I Was Just Thinking About - - -
The weeks leading up to a day that is set aside to celebrate the Nativity - birth of Jesus Christ is referred to in Church circles as being the Advent Season. The idea and meaning of Advent is simply “The coming or arrival.” The message of Advent is a broad one. It defines the meaning of John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Because of the reality of the First Advent, there is the anticipation of the Second Advent when Jesus Christ takes His own into His heaven where all will experience another reality described in Philippians 2:9-11, “God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In between these two Advents, themes are developed that describe what these realities regarding Jesus Christ grant to His people.
In some Churches, there is a regular use of the Lectionary suggesting various themes for the Liturgical year. Some time ago, Our Daily Bread made note of the following: “My November reading in the book of 1 Peter touched on all four themes of Advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, which God sent with Christ.” The devotional writer went on to note what these themes are in I Peter. “HOPE. We have an inheritance reserved in heaven, a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-5). PEACE. We will love life and see good days if we turn from evil and do good and if we seek peace, for the Lord watches over the righteous and hears their prayers (3:10-12). JOY. We have inexpressible joy even though we have trials because our faith is being tested and proven genuine. The end of this faith is the salvation of our souls (1:6-9). LOVE. We can love one another with a pure heart because we have been born again through the Word of God which lives and abides forever (1:22-23). Because Christ came the first time, we can live with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love till He comes again.”
Why are these themes important to be emphasized? A prudent Pastor will be sensitive to the necessity and place for these themes for the people of God. For the discouraged and disappointed person, they need to hear about and be reminded of the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that issue (“the act of sending out or putting forth”) from the birth of Jesus Christ. While the traditions of Christmas such as gift exchanges, family gatherings, special Church events (Cantatas, Candlelight Services, Caroling, etc.), have a rightful place and expectation, there are those who will have a sense of emptiness and aloneness. This comes about because of an empty-nest syndrome; the death of a loved one; a family member or members living in rebellion and sin; a child addicted to drugs and/or alcohol; those who rebel against the Church and its vain rituals and forms.
A wise Pastor and Church family can embrace the disappointed and discouraged tenderly and with the word of encouragement that emphasizes one can have Hope in the midst of despair; Peace in the times of trouble and difficult challenges; Joy through one’s relationship to Christ; and Love demonstrated by a God who loved the unlovely and freely gave His Son so that He would become the once-for-all sacrifice that would redeem and usher one into His family. CAUTION – does a disappointed or discouraged person need to hear a homily about attitude and these Biblical truths? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Sometimes, many times, just being there demonstrates that a person is cared for and can have Hope, Peace, Joy and the Love of God as a daily and ongoing reality. I remember a family from years ago where the husband and father was buried on Christmas Eve. Sadly, people who knew their plight were too preoccupied with their own plans that no one took time to care about three young children and a young widow. These themes of Advent lived out by someone who cared would’ve been vital to arresting the disappointment and discouragement that was experienced then and can be latent now. Consider these things with me!