Quarrels Solve Nothing

In May of 1889 due to flood waters and neglect of needed repairs to a dam near Johnstown, PA, one of the most tragic events occurred in US history as the dam breached. According to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s website, 2,209 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed and $17 million dollars of damage occurred as a ‘….great wave measured 35-40 feet high, hit Johnstown at 40 miles per hour.’[1] This dam’s breach effected the lives of many and may have been averted by proper maintenance.

In the book of Proverbs, there is a verse that uses the imagery of destruction that a breached dam can cause with a common occurrence in our daily lives’ quarrels with others. Proverbs 17:14 says, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” It speaks to the fact that quarrels do not solve anything, but rather cause more destruction than good, but how so?

Quarrels or better stated verbal fights can inflict serious inflections mainly because the dam of our frustrations and anger overflow into the fight.  Often in the heat of the verbal battle, our anger gets the best of us and we say things that hurt others. In a quarrel it is no longer about solving an issue but rather an all-out assault to win our position over another. We do this not by listening or taking in account the other’s position, but rather having an attitude of I must win over the other at any cost. The result is devasting as each person in the quarrel leaves with hurt feelings, anger, resentment and an unresolved issue. Quarrels can leave us in the wake of broken relationships and broken spiritual life, even more in the church these verbal assaults can cause split churches and people abandoning church altogether.

As Christ followers there is another way we must act when dealing with disagreements in our relationships and in the church. One way is discussing an issue before it gets out of hand. This means coming to the table and allowing for each person to talk out the issue in a safe environment. To do this means to respect the other person and their point of view even if you disagree. Listen to what is being said without loading up your ammunition to fire back a response before they are done talking. Allow timeouts when discussing something that is causing yours, theirs or boths blood to boil. Cool off and come back once again to talk calmly and open mindedly with each other. Even call in a fellow brother or sister in Christ to help mediate peace in the situation.

Second, realize sometimes we are going to disagree and sometimes we won’t get our way.  We can attempt to come to a compromise yet in some situations a compromise is not feasible. In those instances for the greater good of peace we must learn to be okay with losing out on our position (unless losing out goes contrary to what the bible says). If we have stated our position and have been listened to, then that is all we should do. Our greater call is that God’s will be done thus our greater call is to show love over winning out in some dispute.

That brings us to the last thing, love. As Christians we must show love. Paul gives a laundry list of things that love is to a church in a huge dispute among themselves. He uses words like patient, forbearing, kind and does not boast to name a few. Yet at the end he says love never fails. No matter what win or lose we never fail when we share love. So the next time we see a quarrel coming, take a moment and heed Proverb 17:14. It may indeed keep us from feeling the damage a quarrel can cause in our lives.

[1] “Statistics about the Great Disaster.” Facts about the 1889 Flood, 2019, www.jaha.org/attractions/johnstown-flood-museum/flood-history/facts-about-the-1889-flood/.

