You can feel it in the air. Since Thanksgiving Christmas decorations and displays are going up everywhere. As I drive home after the Bible Study on Wednesday, I enjoy seeing the decorations at the side of the road and in people’s yards.
We went into Target yesterday at 10 a.m. in the morning and there were Holiday decorations throughout the shopping area and where we shopped, and the store was filled with customers.
I suspect 99.5 will be playing Christmas music 24/7.
Yes, everybody is getting excited for celebrating with family and friends, and gift exchanges. I am pleased we are working to fill an angel tree.
But I also notice something. The world is celebrating in the midst of winter during the shortest days of light, light everywhere. But I have yet to see a display anywhere, except at a church I passed yesterday of the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Jesus was probably born in the Springtime of the year when the shepherds were abiding in the fields moving their flocks regularly so they would not eat the grass down to the roots at one location.
But in the early days when Christianity was spreading through the Roman Empire, it was against the law to be a Christian. Since Christians refused to burn some incense at the altar of Caesar that was proclaimed the leader to be God, Christians were seen as atheists.
In the later part of December when the light each day was getting longer again, the Empire celebrated the birth of the Sun God. Christians decided to celebrate the birthday of Jesus at this time to celebrate the true light that had come into the world, Jesus. And since everyone was celebrating, they could secretly be celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Soon the church also felt it was time to both celebrate the first coming of Jesus but also His coming when the world as we know it is falling apart. Also, the arrival of Christ should take some personal preparation and so the Church decided that part of Advent should be a time of searching moral inventory to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus.
During Advent we Christians are encouraged to engage in a searching moral inventory. What are some ways we have experienced the gifts of God? How are we using these gifts to serve others? Christ came to be a suffering servant. Those who are following him are called to be servants for others. Who are some of the people who are needful of our servanthood? Are they neighbors who need a ramp built? Are they our adult children who are having some trouble taking on all the responsibilities of being an adult? How many have completed their college or vocational training and are saddled with a huge debt?
And then we need to look at our shadow side. Are there some people who have really angered us? How much are we holding anger and resentment? Some are still angry with their parents for the home they provided as they grew up. Some people carry the scar of someone hurting them long after the offending person has forgotten what they did.
When you measure yourself against the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how do you measure up? What are some of the areas you need to grow as a Christian?
We need to measure ourselves using the 10 commandments as our measure. Remember they are commands not suggestions.
If it is hard to remember the commandments, then measure yourself against Jesus’ summary of the Law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
When I measure Bernie against the life of Christ and his summary of the Law, I come up wanting and, not only that, unable to live up to that high bar.
That is when I turn to Christ and honestly confess my sins, beg for forgiveness, and the help of the Holy Spirit to grow as a disciple of Jesus and a true lover of people.
Advent is the beginning of a New Church Year; a time of reflection and preparation. If you honestly know some of the full extent of God’s gifts to you, and how you sin and fall short of the glory of God, it becomes all the more joyous to celebrate the birth of our Savior who came, lived, ministered, suffered and died, and rose against to defeat the powers of sin and death.
When I reflect on how Jesus was scourged, and beaten, and died on a Cross between two thieves and could say as He was dying; God, forgive them for they know not what they are doing; how can I hold back my forgiveness from those who have done wrong to me, and perhaps the hardest person of all to forgive is ourselves. Remember in resurrection forgiveness has the final word.
Yes, part of Advent is a searching personal appraisal of our life; coupled with some confession with Christ and a seeking of His help to grow. If you discover you need to talk to someone about the challenges, you are facing from the dark side of human existence I am available for conversation. Or you can pick another Christian you trust to enter into such a dialog.
Christ has come; He is coming again. Let’s get ready by examining our lives, and seek Christ’s help and forgiveness. Do this and I guarantee you will experience a joyous Christmas. Amen.