The observance of Advent and Christmas has served it’s purpose. The darkness of night was lit up with the special lights we hung. We heard the annual music of bells being rung outside many stores. Those once-a-year cookies were both the taste and the aroma of the season.
It’s complete, but it’s not over.
Everything around us in that season was designed [by God] to reawaken our physical senses. Once again we’ve been stimulated by the external celebration to see for ourselves whether the fullness of these words from Mark 12:30 can become real in us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The season is complete, but it’s not over.
These words from I Timothy 3:16 are our challenge now to carry on: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”
We’ve moved beyond the external stimulation of this Christmas season and that long-ago story of God’s intervention to restore “our” broken world. Now it’s become personal; can Jesus, the Christ, restore “my” broken world?
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’…
Don’t be fooled into believing any details of the birth of Jesus were God’s last ditch effort to provide a place for him because there was no room in the inn. That stable and food trough became the sacred space, the temple, where the needs of the people and the holiness of God finally came together.
“God did this so that they [we] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” This is the reality of temple building and Advent; it’s not a blueprint of a grand structure that will save us. It’s God’s intervention into our daily lives that fills a sacred space within us where our needs and his holiness can finally come together.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. I Cor 6:19
44b…If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
1 Corinthians 15
Remember this saying? You never get a second chance to make a first impression? Our first impression of life happened when God picked up a handful of dust and “The first man Adam became a living being.” It was a dramatic miracle of life that became a dramatic loss when broken and banished became “natural.” Fast forward to a much later time; a world filled with people who carried that same first impression of loss. “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural.”
God placed The Advent in that cradle long ago as a sign of faith in his creation and to reveal his plan to restore the miracle of that first creation. A baby would show the reality that new life is dependent on time, growth and nurture. This baby, “the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” would be our second chance to overcome that first impression of broken and banished…”and after that the spiritual.”
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We celebrate Advent as a season of Good Tidings of Great Joy, but there’s more to that reality. God purposefully chose to send his only son, Jesus, to live among us knowing the dark and painful realities that lay ahead. There would be no reason to celebrate at all if weren’t for God’s intervention – the birth of “The” Advent – into a world full of broken, “weary and burdened”…and desperate people.
That came back full force when I decided to look back at past journal entries for December 14 and found this startling and heartbreaking event from Advent, 2012.
“The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members.”
Sandy Hook broke many hearts then, including mine. I wouldn’t have chosen the memory of that massacre for this Advent but sometimes it’s the gaps in a broken heart that make room for remembering the reality of why “The” Advent still matters today. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
It’s easy to forget scrolls, letters and even a prophet’s words but God had a new plan for the safekeeping of his law and his word. A place of convenient and reliable access; “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” It would be like muscle memory for the mind and heart. It might still be forgotten, misused and unused for a time but it could not be lost. The treasured information had been protected…and then came the Advent.
That long-ago cradle was how God revealed his application to us…the Safekeeper…his son Jesus, the Christ…born to teach us how to live real lives based on the treasured information kept safe in our minds and hearts.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8 is encouragement “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s a good plan, designed to redirect our focus away from the necessary consequences of God’s disapproval because of the rules we could not keep, to “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” to become the living example of a new option.
That Advent changed our focus completely. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of God’s promise to redirect our focus so “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” It’s more than celebrating the historical birth of Christ “His”story has become our story too. That’s worth celebrating year after year!
Luke 15:21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
There’s the truth of Advent in Luke’s story of the son who came home. It’s a revelation of the heart of God that shows his desire to welcome and celebrate the life of those who bear his image if they will just do that one thing, come home.
That’s God’s promise to a world filled with needy people like us really, convinced we can figure out life if given the chance. God has gone beyond chance to provide for our need. Advent is the celebration of His promise in the flesh. It’s our reminder every year of why He sent a baby in a Christmas cradle, ready and waiting.
After all what else can a baby do but wait? There’s no forced compliance at the cradle, no persuasive words, no clearly laid out “do it this way” doctrine, but a waiting baby…an invitation…to come home to the celebration of an unexpected and undeserved reality of new life that triumphs over circumstances.