Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Advent: Looking backward and forward

Last Sunday, I asked, “What is Advent?”  But that answer was only half the answer. I quoted this passage, which looks back to all God’s people who were waiting for God’s salvation, which came to us through Jesus, born at Christmas:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12)

But if we keep reading, the very next verses turn our eyes forward in Advent, looking toward the return of Jesus–his second coming.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  14 As obedient children,  do not be conformed to the passions  of your former ignorance,  15 but  as he who called you is holy, you also be holy  in all your conduct,  16 since it is written,  “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  (1 Peter 1:13-16)

There will be another advent of Christ; he will come again.

Advent is a season for introspection. Peter gives us God’s high standard as we contemplate our standing with him: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). This is a time to ask ourselves questions like:

  • Am I clear-thinking and sober-minded, or are my concerns mainly trivial? (verse 13)
  • Is my hope set fully on the grace I will receive from Jesus at his Second Coming, or do I cringe at the thought of leaving behind the life I love? (verse 13)
  • Am I an obedient child of my Father, or am I still shaped by the passions that drove me before? (verse 14)

If regular personal devotions are not part of our lives, this would be a time tailor-made to begin. We remember that God charged the adults in Deuteronomy 11 to “lay up these words in your heart and in your soul” (verse 18), and that he expects us to “love the LORD [our] God” (verse 1). The living water in our own hearts is the fountain from which we shower Christ on our family. Our time with God and his preparation of us is a necessary foundation. Without it our Christmas activities will degenerate into hoopla.

But however much we want a significant Christmas celebration for our families, that is not the primary reason for our contemplation and self-examination. Our deeper motivation is the strengthening of our ultimate hope in Jesus, “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

May this time be a reflection of what our lives are—gratitude for the promises that were fulfilled when God gave us the gift of his son and anticipation of and preparation for Christ’s coming again.

Treasuring God in Our TraditionsAdapted from Treasuring God in Our Traditions

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