God is in Control

Psalm 73- 1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” 12 This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Why does it seem that all too often the unjust get away with it or have it easy while those who act justly get the short end of the stick (have it rough)? Well, if you ever thought this, you aren’t the first; in fact there is a Psalm about this. In Psalm 73, the psalmist admits to almost falling in the trap of being envious of those doing wrong because when he compares his circumstances to those doing evil, it looks like they are carefree and his life is not. So, what should we do when we face injustice in the world and in our lives?
First, the Psalmist is too focused on this inequality between him and evil doers until he comes into the sanctuary of God. He remembers that God is in control and that God’s perfect justice will be fulfilled in the end. Justice is God’s in the end, He judges with a perfect wisdom and will not allow anything to go unaccounted for. We must place our trust in God and allow God to avenge for us rather than us take revenge.
Along with that thought of God and justice, we must not forget that God is a God of love and patience. God does not want to see anyone perish and is patient in allowing those who do evil the opportunity to come to Him and His grace. Remember we too at one time did what was not pleasing to the Lord and deserving of punishment, yet the Lord was patient with us and forgave us our sins.
Second, talking about forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive even the hardest, heinous injustice. We all remember that Jesus on the Cross, suffering the most heinous of injustices said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was thinking of His persecutors as He suffered a painful and gruesome death. Our Lord knows what is to forgive those who hurt Him, aren’t we to follow in His footsteps?
One way to help us with forgiveness is a word called empathy. We put ourselves in their shoes. We look at their life, their upbringing, their culture (if applicable) and their fallenness with a desire to understand (not justify) them. It’s through this process that we gain empathy.
Finally, stand up for those who are being oppressed. One of the offenses of the Israelites in the days of the prophets was that they acted unjustly to those that were in the margins of society (the poor, the foreigners, widows, orphans, etc.). God wanted the leaders of Israel and the wealth to care for all, yet they did not follow God’s wishes and often took advantage and oppressed those who lived at the bottom of the social ranks. God still wants His people to stand up and help those in need. He wants to help stop injustices and for us to care for our fellow man.
We must always remember, even when evil in the world around us seems so strong, God is in control. God is redeeming this world and us as well. We must rest in the hope that one day this world will be restored to as it was before the fall. Even more, we must do our part as effective agents of God’s grace to combat the evil so prevalent in the world around us.

Who am I? (God’s view of us)

If you were to ask me who I am I would probably give altering answers according to when in my life that question was asked. In 40 years of my life I have taken on many roles that have shaped who I am today. These roles include or have been a son, student, a mascot, a husband, an Airmen, a veteran, a pastor, a dad, a brother and so on. If you were to take a moment and jot down all the different titles or roles you have held, it could be a long list too. Each one of those names you were to put down helped shape or define a part of who you are today. Still with all that, there is some greater titles and roles given to us when we come to Christ for salvation and receive Him in our lives.
Two Sundays ago, I preached on the question that Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” For this week’s blog I want to share what does God say I am when we come to Him for salvation. This may not be an exhausted list, but at least a little encouraging to see some of the ways God sees us.
First, we are children of God. In 1 John 3:1 it states, “3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” When we receive Christ in our lives we are adopted into the family of God. That of course is why we fellow followers of Christ call each other brothers and sisters. As children of God we can boldly go to the father with our requests. We are also loved by a heavenly Father; this love is a perfect love without strings attached. This also means we are heirs of the promise in Christ; that is to live in eternity with God forever.
Second, we are forgiven by grace. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Even though you may know this in your mind, it may be hard for us to accept sometimes. We live in a world where we must earn our way, whether it’s pay, respect and sadly in some relationships, love. Jesus, however, knew we could do nothing to take ourselves out of the sin that we were in, so He came to this world to pay the price of our salvation. Thank the Lord that we don’t need to earn it because we can’t.
Finally, we are being made new. Once again Paul states in Ephesians 4:22-24 “22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Salvation is more than a decision made with a prayer, it’s a process, it’s forming in us Christ and the removal of the old self. For many this comes gradually and for others dramatically, but for all of us we are being made new in the Spirit.
Having a healthy view of who we are in God is just as important as having a clear view of who Jesus is. When we come to an understanding of who God sees us as, we can begin to stop dwelling in the past us and move on in the new us in Christ. Viewing who we are in God’s eyes helps us to know we are loved, changed and forgiven. Then we can start forgiving ourselves from our past and loving ourselves in a healthy and Godly way.

Listen For God

When I lived in Idaho, I got the chance to go whitewater rafting a couple of times. Often as we would begin, the river was calm. I would think how boring get to the rapids now! Years later, reflecting on my trips, I realize that the calm may have been on purpose. Many of us on the trips were unskilled at whitewater rafting and though there was an extensive lesson on the banks of the river before we began, it wasn’t until we were on the river that we began to fully learn how to paddle, especially together. The biggest lesson though was learning to listen to the raft’s leader as he would call out directions for each of us to paddle in a certain way. During the calm waters, we learned to hear the leader’s voice and to follow his commands. Once we got to the rapids we had learned to listen and follow, thus making us able to navigate the dangerous waters.

