Now that Thanksgiving Day and the first day of buck season have passed, we find ourselves in Advent. Advent is a time when we celebrate the coming, the advent, of Jesus seen in the prophecies pointing to his birth in Bethlehem and to his promised Second Coming on Judgement Day. During this time of the year, with most of our nation’s attention focused on Christmas Day, the challenge for us, as the church, is to remember the promised Second Coming.
“because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Acts 17:31 (ESV)
The commercialization of Christmas that exists in our country is unparalleled in the world and in history. The blessings we enjoy as a society can obfuscate the great blessing that we have received in Jesus from his birth and that which we will receive in his promised Second Coming on Judgement Day. However, the abundance of blessings provides us with innumerable opportunities to become a blessing to others. We see this lived out here at the Sinking Valley Presbyterian Church by the many missions in which we participate. From our collection of money for our local food bank, that provides food to the needy in our community, to our participation in Operation Christmas Child, providing small gifts to children throughout the world, we are actively seeking to become a blessing to others.
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40 (ESV)
I am convinced that the reason Christians in the United States have a problem celebrating Advent’s emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ is the accompanying Judgement Day. Many are terrified by this promised day. So, like children walking by a cemetery at night whistling to distract themselves from their fear, many churches in their worship services opt to forego any Advent hymns for Christmas Carols starting as early as Thanksgiving. They end up using Advent only as a sort of pre-Christmas. Because of this, they miss out on a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the promised end to all evil and suffering that comes to creation with Judgement.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV)
Many people think of Judgement Day as only a time of condemnation and punishment. This will be a part of that great day. Love, mercy, pardon, and reward will also be a part of that same day. As Christians, we have been promised the later. We have nothing to fear from Judgement Day for it holds only wonderful things for us.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4 (ESV)
The call of Advent is dual in nature. It is a call to celebrate the prophecies and events that pointed and led to the birth of Jesus and it is a call to celebrate his promised Second Coming.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2 (ESV)
It is my prayer for each of you that this Advent will be a time of reflection on and anticipation of the wonders that are yet to come. May God grant you a joyous Christmas and bright New Year.