First Week of Advent: What Is Advent?

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

Last year I tried to draw attention to the season of Advent by linking some things that other bloggers were writing about Advent.  This year I am going to actually step up and try to write some Advent material of my own.  Those of you who are of a liturgical bent, I hope that you will exercise forbearance with me if these aren’t exactly proper Advent devotions; I am an evangelical and have been out of the liturgical stream for a while now, so I may be a bit rusty.  But it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

Now I am sure that those of you who do not come from a liturgical bent are wondering:  What is Advent?  Why on earth should I have any concern for it whatsoever?

That is what I will address today.

Advent is the season before Christmas.  It consists of four Sundays, three full weeks plus whatever fraction of a week is necessary to get to Christmas.  If Christmas falls on a Sunday, then Advent consists of four full weeks.

Advent is a season of darkness.  Not the darkness of Lent, which is the special darkness which results from the shadow of the Cross falling squarely across our path, but rather the general darkness of a world where chaos reigns, a world waiting for the word that is Christ to speak light and order into it.  The darkness of a humanity that is broken and fallen because of sin and a creation that is subjected to bondage, decay, and frustration because of humanity’s sin, waiting for the coming Christ who was promised as early as Genesis 3:15.

Advent is a season of waiting.  For two thousand plus years, the Jewish people waited for their promised Messiah.  For the next four weeks we wait with them, remembering their waiting as we wait to celebrate the coming of Christ on Christmas Day, and waiting (for real) for Christ to come again at the end of the age, as He promised that He would.

In the first century AD, right around the time that Jesus first came on the scene, the Jewish people had waited two thousand plus years for their promised Messiah.  For most of this time they had prophets–people who delivered special messages from God that were relevant to the time they were delivered (and sometimes pertained to people and events very far off in the future).  But it had been over four hundred years since the voice of a prophet had been heard in Judah.  For the most part, people did not really believe that Jesus was coming anytime soon–it was just business, and life, as usual.

Nowadays, it is almost the same situation.  It has been almost two thousand years since Christ ascended to heaven after promising to return at the end of the age, since the Book of Revelation ended with the words “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  Though we acknowledge in theory the possibility of Christ coming back at any time, it is doubtful that any of us really believe it.  I don’t think any of us believes for a second that Jesus will come back before Florida wins its next national championship, before Georgia fires Willie Martinez and a whole bunch of other assistants, before the Cons get back to the playoffs, before I get married, before your teenage daughter learns to drive, before you get that promotion at work, before your parents move to assisted living…you get the idea.  We are all too busy living our lives and we aren’t even able to conceive of what is going on in our lives being interrupted by anything so mundane as the end of the age and the return of Christ.

Advent is a time for us to step out of the rat race that is life in this world.  We will let the world go on with all their running around, all their celebration and stressing out about Christmas, all of their rushing for Christmas presents, all their lights and decorations and Christmas music which have been going since last February.  We will look upon them and enjoy them, to be sure, but we will not allow ourselves to be swept up in all of that commotion.  Instead we will pull away.  We will quiet ourselves and wait.  Wait for Christmas when we celebrate the coming of the promised Savior who has liberated us from our sins and creation from its bondage to sin.  And wait for the promised return of our Savior at the end of the age.

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All-Skate: Is It Worth It to Beat Tech If It Means Another Year of Willie Martinez?

Today’s question is pretty simple and straightforward:  Is it worth it to you to see Georgia beat Georgia Tech this year, if the price we have to pay for that is another year of Willie Martinez?  Or would you rather see Georgia lose to Tech if it means that Willie Martinez will be fired sooner?

I expect this to be a very provocative question.  So I want to see some discussion!!!!!

Okay.  Discuss.

Who Needs Prince Charles and James Brown to Get Punked by Kentucky?

Today we are going to hop into the time machine and take a ride back into the past.  Way back into the past.  Think peace, love, hippies, flower children (oops–wrong decade), gas rationing, bell bottoms, disco, shag carpet, lime-green polyester suits (Okay, I’d better stop there.  I don’t want to cause anybody to have nightmares.)