In our Christian lives we to need to learn to listen to God, but how does he communicate. First is by His word. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16, 17, “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s word is there to instruct us in the way we should live so that when trials and temptations come our way, we might know how to respond and how to remain strong in the faith we have in Christ. The word also helps us to be prepared to do the work of God, so that we are equipped with the grace, faith, and holiness needed to represent Christ and His kingdom. The word is important for our lives and we should be in it.

The second way God speaks to us is through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who illuminates the scriptures so that we might be able to understand. Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit instructs us.

Along with instruction, the Holy Spirit also guides our lives. John 16:13 says, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” When we listen, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the Truth we have studied and thus guides our paths when trials and temptations come our way.

So, if this is how God speaks and leads what should we do, learn to listen. We must come to the scriptures with a sense of humility; that is come to be taught. We need learn where in our lives we may need to change to be in God’s truth. We also need to learn to listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice and prompting. Remember the Holy Spirit will never say something that is counter God’s word because He would be counter himself. The Holy Spirit will also not force Himself on us, we need to learn to quiet our hearts and minds to allow ourselves to hear what God might be saying.

Lastly, we need to do what God says. A passage that God has really put on my heart lately comes from James 1:22 that says, “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” When we read and listen to the Word of God but don’t put it into action, we fool ourselves. We fool ourselves into thinking we are followers, yet we don’t live out of the grace that was given to us. A grace that not only saves us from sin, but delivers us as well.

Integrity in Christ

The picture of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is a pretty iconic piece and you can even see a print of it on the wall here at the Cross. Did you know however that “Leonardo Da Vinci’s late 15th Century masterpiece is technically unfinished. In the late 1970s the mural underwent extensive restoration and, in most pictures, shows a roof but in Milan, where the painting lies, the roof is incomplete.” 1
In this week’s blog I want to talk about a word that has a dual meaning in English, but also in Hebrew; integrity. Each word can be used in the sense of being righteous or morally upstanding in one’s behavior. The word can also be used as being whole or united. In Proverbs 11:3 it says: “3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” I think the two definitions can help us understand what the scripture is trying to tell us.
The ‘unfaithful’ mentioned here in this passage are those who are living in ‘duplicity’. This duplicity is in fact those who know God’s words yet do not follow them in their lives. Basically, the unfaithful are hypocrites, believing and knowing yet not living out their faith (or lack of). James talks to this in his letter when he wrote, “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)” God wants us to be more than believing, but living that belief out.
“The integrity of the up right guides them…” Here we see that righteousness guides our ways. This happens when we not only read (know) God’s word, but apply it in our lives. As believers, we must allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us as we learn the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, if we listen, will convict us of areas in our lives we need to change. As we yield our lives to the Word and Holy Spirit, God will give us the grace and strength. It is not our righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness being worked in us.
Integrity takes hold in our lives when we become united in Christ. His righteousness becomes ours and we are made complete. Men and women of integrity are those who walk in close relationship with Christ. Unlike Da Vinci’s masterpiece that is unfinished, we when united in Christ through the Word, Holy Spirit and Jesus’ grace, can be beautiful masterpieces on display to those around us and show how God’s grace can truly change us. Here is the thing though we need to be willing to unite with Christ by submitting wholly to Jesus.

1. Wil, English in the Real World. 15 Famous Unfinished Projects- don’t let English be one of them! https://englishlive.ef.com/blog/english-in-the-real-world/15-famous-unfinished-projects-dont-let-english-be-one-of-them)

