Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Advent Season

"The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross." ~ J. I. Packer, Knowing God

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of the Advent season. The season begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. The Advent tradition has its roots deep in Christian history that can be traced as far back as the 6th century AD with certainty (possibly as far back as the 4th with some question). It is marked with anticipation and preparation for our celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is anticipation and preparation for the celebration of the coming of "hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory," which came with Christ.

Let's be honest, most believers get caught up in the consumerism of Christmas, like the rest of the culture. My wife calls me a Christmas scrooge because I get frustrated by our culture's views on Christmas, mostly because I find them affecting me just as much as others and I do not like that. Celebrating Advent does not have some special spiritual power and the Advent Sundays are no more holy than any other Lord's Day in the rest of the year, but it does give me a daily pause and reminder of what this time of year means to the Christian faith and why we celebrate it. In a sense, it helps me reset myself from anticipating presents, stockings, time with family, or Christmas traditions, and it focuses me back on celebrating the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Celebrating Advent gets my mind back on the fact that our Lord has come, that He has accomplished complete redemption for His people, and that He is coming again one day to usher in the new heavens and new earth.

Now, I must make one caveat. While I love celebrating Advent both privately and publicly, I am not a fan of Advent Wreathes being used in public worship. I like restructuring our Scripture readings and singing to build the anticipation of celebration towards Christmas day, but I do not think we should use Advent Wreathes. It is not because I am against candles or Christmas decorations. It is because in public worship we are only allowed to worship God in ways He has commanded us to worship Him. An Advent Wreathe is a symbol used in worship but it is a man-made symbol. Jesus has already given us two symbols to use in worship: baptism and the Lord's Supper. We are not at liberty to add another. (For more information on this, see my post on worship, particularly points six and seven.)

In the past, on Advent Sundays I have posted Advent readings with some quotes and comments, but this year I am going to post a reading every day. Most of the posts will be short, but hopefully it will help your daily devotional time and reset your focus back on the celebration of Jesus' incarnation, like it does for me.

By His Grace,

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