Yes, my friends, the year was 1977.  Fleetwood Mac came out with their blockbuster album Rumours.  The Clash came out with their debut album.  The space shuttle Enterprise went for a test flight atop a 747 at Edwards Air Force Base.  Miami actually got some snow.  Pavarotti made his American debut (Wonder if he was wearing a lime-green polyester suit that night?  Oh sorry, don’t want to cause anybody to have nightmares).  Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad.  The Pompidou Arts Center opened in Paris.  James Dobson founded Focus on the Family.  Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president.  Menachem Begin took over as prime minister of Israel.  Led Zeppelin performed their last ever US concert.  Elvis died.  (Or did he?)  The Atari 2600 was released.  Gavin DeGraw, Shakira, Kanye West, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin were born.

And Georgia played Kentucky in Athens one fine November afternoon.  Prince Charles and James Brown were in attendance, and Kentucky punked Georgia 33-0.  To show you how far back that was, Prince Charles was still a bachelor.  Princess Di was not even on the scene yet.

That was the last time Georgia had ever lost to Kentucky in Athens.  On that day, Georgia fans walked out of the stadium in utter humiliation and disgust, thinking to themselves, “Never again.”

Well, “never again” just happened.

And Prince Charles didn’t even need to bother showing up.  Neither did James Brown.  All we needed was Willie Martinez and a few other incompetent assistants who have (hopefully) coached their final game in Athens.

Kentucky took the opening kickoff and raced to an easy touchdown.  But they botched the extra point and you thought to yourself, “Okay, we can hang with these guys.”  Georgia got it going on offense with a field goal, two touchdowns, and another field goal.  The defense stiffened up and did not allow another point for the rest of the half.  By halftime, the score was 20-6 and Kentucky only had 73 total yards.

Going into the second half, you knew that a 14-point lead was not safe.  Teams come back from two touchdowns behind all the time.  But no one could have foreseen the complete and utter meltdown that happened in the second half.  It all started when Branden Smith fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half at the Georgia 14 yard line.  Just two plays later and Kentucky was in for a touchdown.  But by 7:03 in the third quarter, Georgia had scored again to push the lead back to 14 points.

And then all hell broke loose.  Not only did Kentucky come back to beat Georgia, they managed to make it look so easy peasy that the Geico cavemen could have done it.

It started when Georgia failed to cover the ensuing kickoff, and Kentucky started out at midfield.  Five plays later and Kentucky was in for another touchdown.  Georgia and Kentucky traded a couple of punts.  Then Kentucky got the ball at the Georgia 36 and needed only 5 plays to score the tying touchdown.  60 yards came on one play.  On the next series, Joe Cox needed to answer the challenge.  He answered with an interception that was returned to the Georgia 8.  Three plays later and Kentucky was in the end zone.

Later, Georgia would drive all the way to the Kentucky 1, only to fumble on an errant pitch by Joe Cox.  Kentucky recovered.  Georgia got it back one more time near midfield.  On the very first play of the drive, Cox threw another interception.  Game, set, and match, Kentucky.

The meltdown is now officially complete.  With this loss, what would otherwise have been a disappointing season has now turned into a complete and utter train wreck.  Already Mark Richt has lost the most games of any season during his tenure at Georgia.  The fewest wins he has had in any season was eight back in 2001, and in order to keep from missing that mark he will have to pull an absolute miracle in the ATL, and then win the bowl game.

Consider this:  From the start of the 2002 season (we’ll give Mark Richt a pass on Year 1), it took Mark Richt 49 games to lose 8.  That eighth loss did not come until nine games into the 2005 season.  But since (and including) the failed blackout against Alabama back in 2008, Georgia has now lost 8 games.  And it has taken Mark Richt only 20 games to get there.

Never again.  I wonder how long it will be until “never again” happens again.  Given the current state of this program, it probably won’t take another 32 years.

The Monday Melange 11.23.09: Tryptophen, Gary Gilmore, and Paul Johnson

–Is it women’s gymnastics season yet?????

–The last time Georgia lost to Kentucky in Athens was in 1977, the same year that Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah.  I would love to see Willie Martinez executed by firing squad for his defense’s performance (or lack thereof).  I would love to see a bunch of other assistant coaches executed by firing squad as well.

–I have a lot of friends who are Georgia Tech fans, and believe it or not, they are actually worried about the upcoming Georgia-Georgia Tech game.  I suppose I can understand; I would be worried too if my team had just endured six years of Chan Gailey and all the horrors entailed in that.  But do these people have any idea just how BAD this Georgia team really is???  I think they will be very pleasantly surprised.

–Tryptophen is the hormone in turkey meat which causes you to feel sleepy after having had a full turkey dinner on Thanksgiving day.  To counteract this effect, marinate your turkey in Red Bull for 24 hours prior to cooking.

