Category Archives: Blog

Advent: Its Genesis, Meaning, Mood and Message

The Genesis of Advent
Starting in about the 9th century in the Western Church, the season of Advent has been celebrated as a period of preparation for the birth of our Lord and the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (Church year).

In the early church words Advent, Epiphany, and Nativity were used interchangeably to denote the “feast of the Nativity”. Advent services first appeared in the 6th century in the church of Gaul. Epiphany was observed as a baptismal festival and the period preceding it was utilized as a period of preparation for baptism, much like the season of Lent. So Advent originated as a type of “little Lent”. From France the observance spread to England in the 7th and 8th centuries. In the 9th century, Advent was finally incorporated into the Roman Rite.

The Meaning of Advent
The word “Advent” means literally, “to come to”. It is a special season when we celebrate the bold claim that the Lord of the Universe has come among us in human form through Jesus the Christ. In him we have Immanuel, God with us. Not only do we celebrate that God has come to the world in human form from Galilee but also that God is come as a spiritual reality and will come again in triumph at the close of the age.

There is another sense to the definition of Advent, “to come to”. Since God has, is and will come to us, therefore we need “to come to”. Our task as people in full relationship with God is to become fully awake not only to the importance of indwelling but also to the many immersions of Christ in our lives. None of us is fully conscious of God’s presence; we need to come to, to wake up, and be vigilant for the visits of God within history and at the end of time when God’s realm is fully realized.

The Mood of Advent
If God is coming to us and we truly believe that to be true, our mood will be one of excitement, anticipation, and joyful preparation. Mood is conveyed through color and light. As the awareness of the celebrative nature of Advent has grown, many congregations have substituted blue for the older tradition of purple, as we have done in our church. The brighter color of blue, the color of infinite sky, conveys better the bright hope of change and eternal life in the Christ than the more somber and sacrificial purple.

The Message of Advent
As we look at God’s word, we need to understand how the Christ (as the word of God) comes to humankind now and how we can receive and carry the Christ’s presence today. This starts with our attitude… and the guides for which can be found all throughout scripture. I am calling them “Advent Attitudes” — alertness, attentiveness, watchfulness, readiness, joyful anticipation, patience and receptivity. The task then becomes to take a journey over the next 4 weeks to come into a full consciousness with God, who comes to us in Jesus the Christ and in fact be prepared.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

“Some Are Welcome”: When the Church Gets it Spectacularly Wrong

Before I came to Gentle Spirit Christian Church, I spent a few months church shopping. My criterion for a good church was a place that I would feel totally comfortable. “I’ll know it when I see it,” I told myself. I visited many churches around this area, both mainstream and predominantly gay and lesbian. I never found a church that made me feel totally comfortable until I walked into this church. True, I already knew Paul very well and there were other people in the church that were already friends of mine. But, a large majority of you didn’t know me at all. But that didn’t stop any of you from giving me a big hug and welcoming me into this church. It’s the reason I’ve stayed. I saw what I was looking for a church that welcomed anyone who walked through the door and not just with a visitor’s packet of information. No, you welcomed me with a hug, a smile and a genuine concern for my well being.

Continue reading “Some Are Welcome”: When the Church Gets it Spectacularly Wrong

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

About Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge is Pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in 2002 after earning a Master's in Theological Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology.

Better Heresy of Doctrine Than Heresy of Heart

Better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart.

— John Greenleaf Whittier

Thomas Carlyle said, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.” On this point I believe Jesus and Carlyle are in agreement. Jesus told his disciples that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” If our hearts are not loving, if we are not following the path of love that our hearts desire, then the utterances of our mouth will be nothing but pure evil, pure hate, pure deceit. When we cultivate a loving heart we find knowledge — not just knowledge of the world but, more importantly, knowledge of ourselves.

Continue reading Better Heresy of Doctrine Than Heresy of Heart

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

About Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge is Pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in 2002 after earning a Master's in Theological Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology.