Friday, November 30, 2012

A Refreshing Advent Reflection

Ben Roberts:
I grew up in evangelical megachurch smack dab on the golden buckle of the Bible Belt. As a kid, I was a little foggy on the meaning of Advent. Like, I knew it meant my friends at evangelical mega-private school would start rehearsing their caroling chops for the Singing Christmas Tree, a perplexing spectacle oddly similar to watching the Star Wars Holiday Special only with extra manger.

Then my parents got divorced, and Christmas became a fairly miserable balancing act, which involved dressing up like Norman Rockwell and driving to one house or the other listening to Twisted Sister’s A Twisted Christmas at maximum volume, dead to all the presents and noise and decorations. When I was old enough, I moved out to the mountains, and Christmas just kinda dropped off the radar. It was a good day for snowboarding. The lifts were empty until after lunch.

I’ve gone full circle on a lot of things in my life, but it’s only been by the grace of God that Christmas has been redeemed from out of the morass of consumerism, politics, and nihilism into which it has fallen. Why is Advent important? What changed Christmas for me? I’ll be the first to say my change was a gradual process that began with authentic gospel-centered fellowship, scriptural preaching, and a whole lot of prayer. Which isn’t to say I’m some kinda Grinch. Well, maybe a little. But in more recent years, as I’ve discipled folks in the gospel during the holidays, I’ve come to see a different side of Christmas, one that they don’t make into Hallmark movies, and at the heart of it all is the importance of Advent.
He continues:
So, here’s the thing, forget everything you thought you knew about Advent candles and the local live nativity play and reading Luke 2 at your kids… Wait. Rewind. Don’t forget that stuff, it’s actually important, too. But it’s equally important that we engage with what scripture is saying about the meaning of Christ’s expectation and appearance to us. If we simply focus on the history of Christmas, we are inviting the same host of problems that attended the Pharisees—myopically pouring over dusty scrolls, refusing to see the living God right there in front of them.

Said another way, during Advent we are not simply remembering some fateful event in the past, we’re celebrating a Messiah who was and is and is to come. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is a special significance in this mystery as we approach the celebration of God’s incarnation. Advent is the time to shout hallelujah for his coming return, to pray to hasten the day that we might see our Redeemer with our own eyes, to fast for revival in our cities, churches, and families.

So, I ask you: how does Advent change if you are the one who’s going to see the Son of God? Can you imagine the wonder such a sight will inspire?—the Christ born of the Spirit, one with God, the hope of the nations? Emmanuel. God is with us. Who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

On that coming day my eyes will see something sweeter than honey, more precious than gold! Until then, I keep my eyes fixed on that goal—it’s a struggle, sure—but all the mall Santa pomp and circumstance goes mute before it.
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