–Paul Johnson isn’t going to Notre Dame.  Why?  First, the people up there aren’t convinced that his offense works, even though it does.  People aren’t convinced that you can recruit talented players to play for a team that runs that type of offense.  And people aren’t convinced that people will want to watch that sort of offense (which runs the ball about 85 percent of the time) on TV.

Second, Notre Dame already tried hiring a Georgia Tech coach a few years back.  He lasted for all of three and a half days.

Finally, we don’t need for Notre Dame to hire Paul Johnson.  We need for them to come and get Urban Meyer out of our hair!!!!!

–Which says very bad things about the present state of the Georgia football program.  We don’t have a prayer of competing with Florida as long as Urban Meyer is on the scene–our only hope is to pray for him to be abducted by aliens or hired away by Notre Dame.  Think about that.  Isn’t that sad?

–Maybe Georgia should defect to the Ohio Valley Conference.  At least we know we would rule that conference, just like Florida State ruled the ACC back in the 90s.  And if we joined the Ohio Valley Conference, that would bring them to twelve teams, which would enable them to have divisional play and a conference championship (if they have such things in Division 1-AA).

–Here’s another thought:  Up until the early 90’s or thereabouts the Virginia marching band was known for doing silly, spoofy shows–kind of like the Weird Al Yankovic of marching band.  But they sometimes did things that were a little bit over the edge, and one year in West Virginia (Virginia and West Virginia are big rivals, kind of like Florida-Georgia) they did a show that was so offensive that the governor of West Virginia had them banned for life from the state of West Virginia.  The next year, the administration at Virginia suspended the marching band.  They brought in other bands from area high schools and colleges to perform at halftime during every home game that season, in order to show the Virginia band how to perform good, tasteful halftime shows.

My thought is that we should just suspend the Georgia team for the upcoming Georgia Tech game.  Forfeit the game up front, and play the game as an exhibition with some other team (Florida, Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, hell–why not Kentucky?) playing in Georgia’s place to show them how to play like a real football team.

–So how’s the weather in Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica?  High:  -30.  Low:  -33.  Windchill:  -58.  They’re having a veritable heat wave down there, aren’t they?

–The last time Georgia lost to Kentucky in Athens was in 1977.  Prince Charles was on hand to watch Georgia get punked by Kentucky 33-0.  This time we didn’t need Prince Charles in attendance–all we needed was Willie Martinez.

–That Auburn win last week was special.  But bear in mind that at the beginning of the season this one projected as a gimme.  And at 31-24, this was no gimme.

–Don’t worry, my friends.  This sorry excuse for a football season is almost over.  And (hopefully) there will be major changes to the Georgia coaching staff to follow.

–And there’s always women’s gymnastics.

Les Miserables 30: Sister Simplice Put to the Test

So how was Fantine making out while Valjean was busy trying to get to Arras?  Not very well.  Her appearance had changed drastically just in the last few months:

A few months earlier, when Fantine had lost the last of her modesty, her last shame, and her last happiness, she was a shadow of herself; now she was a ghost of herself.  Physical suffering had completed the work of moral suffering.  This creature of twenty-five had a wrinkled forehead, flabby cheeks, pinched nostrils, shriveled gums, a leaden complexion, a bony neck, protruding collarbones, emaciated limbs, dun-colored skin, and her fair hair was mixed with gray.  How illness mimics old age.

Not a pretty sight.  I think you get the idea.

Compare this with how Fantine looked back when we first met her:

…Her splendid teeth had evidently been endowed by God with one function–laughter.  She carried in hand, rather than on her head, her little hat of stitched straw, with long, white ties.  Her thick blond tresses, inclined to blow about, easily coming undone, obliging her continually to do them up again, seemed designed for the flight of Galatea under the willows.  Her rosy lips babbled with enchantment.  The corners of her mouth, turned up voluptuously like the antique masks of Erigone, seemed to encourage impudence, but her long, shadowy eyelashes were discreetly cast down on the lower part of her face as if to check its festive tendencies.

See the drastic change that has come over Fantine on account of her moral and physical degradation. Continue reading “Les Miserables 30: Sister Simplice Put to the Test”

Georgia-Auburn: This Was Huge

This was huge.

