I love everything about Christmas.
- While I hate the cold, I actually love the beauty of a snow-laden landscape (I know, it’s a paradox).
- I take in an inordinate amount of grande Peppermint Mocha’s from the siren (but with only 1/4 of the syrups and a quad-shot of espresso).
- I love the fact that my bride decks our halls with boughs of evergreen and twinkling lights, so that late at night there is a warm glow of Christmas in our little nest.
- I revel in the spirit of the season which seems to make most people happier and more joyful.
- I delight in the sounds of the season, and those who bring it to us: Bing Crosby. Manheim Steamroller. Sufjan Stevens. The Annie Moses Band. Harry Connick. Sarah McLachlan and Wintersong. The Vince Guaraldi Trio, 1965, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Carpenters, 1978, A Christmas Portrait. Diana Krall. Relient K. Handel’s Messiah.
- I am moved by the movies about the season: The Nativity. White Christmas. It’s A Wonderful Life. Elf. Home Alone. The Family Man. A Charlie Brown Christmas.
But more than anything, I love why Christmas, or what is traditionally known in the church as Advent, is on the calendar in the first place. Namely, it is a reminder that the Son of God took on flesh, became a man, God with us, in order that he might save his people, and all people, for all time, from their sin. It is a time to look back and reflect on the magnificence of that, and to look forward in great expectation for his promised return and completion of all he started in that first coming.
I like how Adam Ramsey recently reflected on this,
The Christmas season brings a heightened feeling that something wonderful is coming. Can you sense it?
Like a faint sound in the distance drawing nearer. Like the waiting at the airport to be reunited with loved ones as they emerge from the terminal. Like the moment right before the sun peeks out from below the horizon. Like a promise about to come true. Something wonderful is coming. Frederick Buechner writes:
For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
Advent. It means something wonderful is coming.
In light of that, how might we best prepare, knowing that the calendar page brings December upon us tomorrow, and the official start of Advent will occur this Sunday? Well, I’d like to offer up what Adam Marsh when on to say about this in his article first published at The Gospel Coalition. I think you will be wonderfully encouraged as you read it, so I’ve attached it below for your convenience. Please do read on.
And as you warm yourself by a fire, with a peppermint mocha in your hand, and the knowledge of Christ’s salvation work on your heart, may you have a very Merry Christmas indeed!
TIME TO SLOW DOWN
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the liturgical calendar that starts every year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It’s a time for priming our hearts to treasure Christ. Yet amid all the frenetic end-of-year chaos, it’s so easy to squander these precious moments of waiting. Many of us know all too well what it’s like for December to blur by—what it’s like to arrive on the doorstep of Christmas as another exhausted casualty of our consumeristic age.
Reacting. Organizing. Shopping. Planning. Wrapping. Budgeting. Stressing. Eating. Stress-eating.
So I am writing to those who, like me, need to slow down and embrace the oft-missed words of the famous carol, “Let every heart prepare him room.”
SEASON OF REMEMBERING
As we remember God’s promises fulfilled at Christmas, we are reminded of just how intensely the incarnation of Christ shook the world. The meaning of Christmas goes miles deeper than family traditions, pretty lights, and a chance to refresh your depleted stockpile of socks.
For families, observing Advent together could be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the first time.
Christmas means revolution. Christmas means miracle. Christmas means that God has come for us.
The King of heaven exchanged his throne for a cradle.
The Almighty swaddled himself with vulnerability.
The Creator entered into his own creation.
The Author put himself on the page.
The Infinite became an infant.
The Giver became the gift.
Jesus arrived as Immanuel—God with us. As Augustine said long ago, “He was created of a mother whom he created. He was carried by hands that he had formed.” Pondering how God has drawn near will deepen an appetite to pursue him.
SEASON OF ANTICIPATING
There’s something in observing Advent that awakens not only joyful remembrance over Christ’s first coming, but also deep eagerness for his second coming (Rev. 22:20). In many ways, the church in this age is in similar position to God’s people toward the end of the Old Testament—marginalized in exile, hoping in darkness, waiting in stillness for the Day when Christ returns to, in Tolkien’s words, make “every sad thing come untrue.”
We are living between the Hallelujah of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha of Christ’s return.
Like a child on Christmas Eve caught between joyful memories of the Christmas that was, while waiting with breathless anticipation for the Christmas about to be, so it is with God’s people. We are living between the Hallelujah of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha of Christ’s return. And here—in the waiting of Advent—God’s people discover a unique species of joy that can only be glimpsed through the lens of worshipful anticipation. Timothy Paul Jones puts it well:
In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning, recognizing it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for the divine banquet Jesus is preparing for us. . . . Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the coming of the Messiah in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word.
Advent is a way of reminding us that we are pilgrims passing through; that the brokenness of this world isn’t how it’s always going to be; that the true King is indeed coming soon.
LET EVERY HEART PREPARE HIM ROOM
As with most things, knowing where to begin is usually the most difficult part. Below are some resources that will help readers slow down each day and cultivate worshipful anticipation through the Advent season. For families, observing Advent together could be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the first time.
December will be busy. But it doesn’t have to be a blur. Let’s begin preparing room in our hearts this Advent for Immanuel—God with us.
- Individuals: Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul Tripp
- Families: A Jesus Christmas: Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas by Barbara Reaoch.
- Free: Austin Stone Church have put out a brilliant advent devotional the past few years that can be accessed here.
[ Adam Ramsey leads Liberti Church on the Gold Coast and also serves as the network director for Acts 29 Australia/New Zealand. Adam really loves Jesus; making memories with his wife, Kristina, and their five kids; preaching the gospel; and equipping church planters. You can follow him on Twitter. ]
Just a brief reminder that a great way to prepare for the service this coming Sunday is to read the text we will be studying together.
One of the dangers of reading the stories of those followers of Jesus that we find in the Bible is we can treat them as if they are almost super-human.
Preparing For Sunday May 12, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
This last Sunday, I preached the first of two sermons on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Here was the sentence I began unpacking, which is my summary of both letters:
Martin Luther warned that the people of the church are always in danger of their hearts straying from the truth of the good news of the kingdom of God found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.
The Whole Story: Ephesians-Week Two
I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend.
Preparing For Sunday 19 May 2019
What do you think of when you see these two words together?...