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ADVENTures Before Christmas, Week 2

Each week of Advent has a number of symbolisms, and the following table will be filled as the weeks progress.

Journey on a Donkey
Isaiah/OT Prophets
John the Baptist


Last week I mentioned how Advent starts off in a spirit of penitence. Not only is purple symbolic of royalty, it is symbolic of suffering. Yet, the attitude of this second week of Advent is peace. How do these reconcile?

Throughout Scripture, we see God actively opposing the proud, the arrogant, and the self-righteous. At the same time, He comforts and lifts up the humble, the contrite, and the sinner facing the despair of sin. These are not mutually exclusive as we humans tend to rather easily slip back and forth between these two states.

As the Lagniappe link explains, the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection for our redemption, has no meaning or benefit to someone who doesn’t believe they need it. All too often, our evangelism consists of “selling Jesus” to make this life better. “Try Jesus:  He’ll give you peace, joy, and happiness!...But wait, there’s more! Pray in the next 10 minutes and you’ll also get three more fruits of the Spirit, absolutely free!”

Interestingly, neither Jesus nor His apostles made such claims in sharing the Gospel. Any references to similar ‘benefits’ were made to people after they believed, to encourage them through trials. When sharing the Good News, it was always in the context of convicting of sin first. Jesus didn’t have His hands and feet and side punctured with spikes, and get the flesh on His backside stripped off for us to have a pleasant life. He suffered humiliation and disfigurement and death to save us from our eternal death because of our rebellion!

Until we recognize our life shares the fate of the Titanic, we see no need for a life vest. It looks silly, feels bulky, and hampers our free movement. It does not make our life better or our cruise more enjoyable, quite the opposite. Similarly, having the life vest of Christ’s redemption on our life makes us stand out and ought to restrict our carnal actions, leading to the expectation of ridicule at best, and persecution at worst. But when the iceberg looms in our vision on a collision course, we will fight tooth and nail to keep that life vest tight around us, and well we should.

Note that the life vest does not keep us from being dumped in the water. We will suffer the shipwreck. We will be cold, wet, tired, hungry and thirsty awaiting pickup. But, we will still have our lives, and we have some assurance that we will ultimately be picked up, and that is a source of peace.

Christ is far better than a life vest, and His promise of salvation through our recognition of our humiliated condition of sin is a complete assurance of final deliverance. That assurance is the source of our peace, even in the trials, chaos and suffering of this life, of which Christ has also promised we will experience.

To summarize, without awareness of the fact of our sin and subsequent judgment, we cannot see the Gospel as good news. Without recognizing the Gospel as good news, we reject it. We still face the shipwreck of living in a fallen and depraved world of suffering, evil and misfortune, but we lack the abiding peace due to the assurance of our ultimate deliverance through Christ’s redemption. Without that peace, Advent is just some pretty candles and Christmas is a time to exchange gifts, be with family and think warm thoughts—nice things to be sure, but ephemeral.

Advent promises more. Christ’s coming is a cause for hope and peace, and one does not hope for something better if things are peachy now. One does not crave peace unless there is strife and conflict here and now. Advent reminds us of the crappiness of our situation, so that we can look forward to the arrival of the One who will make all things right.

Christmas only has meaning in the full bloody, sad, despairing context of the five-o’clock news. Advent declares the truth of the evening news and promises relief. Christmas is the embodiment of that relief. It is a total package and we cannot have the blessing, the hope, the peace, without also, first, having the despair that reveals the need for hope and peace. They are inseparable. You cannot have a solution without its problem. Advent acknowledges the problem and promises the arrival of the solution, and that is why we can have peace.

Suggested family devotion:
             Light two purple candles
             Read Mark 1:4
             Pray something like this:
Lord God, we light this candle to thank you for your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Way. We who like sheep have gone astray have found the way to you through Jesus Christ. We give you thanks and praise in Jesus' name, because he lives and reigns with you in your glory, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Lagniappe:  A very good reminder of the entire Gospel, and two ways it’s often been corrupted (In spite of appearances, it’s only a little over 50 minutes long):  Hell’s Best Kept Secret


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