But then, it usually is whenever Georgia and Auburn mix it up.  In 1982, sugar fell from the sky when Georgia beat Auburn in Auburn.  In 1983, Auburn beat Georgia and that marked the first of several SEC championships that they would win under Pat Dye.  In 1986, Georgia beat then-no. 8 Auburn in a monumental upset and “Superman” became a permanent Redcoat tradition and the water cannons came out.  In 1994, a tie with then-no. 3 Auburn saved Ray Goof’s job–for another year.  In 1995, a loss to Auburn on a cold and blustery day when very few Georgia fans bothered to even show up (let alone stay to the end of the game) sealed Ray Goof’s fate.  In 1996, a win at Auburn provided Jim Donnan with a signature win in his first year at Georgia and helped to finish a losing season on a positive note while providing momentum going into 1997.  In 1999, a very bad Auburn team punked Georgia and served notice to all the world that Tommy Tuberville, then in his first year at Auburn, was for real.  In 2002, a win at Auburn “blew the lid off” a long-frustrated program and staked Georgia to its first SEC championship in 20 years.  In 2006, a win at Auburn helped rescue a season gone monumentally wrong and provided then-freshman Matthew Stafford with positive momentum going into 2007.

This game was no exception.  A win for Auburn would mean a signature win for Gene Chizik in Year One, which would include the possibility of huge recruiting gains here in Georgia.  A win would also mean a potential upgrade to Auburn’s postseason plans.  For Georgia, a win would mean postseason eligibility–period.  A loss would mean two losses to first-year SEC coaches this year–and what a disaster that would have been for Georgia.  Lane Kiffin is already moving to maximize the recruiting advantage gained by his 45-19 punking of Georgia earlier this year, while Auburn’s recruiting footprint in Georgia–already Sasquatch-sized–would have grown even bigger.  If Georgia were reduced to the state of having to scrape together a team from Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia Tech rejects, it would be a long time before they make any sort of noise in the SEC East again.

Furthermore, a loss would have deeply hurt the prestige of Georgia’s program.  Supposing that Georgia had been unable to beat either Lane Kiffin or Gene Chizik in Year 1–can you imagine what things would have been like in Year 2, Year 3, Year 5, or beyond?  I think we can get an idea from looking at Georgia Tech.  Georgia was unable to take care of Paul Johnson in Year 1; now in Year 2 he is more formidable than ever.

Finally, a loss would have left Georgia fans wondering just how bad things would be in Atlanta in a couple of weeks, while a win would have had Georgia fans feeling as if their team would have at least a ghost of a chance.

Simply put, Georgia’s football program was fighting for its very life Saturday night. Continue reading “Georgia-Auburn: This Was Huge”

Michael Spencer: Gospel Cowards

Okay people, here’s another Michael Spencer post that I want you to take a gander at.

Seems that in his denomination, there is a lot of talk about church planting these days.  And the message coming out of the church planting conferences these days seems to be to the effect of “Plant those churches, boys, but stay out of those pubs.  Don’t even go near anyplace where alcohol is served.”  Or as they might say over in Athens, “Take the gospel to every nation, tribe and tongue on the face of the earth, but not to the 40 Watt.”

The point Michael Spencer makes in this post is that we evangelicals are not ignorant of the Gospel (although that may be true to a certain extent in some of the darker corners of evangelical Protestant-dom).  The problem is that we are not willing to deal with the full implications of the Gospel.  If we dared to apply the Gospel in all of its implications to life, the church, our politics, our finances, our power structures, our accepted ways of looking at things…it could cause some problems.  And we don’t want that.

The Gospel is such a radical message of grace and forgiveness for all, that it is bound to cause problems in our world.  But instead of this message, what we hear in some parts of evangelical Protestant-dom is “Stay out of the pubs.”  In other places what we hear is “Take back America’s Christian heritage!!!”  And in other places we hear “God has a WONDERFUL plan for you…if you have the faith to claim it.”

Our problem:  We don’t want the Gospel to be what it truly is.  We want it to be just a prop to affirm us in our certainties, our comforts, our opinions, our priorities, our assumptions, our ideas of the way things ought to be.

We talk about wanting to see the glory of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas of life.  Okay…but what if that means the Republicans don’t win the next election?  What if that means we have to adopt a posture of greater humility in our interactions with those of other Christian traditions?  What if that means we have to let go of this agenda of trying to save Western civilization from itself and its own worst excesses?

As Michael Spencer says, our problem is not that we don’t know Jesus is Lord.  It’s just that acknowledging it and accepting the full implications of it could make a lot of people upset.  And we don’t want that.

Read Michael Spencer’s “Gospel Cowards”