How to Avoid Missing Christmas

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Advent (noun) – The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

There have been years in my life where I wake up on December 26th and feel like I missed Christmas; like there was all kinds of build up to it and then suddenly it was gone; like there was a blur of seasonal lights, food, family time, decorations, and music – and before I knew it, it was January. I believe observing the season of advent can help eliminate the possibility of feeling this way on December 26th. Here are 4 simple reasons that I believe observing advent can help make every Christmas an incredibly rich and spiritually meaningful time for believers.

1. Advent helps combat loneliness, depression, materialism, and distractions.

Christmas should be one of the most joyful parts of a Christian’s life, but it isn’t always easy. For some, Christmas is clouded by sadness, darkness, burdens, and distractions. Reflecting on advent helps us combat the clouds of darkness and distractions that our culture and our bad experiences have created. Advent combats loneliness by reminding us that God became flesh so that he could be with us and us with him (John 1:14). Advent combats depression by reminding us that God humbled himself by coming to die for us because we have such immense value, and because of that, we can have hope (Ephesians 2:4-7). Advent combats consumerism and materialism by drawing us back to focus on what really matters, Christ and his love for his people (Hebrews 13:5). Advent combats busyness by calling us to rest and reflect on Christ’s coming and what it means for our lives. It calls us to pause, to slow down, and to remember what he has done and look forward to what he will do. There is no replacement for sitting at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42).

2. Advent deepens the significance of Christmas Day.

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of King Jesus helps give us a greater appreciation and love for Him when he actually arrives. Eager anticipation deepens the significance of what has been anticipated. In other words, longing for and waiting for something, and reflecting on the significance of that notable person, thing, or event, will make its arrival or manifestation infinitely more meaningful. As Christians, if we don’t spend an appropriate amount of time and energy waiting with excitement for the coming of Christ and reflecting on its significance for our lives, then Christmas will be just another day. If we are to truly grasp the significance of Jesus’ arrival among us, there must be a period of eager anticipation.

3. Advent reminds us that our entire lives are about waiting for Jesus to come.

 This eager anticipation is something that the prophets and the Old Testament faithful understood all too well. For hundreds of years, Israel longed for the coming of the Messiah, their deliverer. Just like the prophets longed for Christ’s first arrival, we the church now long for his second arrival. The church now is like Israel was – in exile, under oppression, longing for the return of our King, who will bring deliverance. Christmas is about reflecting on the past coming of Christ and anticipating the future coming of Christ. It reminds us that our entire lives are spent reflecting on the first coming of Jesus and preparing for the second. Our King will come again and our entire lives should be spent eagerly waiting for the day when we step into eternity with him.

4. Advent brings us back to the gospel.

Advent reminds us that there was only one way and there is only one way. It involved sacrifice, pain, suffering, and eventually death. Christmas, like all else in the Christian life, is a powerful reminder that there is only one way to salvation, hope, and eternal life – Jesus Christ, the Messiah – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Most people spend their whole lives looking for meaning and purpose in places that never provide those things. And most people, including many Christians, spend the whole Christmas season worshipping Christmas. But Christmas and advent are a means to an end. They are both completely and entirely about Christ and what he has done for his people. Advent reminds us of the truth of the gospel and helps us worship God more fully as we reflect on what the gospel means for us.

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If you have never observed advent before, I would encourage you to do so. Spend every day and every week leading up to Christmas reflecting on Jesus’ birth and what it means for believers. Don’t allow darkness or distractions to dominate your heart this Christmas. Choose the good portion, like Mary did in Luke 10, and put all the serving, distractions, and worry aside and simply sit at the feet of Jesus this Christmas season. Reflect, praise, pray, and worship the King who came to be our God so that we could be his people.

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Well, Here We Are

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Though the majority of the nation is still surprised and in shock, half the nation is angry and hurting, and way more than half the nation is still overwhelmingly discontent with the outcome of last night’s election, here we are. The election process is over. Half of the country helped elect what they consider to be “the lesser of two evils” and the other half is stunned that the victorious candidate is considered by anyone to be “the lesser of two evils”.

As I have spent time reflecting on this election – this crazy, unbelievable, disappointing, and astonishing election – I have found myself ending up at the same place over and over again.

Though (I hope) few, if any, Christians would actually say this, most seem to view their political party of choice as the primary agent of cultural change and hope for our nation. Then again, I know many who would actually say that. But the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of God because it prioritizes things like diversity, equality, harmony, and caring for the poor, or, likewise, the idea that the Republican Party is the party of God because it prioritizes things like religious freedom, pro-life movements, and a conservative supreme court – needs to go. Neither party is capable of transforming our nation into a holy and godly nation.

Now, let me be clear – part of the beauty of our democracy is that we all have the freedom to care about certain issues and vote our conscience. That freedom is a gift from God for which every American should be grateful. But, Christians cannot continue to allow the church to become as polarized as our nation. Yes, our nation is more polarized than it has been in a long time because of this election and the events surrounding it. But in the face of such polarization, the church ought respond with unification, recommitment to the Kingdom of God and the gospel message, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our identity as the Church defines us infinitely more deeply and profoundly than our identity as Republicans or Democrats. To see so much passion and so much anger surrounding this election only reminds us that so many have slipped into the idolatrous idea that our government is our savior and king.

Neither candidate was messiah and neither party is God’s chosen agent of change in this world – His Church is that agent of change. Neither party will deliver us from evil – only God will. Neither party can save us from a downward spiral, only God can. Neither party can offer true hope, only God can. There is no easier day and no easier year to see these truths than on this day of this year.

American is not God’s chosen nation. The Democratic Party is not God’s chosen party. The Republican Party is not God’s chosen party. And most importantly, neither party is His great love. The Church alone is God’s chosen people, whom he has drawn to himself and called to be the greatest agent of change the world has ever seen. The church alone is God’s embassy of hope, left here to represent his kingdom in this foreign land.

As we begin a new four year “reign” under a new political regime, may we constantly remind ourselves that Jesus alone is King and that his gospel message is the only message that matters.