Hope for Hump Day, December 4

The Hap-Happiest Season of All

Today is the fourth day of December which this year is also the fourth day of Advent. Advent is a season of anticipation just before Christmas Day. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends **spoiler alert** on Christmas. This means that the length of Advent fluctuates. Sometimes it begins in November (even as early as November 27), and sometimes–like this year–it begins in December (even as late as December 3). Unlike Lent (the season before Easter), which is always 40 days (plus six Sundays) long, Advent can be as long as 29 days and as short as 22 days.

There is no biblical mandate for celebrating Advent. It is a tradition that has been developed and introduced by Christians seeking to help one another adore Jesus as Lord (which, by the way, IS mandated by Scripture). Should you celebrate Advent? Well, if you mean should, as in ought, as in is it a rule, then no. But if you mean is it a good thing to do, then yes. In fact, if you are a Christian and you celebrate Christmas in anything close to the American traditional way with gifts and other things I would go so far as to say you really need to celebrate Advent to help you and yours keep perspective on the “holy day” you are celebrating on December 25.

“Advent”ages for celebrating

Advent means “Coming.” The season of Advent, then, is the anticipation, the looking forward to the day we celebrate God’s coming to earth in meekness and humility as a baby, “born to set his people free.” There are many traditional, and non-traditional ways to celebrate Advent: Scripture readings that focus on various aspects of the story of the birth of the Christ child, or on the many prophecies that anticipated the advent of the Savior; singing traditional Christmas carols and talking about both the meaning of the songs and the stories behind how and when they were written; counting down the days with special calendars that hold special gifts and writings for each day as you anticipate Christmas morning. My brother has built a slightly less than traditional Advent Calendar for me and a few others this year.

Some things to keep in mind for Advent that may help you and your family if you decide to celebrate.

First, there was no Advent for the first Christmas. No one was anticipating the coming of the Savior with the possible exception of the magi, though they may have learned of his birth after the fact (Matthew 2 tells us they showed up after the birth, and may indicate that they learned that he was born after the fact also). But God’s people were not anticipating with eagerness the coming of their Savior. It had been too long. The prophets had been too quiet. Worship had become rote. Even the high priest doubted the time had come, even after an angel of God told him directly.

Have you stopped anticipating God’s advent? Has worship become rote. Does it feel as if God no longer shows up; God doesn’t break through anymore? Have you given up hope not only for Christ’s second coming but even for His coming to heal you today? Advent is for you. Anticipate the deliverance from a long season of darkness and silence. Look forward to the quiet breaking through that the Spirit of God still does for his children. Adore the Christ who came into this dark world to deliver you from your darkness and to be with you as you continue to walk in this dark world.

Second, Advent is for Adoring Jesus. It is too easy to let this season devolve into adoration of family or adoration of self or adoration of stuff. Anticipation of Christmas can too easily become anticipation of seeing the delight in our children’s eyes when they see the gifts under the tree, or anticipation of getting all the stuff on our lists, or anticipation of a first sit down family dinner in six months.

There is nothing wrong with family meals or giving gifts or even finding joy and delight in God’s provisions and creation. But these are not ultimate and it is important that we remember and help our children remember that.

This is is the season for anticipating the celebration of the coming that was not anticipated. This is the season for reminding us to anticipate and expect that Christ still comes to set us free. This is the season to remember to anticipate that Christ will come again.

Have a wonderful Advent season.
And do you know what day Christmas is this year? Do you? Anyone? Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike. That’s right.

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Enjoy the journey.

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We wish you a Merry Familymas and a Happy Family

It’s happening this year.  It happened six years ago.  It will happen again in five years; then again in six years; then we will get a break and it won’t happen again for eleven years.

 

The production of fruitcakes to replenish the ongoing re-gifting supply due to loss or actual consumption? No, although maybe.  I don’t know the production schedule for fruitcakes.

 

No, I am referring to Christmas falling on a Sunday.

 

Christians (and churches) across the U.S. (if not around the world, at least in western cultures) are making priority choices and therefore value-statements due to this apparently inconvenient double-booking.  Many churches are altering their worship plans for this coming Christmas – canceling altogether, or sending out DVD’s for some quality, living room worship, or moving services to Friday or Saturday.

 

Christmas – the very word means a worship service for Christ (Christ Mass).  We may have come full circle.  About 1600 years ago the church offered a worship service as a better way to end a week long pagan celebration of the birth of the undying sun (Saturnalia).  What better way to help God’s people avoid the idolatries and hedonistic ways of the Roman culture than to focus them on the birth of the true undying Son?  Today it seems the church is taking the opposite approach.  How can we possibly ask you to stop worshiping your family when we have arranged nearly everything in church to promote that worship?

 

Will you be skipping church on Sunday the 25th this year? Attending on the 24th in order to at least check a box?  Ask yourself why?  Every choice between two options is a value statement.  Every morning I choose to turn off my alarm at 5:30 and roll over and the gym and P90X wait yet another day.  It is a choice.  It is also a statement of what I value more.

 

Perhaps you have wonderful and delightful family traditions on Christmas.  We do.  And I love them all.  What value statement am I making, what principles am I teaching my children when I say, our traditions are simply too important to change once every 6 to 11 years.

 

We can teach our children principles, we cannot decide how they will apply them.  Is it true that some things come up in life that keep us from gathering with God’s people to adore God and worship him for the peace we have with him granted and secured for us by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ?  Possibly.  But can you say with a straight face, “We aren’t going to church today because we are celebrating Christmas?”

 

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:21,24)