Storms

I often share the story about my adventure with my friend Dan on the water. Dan invited me to go fishing with him once, which I was happy to accept. I was in the Air Force at the time and stationed in Idaho (there are some beautiful and great spots to fish at in ID). We set out with a small, metal boat attached to his pickup truck and headed to a local reservoir near the air base we were stationed at not knowing the perils we were about to face.
Everything seemed okay as we cast the boat from shore. The sun was shining, the temperature was not too hot and not too cold. We rowed out to the middle of a tributary of the reservoir and cast our lines for a quiet time of fishing. After a little time on the water, we began to see a storm off in the far distance. Dan wasn’t to concerned and thought it would pass to the west of us. So, we continued to fish even though the storm continued to move our way. It wasn’t until the water began to become choppy that we decided to head back in but of course was too late.
As we began to paddle, the choppy water began to hit against the side of the boat, the wind had also picked up and began to push against our attempts to get to shore. To make things worse, it began to rain, not a nice summer shower but a straight downpour. The boat began taking on water and there were a few moments that I thought we might have to swim for it (thank goodness we didn’t I might not have made it). After what seemed a life time of paddling, tired and weary we made the shore line almost a half a mile from where we cast off and Dan’s truck was parked.
When it comes to the story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus in the storm (Matthew 8 and Mark 4) I can relate. I could understand their panic as waves are battering them side to side, to see water filling up the boat and wondering if it was going to sink to the bottom. I would have been shocked to find anyone on the boat asleep let alone Jesus. The disciples, frantic for their life, wake Jesus and wonder if Jesus even cares that they might die. Jesus responds by calming the storm and then stating to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” to which the disciples stand in amazement of Jesus and His power over nature.
I think we can be just like the disciples in our lives. You might not be on a boat in the middle of a literal storm like I was in Idaho, but we face figurative ones through out our lives. These storms include things like financial hardships, broken relationships, deep seeded temptations/sins, waiting for a diagnosis to come back, facing a disease or upcoming surgery and many more which can be added to this list. All of these and more keep us up at night, flood the brain with worry and causes our bodies stress. Just like the disciples we can even be asking Jesus, “do you even care?”
The thing about the disciples in the boat was that they didn’t have to worry, they had the Lord of this world with them. Their boat and lives were not in real danger (though it may have seemed to be) because God Himself was with them. The problem was the disciples didn’t realize it and we don’t either. You see the same Lord that calmed the storm on the boat with the disciples, is the same Lord that can see us through ours. We must have faith though, to face the fear of the storm not by ourselves and our own strength but by knowing Jesus is right there with you. Jesus who defeated death and sin is there with us. Whether we see the storm taken away, pass through the storm or we cross over with Him, as believers we know that life is eternal in Him. So today I ask why are we so afraid, do we still have no faith?

Just For Today

Just for today: I will lift my eyes up to you, O Lord, and seek to tell you of my love for you.

Just for today: I will lay all of my questions down at your feet and leave them there.

Just for today: I will express my praise for you. I will rejoice in who you are.

Just for today: I thank you for all you have blessed me with. My life is so full.

Just for today: I will listen for the still small voice of your Spirit saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Just for today: I will place tomorrow in your hands and refuse to worry about it. Then when tomorrow comes, behold, it is another “today!”

