Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Anticipation…

It’s great to be back in the saddle!  Thanks to all who prayed for me while I was on Inter-Mission/Sabbatical.  It means so much!  I will be talking this Sunday about one important aspect of my experience that is applicable to all of us (you can join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton or catch the service on YouTube later), and bits of my experience will trickle out over the course of the next while, including through Encouragement.  Stay tuned!

This week begins the season of Advent, which many Christians mark as a time of anticipation for the birth of Jesus.  Outside certain churches, it’s not widely practised in western society.  Why?

I think it’s because we have learned to expect everything according to our timetable.

Waiting is not our strong suit.

Yet anticipation, if we stop to think about it, actually heightens our excitement over what we wait for.  If you don’t believe me, let me ask you how much time you spent deciding what you were going to buy today…Black Friday.  (Many of you probably won’t buy anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but sales statistics suggest that not all of us will resist.)

The fact that we are not good at waiting is noticeable even in the church, where there are overt suggestions (if there is no overt pressure) to sing Christmas carols well ahead of Christmas Eve.  I get this; they’ve been played on the radio and in the malls since the day after Remembrance Day (or sooner); let’s enjoy them while we can.

But if we wait, it heightens our anticipation of what is to come.

True, the scenario ends the same way each year: Jesus is born!  But this rhythm of time centred around the salvation narrative is so different from what we experience out in the world that I think it helps strengthen our faith.  (Granted, there are many ways to make that happen.)

So this year, don’t open all the boxes on your Advent calendar in the first week.  Don’t sing “O come, all ye faithful” just yet.  Don’t buy everything you want for Christmas so that there are no surprises greeting you under the tree, symbolizing the greatest gift of all – the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God with skin on, breaking into history to redeem us from sin from which we couldn’t hope to save ourselves.

Happy Advent!

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9.6, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Black Friday

It’s one of the most enigmatic days of the year.

Yesterday, our neighbours to the south spent the day giving thanks for what they had.  Today, vast numbers of them are out trampling over one another to get bargains on things they perceive they need (but probably don’t).

The difference between American Thanksgiving Day and so-called “Black Friday” (named because that’s the day many retailers finally make a profit for the year) is poignant.

It reminds me of the contrast between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, when people rejoiced at the presence of Jesus in their community on one day, and less than a week later, had him crucified, convicted on trumped-up charges.

As the popular meme says, “Only one Black Friday brings eternal savings.”

You may think it odd that, with this Sunday marking the beginning of Advent, I would allude to the crucifixion.  But that was his purpose:  Jesus was born to die.

We can’t think of the nativity without also thinking of the passion.

What makes Christmas so exciting for me is that Jesus’ birth is what brings the promise of new and everlasting life through his death and resurrection.

Behind the manger stands the cross.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16, NLT).