A Needed Advent for All of Us

I love the Advent season! Since I was shown the wonders of this liturgical season, I believe I have uttered the word “Advent” more in the last three years than I had the entirety of my life. This year is the first year that I have taught through the meaning of Advent in my several years of serving in ministry and I have to confess: The season of Advent has been more refreshing this year than it has ever been in my life.

I think there are many reason for this. First, teaching through the four words which typically represent Advent (hope, peace, joy, and faith) have helped me gain a more appreciative perspective of how they are represented in the Bible and how they relate to the current season. Second, and this is what I would like to focus on, given the mess of a year which has been 2020, the season of Advent reminds me that we not only celebrate the Son of God coming to this earth as a baby, but also that we wait for His second coming in which He will vanquish sin, disease, and death forever.

As I think further about this second reason for my immense love for Advent this year, I am reminded about how early Christmas lights went up this year. These two topics might seem completely unrelated, so let me explain. The day after Halloween this year, I saw many of the houses in my neighborhood setting up their Christmas lights. It was to the point in which these lights were up by the 2nd of November. I thought it might have just been the families in my neighborhood, but apparently this has been a common pattern in other neighborhoods as well. To me, its a further reminder that this season, Christmas to some and Advent to others, is a reminder of hope and peace and joy and faith. Our non-Christian neighbors may never express it exactly like this, but there is something awe inspiring about this season even if you don’t celebrate the coming of Christ.

This year has only exacerbated that feeling. In the dread and dreary year of 2020, people want something to hope for. They want something to put their faith in. They need something that brings them joy. They desire peace from the never-ending news cycle of the election and Covid. They need only what Jesus can bring! Again, they cannot express their need for Christ, but they do know that they are looking for all those things above which only Christ can bring. It all points to a resounding truth: We need the message of Advent!

If you are a Christian and reading this, maybe this year has been a real struggle for you. Maybe you have lost a job, lost a loved one, or have been terribly depressed. I pray that you would take hope in the fact that you have placed your faith in One who has come to this earth, lived a perfect life according to the law, died on a cross taking your sin, and then rose again and ascended to the Father. 2020 will end. This virus will end. Your job loss will end. Your depression will end. But your Lord and Savior will reign forever! He will return and set all things right. Advent is a promise of that!

Maybe you’re reading this and you don’t know Christ. You have heard of Him. You know that at it’s origin, this season is a celebration of Christ’s birth. But the Gospel message, that is the message that God sent His Son to live a life we could not live,die a death on a cross that we deserved and be raised from the dead so that those who place their faith in Him can have eternal life, has eluded you. You may have a hard time believing something so wonderful can be true. In 2020, you are just trying to make it to tomorrow. I pray that you would ponder how faith in Christ might bring you hope, peace, and joy not only in this season but for the rest of your life.

Perhaps in 2020 we need the season of Advent more than we have in previous years. If anything 2020 has reminded all of us who are in Christ that this world is not our home. Life in Christ is incalculably better! This Advent season, may we cry what many have before: Come O’ Come, Immanuel.

“You Shall Know Them By Their Mask”

The above line is not in Scripture in case you were wondering. It is a clever distortion of a phrase I’ve heard from quite a few people after some recent events in my life. The line above should read: You shall know them by their love. This phrase is also not found in Scripture. So why then do I write something with a “semi-clickbatey” title? Am I here to talk about how true Christians should give up their rights and wear a mask in order to love their neighbor? No, I don’t really have the time or the energy to make an argument like that, although I’m sure I could. I’m sure there are other articles that have done that well enough. Am I writing this because there is a difference between the Christians who wear a mask and the Christians won’t or refuse to wear a mask? No (I’m sure there is a difference but the spectrum is so large that it would take a year-long LifeWay Study to figure it out).

The reason I write is because of the poorly paraphrased verse in that first paragraph. It should say this:

By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Through all of these arguments of wear a mask vs. don’t wear a mask; this is a government conspiracy vs. this isn’t a government conspiracy; the mask doesn’t help vs. the mask does help, I’ve seen more animosity and anger between people who claim to be Christians than I’ve seen love for one another. I’ve seen more fruit of the flesh than I have fruit of the Spirit. I’ve seen more online interactions which carry an heir of superiority than a Christ-like humility.

As someone who also is a Christ-follower with firm opinions on these issues, I know I have the same temptation to consider my opinion on this issue as greater than theirs. I have the same proclivity to consider their side as unloving and less faithful to scripture than my own. The reality is that we all have blindspots in our Christian lives. None of us always see where attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions fall far short of Christlikeness. We can always sacrifice love for the pursuit of truth.

But this is not what we have been called to as believers. Instead, let us take time to listen and consider how we can best respond to someone who disagrees with us in a loving manner. Lord willing, Covid will be over one day and when it is many of us will forget the smaller arguments that were had. But one thing people will alway remember is how they were treated by their fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Will it be filled with love? Or will others find that a surgical mask wasn’t the only mask we were wearing?