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Advent

By Mike Ruffin The church is in the middle of the Advent season. The word Advent means ‘arrival.’ During Advent, we anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ. There are four Sundays of Advent. The fourth and last one is the Sunday before Christmas Day. So Advent is a season to anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ in his birth, which we celebrate on December 25, the first day of the twelve days of the Christmas season. Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, so we aren’t actually waiting for him to be born. We are rather waiting for our celebration of his birth. On the other hand, we might keep in mind the prayer request in the Christmas hymn ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’: ‘O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.’ During Advent, we also anticipate the coming of Christ to us. Even if we are Christians, even if we have been Christians for so long that we can barely remember a time when we weren’t, we still need Christ to come to us. We still need him to show us how we should follow him, how we should serve him, and how we should represent him in the world. I no longer share memes on social media, but if I did, I’ve been seeing one lately that I would. It says something like, ‘I’m not concerned about putting Christ back in Christmas, but I do think we should put Christ back in churches.’ I know that sounds harsh, but I mean it to be thought-provoking. Both churches and individual Christians would do well to spend time during Advent carefully and prayerfully reading the New Testament Gospels, asking God to help us better understand who Jesus really is and what it really means to be his followers. I can’t know exactly where such a quest will lead us. But I will say this: we should find ourselves being more committed to giving ourselves away for the sake of other people. So during Advent, we await the arrival of Christ in his birth in Bethlehem. We also await the arrival of Christ in our individual lives and in our churches’ lives in whatever ways he wants to come to us. During Advent, we also anticipate Jesus’ second coming. The New Testament teaches that one of these days, Jesus will return to fully establish God’s reign. When Jesus comes again, all will be as God intends for it to be. We’ve been waiting a long time for Jesus’ second coming. We may wait a lot longer. Or we may not. We can’t know when Jesus will come again. When we read what the New Testament writers say about Jesus’ second coming, we find them often encouraging their readers to be faithfully active in the meantime. We aren’t to sit around waiting for God to make everything as it should be. We are to be doing all we can to make things as good as they can be. We do that by sharing God’s grace, mercy, and love with our attitudes, our perspectives, our words, and our attitudes. We aren’t able to make everything good and right. Only God can do that, and God will through Christ do it someday. But we are able to make things better, because the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem is also born in us. If we will get to know him better, we will follow him better. And as we follow him better, we’ll help make our homes, our communities, and our world better. I think it would be great if, when Jesus comes again, he could look around and say, ‘Things here are a lot better than they might have been,’ and if he could then say to those who follow him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servants.’

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