Sunday, November 27, 2016

 

Advent 2016: The Hope of Christmas

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, the time when Christians the world over begin the celebration of the Incarnation, when God became human and made his dwelling among us in the form of Jesus, the Messiah. The first Sunday of Advent is typically dedicated to the idea of "hope", and the focus is on the expectation of the completion of the rescue of humanity from sin and death. Jesus' sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection are the means by which this rescue is effected for us, but it all began with the expectation and hope of a Redeemer, a Messiah who would come to the aid of God's people.

Some of the passages associated with this first Sunday of Advent include Isaiah 2:1-5 and Romans 13:11-14. Here they are from the HCSB translation:
Isaiah 2:1-5 "The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD's house will be established at the top of the mountains and will be raised above the hills. All nations will stream to it, and many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us about His ways so that we may walk in His paths.' For instruction will go out of Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will settle disputes among the nations and provide arbitration for many peoples. They will turn their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will never again train for war. House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the LORD's light." 
 Romans 13:11-14 "Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires."
Both of these passages remind us that God's invasion into his creation in the form of his Incarnation not only began the rescue so desperately needed and expected, it also provided the means by which humanity could live in the manner God intended them. Some might call that the "magic" of Christmas or "the Christmas Spirit". The idea is that this season of remembrance of that Child who was born to die and to rise and to redeem creates a kind of opportunity for humanity to imitate the humble service and sacrifice of Jesus in everyday life. The very atmosphere seems charged with the energy of Christ; an energy that helps humans act in ways that God intended. 

As we embrace the idea of God becoming human, as we recognize the humility of Jesus (who being God chose to humble himself to serve us all to the point of death), we find in these actions a pattern for life. We find that humility and service is our proper end, and we also find that as we serve others we introduce the possibility of "hope" for all humanity. In fact, sometimes the very spirit of Christmas can cause people to act better and with more grace. It reminds me of a poem by Edgar A. Guest. 

In the poem below Guest elaborates on how a person responds to the "Christmas spirit" and how it can cause a change in a person's life.  The poem puts into my mind the image of a reformed Scrooge, fresh off his encounters with the ghost of Christmas, now engaging faithfully to live a less self-focused life.

I know that times have changed, and I realize that people do not always have "Christmas cheer" at this time of year.  Nonetheless, my prayer for all of us is that we become the people God intended us to be, especially now as we celebrate the Advent of our Lord Jesus.  May we live in such a way as to create "hope" in others. May our humble service lead to changed lives and a more hopeful future. May the Hope of Advent cause you to emulate the life of Jesus. I hope this poem blesses you!

Thanks for reading!

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