Advent has been relegated, in modern practice, to candy-filled countdown calendars but Pastor Louie Giglio advocates for restoring the deeper meaning and observance of this historical church celebration, proclaiming that it is a message of hope to hurting people. His new book, Waiting Here For You: An Advent Journey of Hope takes readers through a series of devotionals designed to build their faith and trust in God, even during the storms and trials of life. The spiritual message of Christmas can get lost in the drama, busyness and charitable works that can dominate the season in many churches. Giglio encourages evangelical churches to revive the celebration of Advent as a reminder of the hope represented in Emmanuel, God with us, come to Earth.
Historically, in church liturgy, Advent consists of the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It is traditionally celebrated with prayers and reflections on the holy events of the biblical Christmas story and the miracle of God’s love. Conventional liturgical churches observe the four Sundays before Christmas with candle lighting, Bible readings and worship. Much the same way as Lent helps Christians mentally prepare for Easter, Advent sets the tone for Christmas. Many modern evangelical churches have a looser, more contemporary style of worship and have moved away from many of the historical traditions. Therefore, their community of attendees are often unfamiliar with the practices of Advent.
The founding pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Ga. realizes that life can be messy and the hurts can make it difficult to really feel the joy that pervades the Christmas season. Shortly after writing the Advent devotionals, his father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Giglio has publicly shared personal struggles with chronic health issues that baffled doctors for years. Nonetheless, he proclaims a confident expectation that God will come through, even in the darkest trials of life and he advocates for people to hold onto the same hope.
Pastor Giglio explains that while Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, it is more than that. Just as Jesus came to Earth 2014 years ago in the midst of a difficult time in Israel’s history, as they toiled under Roman overlords, Advent is a reminder that God is with His people. In the same way He reached into the lives of a penniless couple, stigmatized by an unauthorized pregnancy, far from home, family and friends, in substandard lodgings, not at all suited to giving birth, He is near, even when life goes crazy and does not pan out the way they wish for and deals them emotional and physical pain and suffering.
Giglio advocates for people to allow Advent to speak encouragement and hope into their hearts even when life and faith is not as neat and tidy as they wish. He proclaims that the miracle of Christmas is recognizing that regardless of life’s circumstances, God is still in charge and working out His plans, bringing life and hope to the hopeless and brokenhearted. Instead of letting anxiety drown out God’s voice, the pastor boldly declares that he is reaching out in his book to anyone who is waiting on God for solutions to the myriad trials and troubles of life and longing to see God’s goodness and faithfulness played out in their lives so as to inspire renewed and strengthened faith and hope during this season of Advent.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Louie Giglio, live presentation, April 2011
Image courtesy of elPadawan- Flickr License