Victory in Christ

I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory, How He gave His life on Calvary To save a wretch like me; I heard about His groaning, Of His precious blood’s atoning, Then I repented of my sins And won the victory. This is the beginning of a great old hymn of the church that I have sung many times growing up, but has taken me many years of spiritual growing up to come to an understanding of the truth in this song. Victory is something we can have in our lives but only through Jesus.
Jesus told his disciples, 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV) Jesus through his incarnation, life, death and resurrection defeated Satan and sin. It was through the Cross that sin’s full effect was laid upon our Lord. He took on man’s full disobedience and the penalty of said defiance, death. 1 Peter 3:18, “18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God….” Jesus fought the battle we could not fight ourselves and secured for us what we were unable to do. With this knowledge then, we can know how to have victory in our lives.
Victory comes from our knowledge and faith in Jesus. I used to watch the GI Joe cartoons growing up and they would always say “knowing is half the battle.” When we read and learn about God, we gain understanding into the nature of who God is. As we dive into the scriptures, we see key attributes that can strengthen our trust in Him. God is all powerful, all present, gracious to us, caring, and all knowing, to name just a few. It is through coming to know Him that we can see God is the source of our victory. Jesus cares for our situation; gracious to pick us up if we fall, powerful to deliver us from our situation and faithful to be with us even in our deepest darkest moment in life (see Psalm 23). Knowledge of a God who cares and even shares in our afflictions (Jesus was tempted, mocked, despised, suffered pain) can help us gain the victory we need. With knowledge then, it becomes whether we have faith.
Paul tells the church in Ephesus to take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6) to protect against the attacks of Satan in our lives. Knowing facts about God takes us only so far; it is living in and out the knowledge we gain from the bible that faith is built. You see salvation is more than just gaining a ticket to heaven, to remove the punishment of our sins. Salvation begins a relationship with us and God through Jesus. Just like any relationship, it is built on a mutual trust, us placing our trust in God and God working through our lives. As we place our trust in the Lord, we begin to see the difference He makes. This may not always be instantaneous or without pain, but as we walk with Jesus, we can see the victories as we grow in Him.
So, you might be asking, “what’s our part.” I think Jesus is the best example to use when it comes to this question. In Revelation 5, John gives us an imagery of Jesus that I think works well in our own lives. John is waiting for someone to be worthy of opening the scroll before God and it seems like no one can be found on, under and over the Earth, that is until an Angel tells him to take courage and look. John is told here comes the Lion of Judah, the majestic symbol of the King of Israel, One who has the power of God. As John looks however, he sees a lamb that is slain. In this symbolic picture of Christ, we can see how Jesus was victorious. The power of God working through the sacrifice of God himself.
For us then, true victory comes when we sacrifice our wills to God and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work Christ’s grace in us. Paul knew this when he told the Corinthian church, “9 But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he wanted God to take from him but the Lord would not remove it because it was through it that God’s power was displayed. It is the same for us, it is not about us fighting some spiritual battle by our own will and determination, but through a will handed over to Christ so that the power of our Lord might strengthen us to His glory and praise.
What is your struggle today, where in your life are you needing victory? Have you prayed, have you searched the scriptures for God’s wisdom in your circumstance and have you fasted? Even more, have you laid it before the feet of Jesus where true victory has been won for us. Victory comes not through fighting, but through submitting to the one who fought for us.

Christmas Gifts of Love

We all can remember getting certain gifts for Christmas we really wanted. One year I wanted a top of the line skateboard. It was the coolest thing, yet I rode it like a dozen times and it got stolen. I remember the excitement of getting my first gaming system, a Nintendo, and then my second Super Nintendo which I played very often until I sold them at garage sales after getting the next latest and greatest system. I remember my train set that my pop pop set up in their basement which I played with often until my grandparents’ house caught on fire and it was destroyed. I even remember getting a bb gun (because of the Christmas Story) and though I didn’t shoot my eye out, after playing with it for a few years, disappeared most likely thrown out after I moved out for the Airforce. So many gifts that gave happiness for a while, but are now just a memory.

As Christmas approaches next week, what kind of gift can we give that won’t end up tossed to the side. What gift can we share that will make this holiday stand out? What gift can we give that will keep on giving all year long? I think looking at what God did for us at Christmas can give us the answer.

John 3:16 one of the most famous verses in the bible says, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God knew we (man/woman) were in a bind, sin had marred His creation (to include us) and now He had to take action in order that we might have eternal life, we might have a relationship with Him again. Jesus came to show us love through grace (the unmerited favor). Christmas is that reminder how God’s love came down to Earth for us and because of this fact God has shown the greatest gift we can give, love.

We give the gift of love when we first understand what true love is. In the world today it seems that love comes with strings attached. It seems that most people are only willing to show/give love when there is a reciprocal love returned. Many people put limits or restrictions on their love: ie if you do this, this and this, then I can love you back. God’s love came with a cost, not to us but to Him. His love is given sacrificially for us, which means we must give love in the same way, a sacrificing love for others. Easier said then done but God wants us to be willing to be stretched in our faith to give love to others freely even if those we show love to do return it or even worse show us contempt.

