I recently listened to a sermon from a church in Portland called Imago Dei. (You may have heard of this church through Don Miller's books.) I am so challenged by this sermon and their vision of advent that I can't stop thinking about it or talking about it with people. I've copied and pasted the sermon summary from Imago Dei's website below. (I don't think they'll mind.) You can also listen to the sermon here, which I highly recommend. I'll share some more thoughts on this vision in another post.
"The gospel is not bound to any given culture. It is a-cultural. It can enter any specific culture and engage with different redemptive windows of that culture. This is our philosophy of ministry at Imago Dei in a nutshell. However, when the gospel enters a culture, in addition to redeeming aspects of it the gospel also critiques pieces of the culture that are opposed to the values of God’s Kingdom. This is what it means to live a prophetic life. We see this type of critique in the incarnation itself. Herod’s Kingdom (the culture in which Christ literally showed up) was one driven by the values of mass wealth, power of military force, greed, and personal gain. Christ enters this culture through poverty, weakness, dependency, and sacrifice. This is the biblical picture of advent.
How does our current celebration of Christmas reflect this incarnation? That is, does our experience of the advent season match the biblical values of the gospel? What can our advent season look like this year if we intentionally choose to be a prophetic voice in our culture? The last thing we want to do is be obnoxious about it. But if we choose to reflect the Kingdom values in this season, we probably will be looked at funny. Are you willing to be looked at funny this season for the sake of the gospel? Here are three themes we see in the advent of Christ that we would like to pursue as a congregation:
God became poor so that we could be rich.
What are the social implications of this for us? How can we choose not to waste what we have but give it away in ways that meet significant needs of those around us? Can our gift giving feed hunger instead of greed?
God gave himself relationally.
First and foremost we desire to give gifts to each other this season that are relationally driven. We desire to learn what it means to give of ourselves and not just give stuff. We will be resourcing you with many ideas on how to approach this.
When Jesus showed up, people worshipped him.
What would it look like if Jesus was actually the focus of Advent? Can we respond like the shepherds and Magi, who celebrated the first Advent by praising God and worshipping the Son?
When we receive, we receive Jesus, not stuff.
If Jesus became poor that we may be rich, are we truly receiving the riches that he has given us? Are we receiving Him? How do we as a community ultimately embrace Jesus this Advent season and not be distracted by all the hype around us?"