What do you think of when you think of Advent?
Does it look like this:
Bet you've not thought of it this way:
This Christmas season, many churches are celebrating Advent, reflecting on the birth of Jesus and His first coming to earth. But did you know that Advent is also a season to prepare our hearts for the second coming of Christ?
I have to admit, the denomination I've been part of my whole life didn't celebrate Advent per se. (at least the churches I've been a member of) So, even though the Christmas season has always been a special time to celebrate His birth, I've never thought of it as just the prelude to the awesome end of the story - Christ's return for His bride, the church.
(Notice that's church with a little "c", not big "c". The church is a body of believers and has nothing to do with a building or a choir or committees. But that's another blog post for another day.)
My home church, Impact Church, is celebrating Advent this year. And as part of our worship, I've written a short series that gives a glimpse at real life during the season.
I invite you to follow along each week as I share the story here with you.
An Advent Story
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." - Luke 19:10
“Lost? Sigh. No way! How do you lose Baby Jesus? For goodness sakes, he can’t be lost. I know I packed him up last year. This is just crazy.” Sherri spoke aloud to the empty room, rocking back on her heels as she stopped digging through the box in front of her. She’d gone through that box six times already and still no sign of the Baby Jesus Nativity piece.
As Sherri sat there surrounded by stacks of Christmas ornaments, tree garland and tissue paper, she thought about what a great plan she’d had that morning. The idea of starting the Christmas decorating early had been a good one; the next few days were going to be really full once Jon’s Mom arrived for Thanksgiving. The tree, of course, they would all decorate, it was a tradition they’d kept for years. But, oh! How nice it was to imagine all the rest being done so they would have just a little time to relax together. Yeah……well, from the looks of the mess surrounding her, that wasn’t likely to happen.
Now that she thought about it, that’s kind of the way life had been for her lately, a mess. Overscheduled, over-stressed, and definitely lots of “lost” stuff along the way. Sherri wondered how things had gotten so out of hand. She wasn’t feeling the warm holiday spirit these days, just the cold reality of the next event on the calendar.
Even the time she normally spent with Jesus each morning had dwindled down to a few prayerful thoughts over her coffee. And listening to Christian music on the radio was uplifting, but such a poor swap for time in His word. Not much intentional relationship there.
“Lord, I’m just a mess.” Sherri prayed as she sat there in the middle of the Christmas trimmings. “I can’t believe I’ve let things get so out of control. This is the time of year that we’re supposed to be remembering your coming, your amazing gift of life to us; not fretting over the size of the turkey or the cost of the presents under the tree or finding all the Nativity pieces. I’d ask you how I got so lost in all this stuff, but I know the answer already – I stopped looking for you each day. Jesus, you’re so good to never leave me, even when I’ve turned my back on you. Please forgive me for losing my wonder of you and the miracle of your mercy and grace. I so don’t deserve you, but I’m so thankful that you love me in spite of myself.”
Sherri sat there in silence as she considered her short prayer and she recalled the Pastor’s sermon from Sunday. When he’d begun the series on Haggai a few weeks ago, she’d wondered how that was going to apply to the season ahead.
Rebuilding the temple; an ancient minor prophet and a disobedient king.
But if it wasn’t clear then, it sure was now.
The Israelites had lost their focus on what mattered most and God had broken them down to nothing in order to remind them. It hit her like a brick - just like she’d lost the baby Jesus Nativity piece, she’d lost her direction when she’d put her own schedule and plans ahead of God’s timetable for her life.
“Alright, Lord. You’ve got my attention now. None of this stuff matters when You’re not at the center of my life. You were there once, it’s time I remember that You belong there – with Your agenda, not mine. Be my compass again Lord and point me back to what matters the most to You. And most of all Lord, give me the heart to want Your best.”
With a big sigh and a new resolve, Sherri got up from the floor and began to set up the Nativity scene on the brick hearth. Yep, there was a big hole with no Baby Jesus in the manger, but just like she herself had been lost and out of place a few moments ago, she knew that Jesus would soon be back where He belonged – right in the center of it all.
with a Courageous Heart,