Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Tuesday in Advent

Today is the first Tuesday in Advent.  Somehow the first Sunday in Advent slipped by me—I was exhausted from the craft sale the day before and focused on getting through the planting of an oak tree in memory of Mikael.  Advent is an important part of the Christian calendar.  It is in the weeks leading up to Christmas that we prepare ourselves for Christmas.  In our western culture, this usually means shopping, baking, decorating and lots of partying but it wasn’t always this way.  It used to be a time of spiritual waiting and preparation.

For what do we wait?  Christmas!  Specifically, we wait for the day when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  In the church calendar, the celebration of Christmas begins on December 25 and continues for two weeks after.  Christ’s birth was long ago, so as we wait and as we celebrate, we focus on that past event.  But we wait for something yet to come—Jesus’ return to earth.  He said he would come again and God always keeps his promises.

A few months ago I ordered and received Mosaic, the Holy Bible in the New Living Translation, fronted with a year's worth of weekly meditations based on the ancient church calendar.  I love the free-flowing spirit of my church—it’s one of the things that attracted me to it—but there is something to be said for a liturgical approach to worship.  As Christians we have a rich heritage with two millennia filled with thoughts, practices, understandings and ways of worshipping Jesus Christ.  Often, in our quest for the fresh and new, we ignore the depth of the past.  The meditations in Mosaic are fed by Christian expression from every continent and every century as well as generous portions of Scripture.  They are works of beauty.

Today I looked at four passages: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 25, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 and Matthew 24:32-51.  In the church calendar, the liturgical readings always include a passage from Psalms, one from the rest of the Old Testament, one from the Gospels and one from the rest of the New Testament.  I’m not sure how they’re chosen but usually one can find something that binds the four together.  I took notes as I read and came up with the following:

Isaiah 2:1-5 (I read beyond) NLT
Let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Israel was rejected because they
·         filled their land with practices (superstitions--NIV) from the East
·         filled their land with sorcerers (practiced divination—NIV)
·         made alliances with pagans.
Are we doing this now?  Yes!  As formerly Christian nations, we will pay for this. 

Oh Lord, I give my life to you.  I trust in you, my God!
…Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
For you are merciful, O Lord.

God will keep you strong to the end
So that you will be free from all blame.
God will do this because he keeps his promises and
He invited us into partnership with Jesus.

We don’t know when Jesus will return
But there will be signs
And we must keep watch if we don’t want to be caught off-guard.
How?
By being faithful, sensible and doing what God has told us to do.

Condensing these notes, I arrived at this:

  1. Walk in the light of God without Eastern religions, channelling, fortune-telling or alliances with non-believers.
  2. Give your life to God and trust him to forgive past sins.  He is love and mercy.
  3. When we choose to do this, God will keep us strong until Jesus returns so that we will be blameless.  After all, he keeps his promises.
  4. Jesus will return—he said he would—so we must continue in God’s ways so we won’t be caught “with our pants down.”
Condensed more, I arrived at:

Past: God will forgive
Present: God will keep us strong
Future: We will be blameless
                          
Eschew other religions and their ways
Give your life to God
Trust God’s love and mercy

Is this what we are doing during this time of waiting?  Have we accepted God’s forgiveness?  Are we willing to walk in God’s strength so that we can abandon the religious practices of other religions that are part of the culture, give our lives totally over to God and choose to trust in his love and mercy?

Lord, this is what I want to do.  Please keep me focused on you and your ways so that no matter when you come or when I leave (who knows when they will die?), I am ready.  In Jesus’ name.

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