I was standing in line at a Christian bookstore when the lady in front of me commented on the lack of Advent inventory. She couldn't believe it. It was almost Advent and the store didn't even have a stock of Advent candles. I grinned, remembering our first introduction to Advent, and I couldn't resist giving the dear lady something else to be shocked about.
“The first time my husband was asked to preach for an Advent service he didn't even know what an Advent was.”
I did shock her, but it was the truth.
In September of 1999, Bruce had been called on to take over one of the five churches in the small closely-knit town where we lived. The ministerial board got together once a month, and occasionally they held services together. Bruce had not yet attended one of their meetings, but one day after they met together, they gave my husband a call. “We have nominated you to preach the community Advent service,” he was informed.
He said, “OK, that's nice,” and then he paid a visit to his pastor friend at the Missionary church down the street. “Eric, your ministerial association just asked me to preach the Advent message, and I figure that's probably your doing, so now that you've gotten me into this, you've got to help me with something. Tell me Pastor Eric, what's an Advent?”
The Pastor laughed, but I guess he was a bit surprised too. How could a man get to be a minister without knowing about Advent? It was a legitimate question.
The answer was simple. The day after Bruce became a Christian he bought his first Bible and began studying it. Within a few months he was teaching Sunday School creating his own lessons straight from the Bible, and witnessing to others. He studied the Bible for many years, pouring over the Old and New Testaments with concordances and commentaries, praying for wisdom to understand, but never in all that time did he come across the word Advent, at least not enough for it to register in his memory.
It simply did not exist in his vocabulary because the word was not in his Bible. When Pastor Eric explained to him that it was the series of events that took place beginning with John the Baptist and culminating with the birth of Christ, Bruce grinned. “Well, if Advent starts with John the Baptist, I shouldn't have any problem. I'll just preach what he preached.”
And he did. His community message, presented in the stately old United Church building that graced the town, was the message John was sent to preach, the call to repentance. There was at least one soul that responded publicly, on that first day of Advent, to a call of repentance given by a humble preacher, who, up until the month before, had never heard the term, Advent.
Those special church words seem so important to us mortals, but I wonder if maybe Heaven's celebration that day had more to do with the one soul that repented in that musty old edifice, rather than the fact that it was the first day of Advent.