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Expectation, Not Celebration

A tragedy early in his career as a fire department chaplain cast a shadow over Advent for Fuller Southwest student Kyle Layne, until a revelation came during a Fuller class.

Lumpkin - dead branches

Photo by Matt Lumpkin (MDiv ’11)

I have served as a fire department chaplain for almost a decade now, and it has impacted my view of the Advent and Christmas seasons. Early in my career I responded to a mobile home fire, just before Christmas, in which almost an entire family, including four children, perished. It cast a dark shadow over Christmas that year for me, and though I see tragedy quite often, pain and anguish during the Advent and Christmas seasons seem to be particularly difficult. I found myself hoping each year that Christmas would pass by quickly, and with as little pain as possible.

Last year as I was sitting through an Early Church History class at Fuller the subject of Advent came up. The professor (Dr. Grayson Carter) mentioned that his wife, who is English, found the Advent season in America quite troubling. It was as if we in the American Church simply skipped Advent and rushed right into Christmas with no appreciation for the solemn waiting for the arrival of the Christ. God works in mysterious ways, and through that discussion it clicked for me. I realized that I was missing the point of the Advent season altogether. Advent is not so much about celebration as it is about expectation.

How are these two things related? By embracing the real meaning of Advent it has helped me when I face tragedy in the field during the holidays. Advent is not just about waiting for the arrival of the Christ child, an event that has already occurred. If that were the case then it would just be a memorial celebration. No, Advent is a season to remind us of the return of the Christ. When he returns tragedies like mobile home fires, and all other pain and suffering and death, all come to an end. So now as I respond to tragedies during the Advent and Christmas seasons, I say an additional prayer of expectation and anticipation that Christ will come and make all things new. Peace.