Now that we have an idea about what type of love God wants us to give, how are we to go about showing/doing this type of love. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV) Paul was writing to a church that was dealing with pride, sexual sin and inner church fighting to highlight a few issues. Paul clearly states how they should treat one another and helps us to see what a true Christ like love is to be like. A love devoid of selfish ambition.

Where do we start when giving the gift of love? Often starting small helps. You can begin by being more patient, kind, gentle and not self-seeking in the relationships we are already in. Show those around you the love given to you in Christ. From there show that same love to people you come in contact with during the day like a cashier at a local store, a customer rep you may be calling with a problem, a co-worker and so on. Finally, as we master that, we move on with those who have hurt/wronged us, who mistreat us, those who call us enemies, and so on. We reach out with an unmerited love and forgive even when forgiveness may not have been asked for. Here we truly need to call on God and rely on His grace to help us to give this love to those that have wronged us.

Love is truly a gift, especially when we love as Jesus loves us. This is a gift that brings joy, brings healing and brings restoration. It’s a costly one, but one that can’t be out given. This Christmas who can you share this much needed gift with. Pray for God to show you who you need to share more love with this year and beyond.

Advent: Anticipating the Christ of Christmas

There were many tough things as a kid that you would have to do like cleaning your room, finishing your plate with that one particular vegetable that your mom and dad would make you eat, going to school just to come home to do homework and the list goes on. Still there was one thing I think was the toughest and that was trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. In my family, we had to wait until Christmas morning to open our gifts and man, what a wait it was. In the excitement, the anticipation caused my eyelids not to function (close). I remember countless Christmas Eve hours staring at the ceiling hoping for one of two things, sleep to come or Christmas morning!

Here in a few weeks another Christmas will be upon us and I ask the question: what you anticipating for Christmas this year? Could it be receiving that one thing you desired under the tree? Could it be the smile on the face of a loved one as they open that gift you spent forever (and maybe a fortune) to get? Maybe it’s hosting that perfect party that everyone raves about throughout the next year. Still, it might be the opportunity just to see loved ones you haven’t seen in a very long time. These can be exciting things and happy moments, yet as Christmas comes and goes, these moments fade and the things we thought would bring joy leave us with momentary happiness. There is, however, a way we can come away with true joy this Christmas that can last long after the gifts are gone, parties are over and our distant loved ones leave to homes far away and that is through a word called Advent.

Advent is a season of time leading up to Christmas where a Christian can focus in on the real reason, we should celebrate Christmas, Jesus.  Advent focuses firstly on Jesus’ coming here, God coming in flesh. Matthew 1:23 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us)” (NIV). It is a time to reflect and celebrate the fact that Jesus came to dwell with us, die for us and now dwells within our hearts.

The second part of Advent is to remember that Jesus will return again. Just as God promised the Messiah (Jesus) would come and He did; Jesus promised He will return again. Revelation22:20 “20 He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” Advent is a time to reflect and celebrate this fact as well; Jesus is coming again.

Right about now you’re thinking isn’t there some wreath and candle thing you need to set up. Well, yes one can use a wreath with four outer candles and an inner one lit, but the candles aren’t necessary. It’s what they symbolize that can help us celebrate Christmas this year. Each candle lit once a week in a sequence symbolizes ways that we can reflect and celebrate Jesus’ coming and His return. The candles represent hope, joy, peace and love. Each of these is something Jesus gave to us as He came to this earth fully man and fully divine.

Jesus gave us hope that we could find freedom from sin. The joy that comes as Christ comes into our lives. The peace Jesus mediated between us and God. Finally, the love Jesus showed by coming to Earth and dying on the cross for us. As we approach Christmas, we can spend time not only on the hope, joy, peace and love from Jesus’ coming, but the hope of Jesus’ return when we will have the fullness of His joy, peace and love.

So, this Christmas once again I ask, what are you anticipating for Christmas this year? Are you willing to take the time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday to reflect and celebrate on the real meaning of the season? To seek and find the hope, joy, peace and love only Jesus can bring in your life. I believe if you do, this might truly be an unforgettable Christmas.