Category Archives: Advent

The Polarities of Advent: In the World Not of It

advent 2015 theme

Some have asked me what would be the polarities of Advent. It is difficult to describe verbally, but I have long experienced ambivalence during the Advent season. During my mid-twenties I began to view the birth of Jesus in a completely different manner than I had been previously taught.

I no longer saw the Nativity story as something beautiful with a young virgin, her older husband, and quiet little baby Jesus in a nicely decorated barn. I could no longer read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth with visions of a bright night sky filled with singing angels, three wise men travelling by caravan with symbolic gifts, and the new family all settled in with their divine baby.

Reality set in and I learned that Jesus’ birth was serious, it meant life and death for those who encountered the Christ, followed him, and preached his resurrection. This story of the arrival of Christ and the salvation he would bring to us was not something that could ever be authentically told in a sweet, sanitized holiday rendition without horror, death, rejoicing, waiting, hope, and faith.

Our festive and fast paced Christmas holiday season is not in congruence with the meaning behind Jesus’ arrival, his life, his purpose, and our faith. I love the festivities of the Christmas season; our dark cold city is filled with bright holiday lights, concerts, visits with those we haven’t seen in a while, gifts, and great food. I wouldn’t call for an end to these celebrations, but I don’t want to be fooled into thinking they have anything to do with Advent, Christmas, and the purpose of the first arrival of Jesus into the world.

Advent reminds us of our separation from Christ. We are awaiting his second coming; a date and time neither he nor any of us will know of in advance. As Jesus said, only God knows when this will happen (Matthew 24:36). Jesus has physically left us, God has sent a renewal of the Holy Spirit in his place, and our only tangible connection to Christ are the recorded teachings from his short life written in our bibles. What God calls us to do as followers of Christ is not easy, but He has given us His Holy Spirit to help teach and guide us. Jesus was a living example to us of the hardship and rewards involved in obeying God. During this Advent series we will look at both the hardships and rewards of our faith as it relates to Advent and the birth narrative of the Messiah.

This Advent I want to share with you the polarities of the season and our faith. There will be writings on sadness and hope; joy and mourning; fear and strength; and other themes found in the story of Christ’s life, message, and our commitment to following him.

Format:

Each Sunday will be a full length blog post (500-600 words). From Monday – Saturday I will post short reflections (1-2 paragraphs) in the section of this blog marked ‘Advent and Christmas 2015’. For the short reflections you can check the blog each day or visit the God, Faith, and Fitness page on Facebook for the daily meditation.

Advent Week 1/Hope: November 29 

Advent Week 2/Peace: December 6

Advent Week 3/Joy: December 13

Advent Week 4/Love: December 20

Are You Really Keeping Christ in Christmas?

Emmanuel

Christ in Consumer Christmas

Every year we see the Facebook posts, news articles, and hear sermons about the need to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’; this has always bothered me. I’ve never been concerned about keeping Christ in Christmas because I personally don’t believe Christ cares to have his name associated with a consumer driven holiday.

I truly believe that Christ doesn’t want people exchanging gifts in his name that were made under unsafe conditions in sweat shops across Asia. Do you honestly believe God wants people fighting each other on Black Friday so they can get the best deals on the gifts they’ll be giving for Christmas? Would Jesus be excited to see underpaid and overworked cashiers and sales associates putting up with miserable shoppers for a month, all in the name of celebrating his birthday?

I often wonder why Christians go through so much effort to keep Christ’s name in something that he never celebrated; a time of remembrance that he never asked us to keep. Before departing, Jesus gave a set of instructions to his followers and not a single one of them mentioned celebrating his birth. Instead, what Jesus wanted us to do was live out the loving commandments of God. Jesus asked us to remember all that he did during his short time on earth so that we could go forward and do the same. Nowhere in scripture does Jesus engage in anything that remotely resembles our North American Christmas holiday.

holiday stress

If you would like to keep Christ in Christmas, here are a few ideas:

Be nice to the underpaid and unappreciated cashiers and sales staff. These workers are not here to be yelled at, complained about, or mistreated in any way. Remembering the fruits of the Spirit during the holiday shopping season is important, this is how we live in the Spirit of Christ.

Spend only what you can afford. If you don’t have the money to pay for items before the interest rate is added to your credit card bill, then you can’t afford the gift. Put it back. Don’t purchase it. Consumer debt is not how Christ wants us to live. If we can’t afford something, then why are we purchasing it? Wanting unnecessary material goods, buying them, ad then being in credit card debt for these items we can’t afford is called gluttony and pride.  Money mismanagement is not keeping with God’s commandments and the values Jesus taught us.

Practice advent. It never ceases to surprise me how many Christians don’t celebrate advent. As a religious culture we are beyond excited to spend much energy on a one day celebration, but somehow we can’t find the time to spend several weeks focusing on why Christ came into this world and what it all means for us as followers today. Taking time each day during Advent to focus on the great gift of Jesus means never having to remind yourself to keep Christ in Christmas, because Advent is all about Jesus and our relationship with him.

