I am more of a blue-collar preacher. I don’t put on heirs. I don’t wear a robe or a collar. In fact, I rarely even tuck my shirt in. I have realized that sometimes this is in style and other times it isn’t, but I am not sure which is which. “If Walmart don’t have it, I don’t need it.” That’s the motto that I live by along with “there is never a bad time for Blue Bell ice cream.” Anyway, the church has many different ceremonies, rituals, sacraments. They are all meaningful and symbolic of wonderful truths taught in Scripture. There are churches who practice more of these than others. The term ‘liturgical’ describes a church who practices all of these. At my church, we tend to stick to baptism and communion since those are direct from Scripture. But during the Christmas season, the liturgical calendar celebrates Advent. I am sure you have seen the advent candles and advent wreath.
The wreath represents the everlasting love of God. There are different symbolic meanings of the candles depending upon the church. There are four small candles representing the 4,000 years that the world awaited the birth of the Messiah. These candles surround one larger white candle representing the light of Christ born in a manger. Each of the four individual candles also symbolize hope, faith, joy, and peace. By 1600, it was a formal practice in both Catholic and Lutheran churches. Now, the majority of churches take part in Advent in some form. However, what I like most about the Advent wreath is the purpose of the tradition.
The tradition was not just about Christmas. Advent is intended to remind us that we have much in common with the Jewish people from the time after the prophets until the birth of Christ. They were waiting for the Messiah prophesied about by the Old Testament prophets. 700 years before Christ was born, the prophet Micah prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Isaiah, also more than 700 years before the birth of Christ prophesied that He would be born to a virgin. The prophet Zechariah prophesied more than 500 years before the birth of Christ that Israel’s king would come riding in on the foal of a donkey. Some skeptics would say there is no big deal about that because Jesus would have known this so when he asked his disciples to go and get him a donkey, he was forcing himself into this prophecy. But Zechariah also prophesied that the people of Jerusalem would welcome him into their city like a victorious king. And this is exactly what the people did. They knelt before him waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna which means ‘save us.’
They had been waiting 4,000 years with great expectation. Advent reminds us that as they were waiting for the 1st appearance of the Messiah, we, like them, are in great expectation for the return of Jesus Christ to deliver His church into Heaven. Advent is a celebration of the birth of the Christ-child, but it is a reminder that Christ the King will return again soon and this expectation should guide our life. If you knew that Jesus was to return tomorrow, how would you live your life?
We would not hold grudges. It would be a time of forgiveness. We would not join in sin. We would remain pure. We would not be stress over the small things in life. We would know the Prince of Peace would be here soon. Advent is a call for Christians to live knowing that Christ may return to Earth at any moment.
I know. Many people would say that people have been saying that Christ was soon to return for thousands of years and this is true. But the Bible also says that in the end days, there will be wars and rumors of wars. Is there any doubt that the political state of our world does not point to the end times? Scripture also says that in the end days, love will wax cold. Again, when we look at the hatred of people from one group to another, doesn’t it seem like the end times. Revelation, chapter 20 tells us that in the last days, there will be great persecution against Christians and many will be beheaded. No one knows when Christ will return. My point only is that we seem to be living in the last days. With all that we are seeing about the city of Jerusalem right now, there is so much reminding us that we are living in the last days. And we should be living in expectation that Christ may return soon.
We don’t know when this day will occur and until then we are called to love. So we must continue to take care of our families and one another. We give gifts to one another in love and to honor Christ. We still have to get up and go to work every day. Many of what we do, we should continue to do. The difference between living with expectation of Christ’s return and living as if Christ will not return in my lifetime is attitude. If the Lord is coming soon, I do not want anything to be between the Lord and myself. I want to repent of my sin. I want to make restitution to those I have wronged. I want to love more, laugh more, and live more in the abundance of Christ and not the worries of this life. Church, He is coming soon. Let’s live like it!
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:11
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)
Heavenly Father, remind me each morning that this life is not the point. I am not living for treasures on Earth, but treasures in Heaven. And let me live with the Good News that you will return soon that my life will be focused on love, peace, reconciliation. Let anger, regret, vengeance be far from me. And thank you Lord for preparing a place for us to be with you forever and ever. Help me to meditate on this truth and reduce my stress, reduce my worry, my fear, and increase my joy and contentment. -Amen.