, we can avoid the tough topics around the holidays, or we can follow the Psalmist's lead and learn to “number our days” so that we might have wisdom. Contemplating our own death should teach us to have humility, to rely on God more, and to be aware that we have only a few days on earth to bear witness to God’s love in word and deed. It should give us perspective about what matters.
We can think about something like death as Christians with courage because we know a great big secret: the baby born in Bethlehem goes on to face his own death, and after three days rises to life eternal. We share in that eternal life through his gift. Therefore, we can number our days with a sly grin because we can know what St. Paul knew—that death may bite but that he has lost his teeth.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
The Door invites you to spend ten minutes in meditation every Wednesday evening in Advent focused on how the anticipated coming of Christ is also a look back from his second coming. This weekly livestream will air live on The Door's YouTube channel at noon.