Remember those who are having a Blue Christmas. The holidays can be emotionally painful for those who have experienced loss during the year, people who are having painful memories, and those who have no family to celebrate with. You don’t have to be extravagant in reaching out to them, it can be as simple as giving them a box of chocolates, an encouraging Christmas card or something that you notice they might be in need of. Knowing that you are remembered, loved, and cherished during the holidays means so much to those having a Blue Christmas.

Remember those around the world who live in areas where they cannot openly celebrate the birth of Jesus. For Christians whose lives are in danger due to their religious beliefs, they don’t have the option of trying to figure out how to keep Christ in consumer Christmas; their lives are in immediate danger. Take time to remember those who do not know the love of Christ or why God is so amazing. Review the story of Jesus’ birth and the danger that his family was in. Thousands of years later there are still leaders and rulers who fear the love and peace that Christ came to live and proclaim.

Hopefully all of this doesn’t come across as me putting the bitter in Christmas because the truth is, I love the Christmas season for reasons that aren’t really Christ focused. The holidays make me happy because I love the festivities, the beautiful lights that brighten my dark and cold city, and all the other fun stuff that make great memories. My only concern is for Christians who find it necessary to “Keep Christ in Christmas”. There is no battle. If you are a believer, Christ will be part of Christmas and you won’t get lost in the secular. Christ is meant to be in your life and in your home year round. If you make Christ a regular part of your life, you won’t have to fight to keep him there every December.

Christmas year round

Advent: C is for Christ, not Chocolate!

Sugar Free Advent Calendar

Advent 2014 is fast approaching. This year the season is from November 30, 2014 – December 24, 2014. Traditionally Advent is a season where we focus on the second coming of Christ. His first arrival was his birth, the second arrival is when he returns to earth again. We don’t know when he will return and when asked by his disciples, he told them he did not know either, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36, NIV.

Jesus left his disciples with a variety of teachings on how to live in his absence. He did his best to warn and inform the disciples of what to expect as believers and followers of his teachings. Jesus knew that faith in him and our heavenly Father would not lead to an easy life (Luke 14: 28-30). The written word tells us that we are to watch as we do not know when he will return (Matthew 24:42). The when and the how of Jesus’ return is not the main focus of our faith; what is important is how we wait. Being a believer and a follower of Christ means our waiting is active instead of passive. There is no star gazing and dreaming, it’s all about action; believing, praying, and doing, just as it was when Jesus was on earth.

What I noticed was missing from bible topics relating to Christ’s return is the word chocolate.

Maybe I’m reading a bad bible translation, just kidding! All I know is that eating chocolate everyday as a way to celebrate advent, might sound fun, but it is disrespectful to the seriousness of both the first and second advent. I’m not against chocolate, heaven knows it is one of my favourite indulgences, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for celebrating advent. If you want to enjoy chocolate every single day while counting the days until Christmas, why not call it a Christmas countdown or a name that more accurately reflects why you’re eating chocolate every single day.

Whisky Advent Calendar
Need some liquid courage while waiting for Jesus’ return?

I encourage families to find different, more respectful ways to celebrate advent. There are many ideas and suggestions on the internet, and in books to help stir up some creativity; but whatever you choose to do, I hope that it is honouring to Christ and our Father in heaven. I don’t want to take the fun out of the holiday season, but Advent was never meant to be a time of indulgence and merry making, which is what Christmas Day and the subsequent 12 days of Christmas is for.

This year I will be able to light my advent candles on a daily basis where I will focus on a short verse and devotional reading about the work and teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament words of God’s promises to us. I treasure this time as a way of ending the calendar year and beginning the liturgical year focused on the divine. In the years past it has helped me to have a more peaceful holiday season rather than one filled with busyness and the pressures caused by retail consumerism.  I keep advent simple, adding extra tasks and large amounts of readings doesn’t draw me closer to God, it only leaves me feeling overwhelmed and time challenged.

Advent we are waiting
Source: showmejesus.com

 

QUESTION: How do you normally participate in the Advent season? Is it focused on God’s word and the second coming of Christ? Do you prefer to keep it fun and secular based instead of religious? Do you combine both?

ACTION: If you choose to keep the Advent season religious, prayerfully ask God what you and your family can be doing this season to remain focused on the true meaning of Advent.

 

 

4th Day of Christmas

 

4th day christmas

It’s already the 4th day of Christmas and only 4 more days until a new year and a new month arrives. Traditionally, during the 12 days of Christmas people did not work, it was a festive time for visiting with friends , family, and those in the community. Due to limited modes of transportation, most people stayed within their regional areas and engaged in community activities.  In our modern times, it is rare to have 12 days in a row to celebrate a holiday and hang out with friends, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make time to communicate with friends, even if it can’t be face-to-face.

4 christmas  Colly Birds’ eggs and Colly Birds colly bird egg nest

Application:

If you’ve had a busy holiday season and haven’t had much time to spend with friends, there are other ways to keep in touch and let people know you haven’t forgotten about them. People find texting and emailing to be impersonal, but to that person who is without family during Christmas, those who feel lonely, and friends who don’t have the opportunity to socialize very much; those words of greetings and well wishes mean a lot. If personal Facebook messages, texting and email aren’t your thing, there is always the old fashioned and pleasantly surprising card or letter. Choose whichever methods you are most comfortable with.

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”