Pastoral Notes for Sunday, December 2, 2018

At our particular juncture in history, preparing for Christmas has little to do with preparing for Christ’s coming. For the vast majority, the holiday season is marked by a flurry of parties and shopping sprees with little time for quiet reflection and heart preparation around the mystery of Christ’s incarnation.

Consequently, we enter this season with great anticipation and a fair amount of dread. We are glutted with social contact and yet feel alone. We are often frazzled, harried, and stressed in the midst of what is supposed to be a time full of cheer. Even when the flashes of joy do come, and they usually do, those flashes often lack relation to the baby boy born of a peasant girl in a stable in Bethlehem—the one Scripture calls, “the good news of great joy for all people” and “the hope of all the nations” (Luke 2:10; Matthew 12:21).

J.B. Phillips once wrote, “The towering miracle of God’s visit to this planet on which we live will be glossed over, brushed aside or rendered impotent by over-familiarity for many this Christmas. Even by the believer the full weight of the event is not always appreciated. His faith is in Jesus Christ—he believes with all his heart that this man, who lived and died and rose again in Palestine, was truly the Son of God. He may have, in addition, some working experience that the man Jesus is still alive, and yet be largely unaware of the intense meaning of what he believes.”

Could this be true of you? Has the wonder of Christ’s advent faded for you? Has the glory of the incarnation ceased to amaze? Is your hopeful expectation of Christ’s return being elbowed out by holiday brouhaha?

Take heart, today is the first day of Advent. A fresh opportunity for you to slow down, breathe deep, and commit to do things differently, to dive deep into the story of Scripture and the loving purposes of God and be restored to the joy of your salvation.

So, go ahead and shake off your guilty fears. Unite with the throng of sinners saved by grace in worship today and declare boldly that evil and death, pain and loss won’t last, for Jesus Christ will have the final word. Let faith, hope, and love rise again within you, as you watch and wait for the return Christ. For the saying is true and worthy of acceptance: “Blessed are those servants whom the Master finds awake when he comes” (Luke 12:37).