Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thughts of Advent: Week 1

The word ‘Advent’ means approach, or coming. As Christians celebrate Advent, they remember the three comings of our Lord: 1) His introduction to the world as the infant King, 2) His coming into our hearts and lives by the presence of His Holy Spirit, and 3) His final coming (which they await with anticipation)! Christians probably began to celebrate Advent in the late 4th century as a way to go before God in quiet and prepare for His coming. This year, Advent began yesterday (November 29) and will culminate in celebration on Christmas Eve.

This is the first week of Advent. As I considered this week’s Heart to Heart, the Lord stirred my heart to return to the message of Advent. An Advent journey provides a time to examine the darkness of this world and our expectance of the light that is Jesus. My reflections provided time to think about my life and all those moments spent waiting on the Lord, trusting in Him. Advent presents an opportunity to wait on the Lord and to consider the light that comes into our lives through His coming – then, now and yet to come during the wedding feast with the Lamb.

The truth is that in my entire life, the most meaningful times have been those times when I was not assured of my outcomes ~ painful times when I was forced to trust God with my life. I’ve not once come to the place of acceptance without some kind of struggle. But it has always been in the process of struggle where the Lord ministered to me most mightily, taught me most patiently, and built my faith most assuredly because of His faithfulness and mercy over me.

I know what my promises are as a child of God, but I also know that our Father God, our Savior Jesus, and our comforter and friend, Holy Spirit, are not all-powerful Santa figures with no purpose other than to grant our every wish. We have become fat, indulgent Christians. We have lost sight of the truth of the Gospels and the awesome responsibility and accountability that comes with wearing the tag ‘Child of God’. Our vision has become narrow and blurred and we cannot see clearly the suffering of this world. We do not hear clearly the direction of our Lord. We are generally lost within the small areas where we are planted. We (I) fail regularly to recognize the opportunities that the Spirit of the Living God sets before me.

As the season of giving is upon us, consider what the Lord had to say in Mark 10:18-22. "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Likewise, as I examine where the treasure of my heart is, I remember these words in Matthew 6:20-22: Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.

Lord, help us to be faithful to take the time to consider and to reflect on the truth that is Christmas. Lord, allow us to be faithful to an Advent journey that requires us to take an honest look at the darkness in the world and in our own hearts. Let our hope be in the light of Christ’s coming and in God’s plan for mankind and the joy that comes in knowing our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Let us not get lost in the trappings of retail marketing but rather let our gifts be the gifts of a humble heart, the gifts of kindness and time. Let us consider the poor and ask, “Lord, where would you have us plant the seed that you have so graciously supplied?” It is good to give good gifts to our children, but please don’t let us fail in sharing the knowledge with them that the gifts that truly matter cannot be bought or sold.

Help us walk a little more softly, speak a little more quietly, and love a little bit more openly. Thank you, Lord, that you continue your work in us. Each day with you brings us just a little closer to your character . . . knowing that sometimes the process requires that we become painfully aware of our shortcomings and the hypocrisy between our actions and the things we say. Let us forgive those who fail us as you forgive us when we fail you.

We love you, Jesus. For all of us . . . help us take time to consider this Advent season and let us taste of intimacy with you. Walk in our midst. Perform your work of grace, and prepare us to be ready for the celebration of your coming!