FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Third Sunday of Advent

Confession. I’m not good at waiting.

I’m working on it. Have been. For at least…well, let’s just say, a lot of years!

This is one (just one) reason I am always both amazed and encouraged when I read of the promises of a Messiah to the people of Israel.

First, the promise. Through his trickery and scheming, Satan had brought a curse upon Adam, Eve and their offspring. Adam and Eve’s sin separated them and their offspring from God. More than a millennium before the birth of Jesus, God, knowing man’s proclivity to sin, promised One would come, seed of the woman, and He would bring Satan’s destruction and man’s deliverance (Genesis 3).

Then, the anticipation. Surely it began with Adam and Eve when the Scriptures tell us that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (Genesis 4:1a). Was this the seed? Was this the Savior?  Through the years the Jews anticipated the promised Messiah – a savior who would restore the former glory of Kingdom of Israel. From the Mosaic Covenant (The Old Testament), we know that God kept His promises, thus the Jews rightly and wisely expected and anticipated the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy. Surely with each struggle, each war, each captivity, the Jews anticipated their coming Savior. Their rabbis, scribes and Jewish priests had taught them that the Messiah would not just come but would overcome their enemies. Surely many women wondered if their seed would be the Savior.

Finally, the wait. Daniel, the prophet of the Biblical book of Daniel, prophesied the year of the Messiah’s arrival saying that the Messiah would come 483 years after the orders would be given to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Keep in mind that by the time we get to Daniel’s day, hundreds of years have already passed since God’s promise to Adam and Eve.  Still, they waited.

They waited, yes!  But they waited in anticipation, expecting, attentive and in hope. They did not wait passively with crossed fingers; they did not just endure their hardships. They had set their sights on a promise from their faithful God. Theirs was a posture of waiting.

Ours, too, is to be a posture of waiting.

In one of his sermons, John Henry Newman wrote, “We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what?  For the great event – Christ’s coming!”

So what exactly is our posture of waiting? It is those actions Newman noted between the “watching.” We are to believe, to love, to obey.

Advent is a yearly reminder, a yearly opportunity and a yearly invitation to check our posture.


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Second Sunday of Advent

Gallup, a world-renowned social research lab and polling institute, conducted telephone interviews early November 2015 to gauge spending “intentions” for Christmas. Participants were aged 18 and older, and were sourced from each of the 50 states within the US and the District of Columbia.

The results of the study indicate that Americans planned to spend $830 on average in 2015 for various Christmas-related purposes. Those numbers reflected a considerable increase, about 15% more, from the 2014 spending average. That statistic was the highest since 2007, when the average Christmas spending of Americans was found to be $866. Since then, the said spending had constantly declined over subsequent years. Similar research predicts that spending will be even more this year.

Gallup found in 2015 that 30% all US adults planned to spend $1,000 or more on gifts. One in five Americans planned to spend between $500 and $999, whereas 14% planned to spend between $250 and $499 just for Christmas gifts. Of all those interviewed, 8% of adults claimed not to celebrate Christmas or otherwise did not plan to spend anything on gifts. Another 7% were unsure as to how much they might spend; in other words, they were operating without a plan and might spend more or less. Excluding the numbers of people who planned to not spend anything on Christmas in 2015, the average spending of American adults on Christmas would register an all-time high of around $908.

The United States Census Bureau echoes Gallup’s findings reporting that over the past few years:

  • Americans spent 30.5 billion dollars at retail stores during the Christmas season.
  • Americans spent 40+ billion dollars for Christmas gifts over the Internet.
  • Nearly 500 million dollars were spent on Christmas trees.
  • The United States imported approximately 594 million dollars worth of Christmas tree ornaments (from China alone).
  • A total of 3.4 billion dollars were spent on dolls, toys, and games that were shipped from manufacturers to retailers.
  • Twenty billion pieces of mail passed through the US Postal Service between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Again, similar research predicts that spending will be even more this year.

So?

So, one of the persistent and most effective maneuvers of the world system is to create a false sense of Christmas. There’s a false sense of excitement, a false idea of what is real, a false belief of what is important and a very false sense of purpose. How does this happen? We easily get caught up in the trappings of secular Christmas celebrations – the lights, the food, the shopping, the gifts. And what is wrong with lights, food, shopping and gifts? Nothing…if we keep them in proper perspective and understand that these are not the purpose of Christmas.

What is the purpose of Christmas? It is as simple as Hebrews 12:3a (NKJV) – “Consider Him.”

As you count down the days to Christmas, consider Him, the One who came that you and I might be forgiven our sins and enjoy eternal life (Luke 19:10, Galatians 4:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:21).


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First Sunday of Advent

According to Bible Gateway, there are 5467 divine promises in the Scriptures. Other sources say there are fewer, and one says there are more than 7000. Regardless the number, be assured, we are a people of promise.

For centuries, God promised and prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only true hope for eternal life. Christmas is the time that we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that He would send a Savior.

Today marks the beginning of Advent – the season leading up to Christmas. Advent begins four Sundays before December 25. This year Advent spans November 27 through December 24. This is a wonderful time to look back, look inward and look ahead.

What are we looking back to? 1 Peter 1:10-12 helps us understand:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

We look back to remember the thousands of years that God’s people, our ancestors, were anticipating the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, God’s Salvation. Though many foretold the coming, none knew the day nor the hour nor the person nor the true magnitude of the grace to come.

Why are we looking inward?

In addition to being the start of the new church year, Advent is a reminder to prepare our hearts and minds for Jesus’ coming -not His first, but His return. We look inward introspectively, deep into our own hearts and minds, to prepare ourselves to stand before Him. We search for that which separates us from Him and seek His forgiveness and His help that our hearts and minds might be filled with Him and our hands might be about His business.

To what do we look ahead?

We look to His coming again! In the New Testament anticipation of Christ’s return is a constant theme. As followers of Christ we, too, should look forward to His return. We should long for His return – our blessed hope (Titus 2:13), long to see our Savior from heaven – the place of our citizenship (Philippians 3:20) and long to receive our crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award… to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

I once read that “real” Christians “really” look for His return because He is real, and He really is returning.  Are you looking?