Keeping Christ in Advent


It is that time of year again.  We enter into the “Holiday Season” when retail establishments and local government offices get in trouble for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

And, of course, we see on many cars the little manger magnet that says “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  And somehow we’ve managed to merge the two thoughts together, as if the only way to keep Christ in Christmas is by retail establishments saying “Merry Christmas.”  How simple.

But that is not the answer – how can we expect a business – a corporate entity – a NON-HUMAN to keep Christ in Christmas?  It is not a retailer’s job to do this – rather a retailer’s job is to sell products and services at a profit.  That is it.  And if a retailer wants to identify itself as a “Christian business” fine – but why do Christians expect businesses to do our ministry (spreading the love of God through Jesus)?  Why do we want the Mega-Box Retailer, Inc. to keep Jesus in our hearts?  Isn’t that what we are called to do?

So I have a solution.  If we want to keep Christ in our Christmases, we need to observe the season of Advent – those four weeks before Christmas – both in our churches and in our homes.

The church does a good job of observing Advent.  We change the liturgy and music to match the season, we preach heavily from both Old and New Testament passages regarding both the first coming and the second coming of Christ.  We light the Advent wreath each Sunday, adding a candle to remember the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of the season.  At least we try.

But then as people head home – and enter into the rhythm of Monday through Saturday, how are WE keeping Christ in Christmas?  Are we observing Advent or are we feeding into the retailer’s dreams of a “green Chri$tma$?”

This Advent prepare yourselves.  Prepare yourselves to celebrate the first coming of Christ – the birth of Jesus.  Celebrate the joy of the Resurrection and its great promise of hope.  Live your lives in the peace and love of Jesus, and be prepared for the second coming – when all things shall be renewed by God.  Keep your own Advent wreath – light a candle for each week, read the readings, make it a special family devotion.  You might be amazed at how it affects all of you.

Advent is your time and your way to keep Christ in Christmas.  Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.

Don’t Underestimate Jesus…Ever!

Over the past few months, I’ve tried to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees.  I tried to inform the congregation, I’ve prayed for the situation, asked others to offer their opinion on how we can help, and held a special offering.

And I’ve dealt with some of the suspicions:  “Why should we help them when we have needs in this country?”  “Who are these people and why do they want to enter the U.S.?”  “What if ISIS terrorists are hiding among them?”  I’ve tried to answer all of these questions as intelligently as possible.

Then the Paris attacks happened.  And with it a lot more suspicion that the refugees are in reality, ISIS members trying to infiltrate Europe and the United States.  Some states have decided against hosting refugee families, others are considering it.

Now the truth is we never know who is a terrorist – no matter what their religion or nationality.  We can look at attacks in the United States perpetrated by people of all different beliefs.  We can point to white supremacist groups, religious fanatics of all “flavors”, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, the Nickel Mines Amish shooting and many others.  Terrorists, fundamentalists and extremists know no boundaries.

But because of 9-11 and radical Islam, this country is much divided over the subject of the Syrian refugees.  Many do not want to help these people who are in dire need.

Then I read some comments from a colleague, Rev. Daniel Smoak (a pastor in South Carolina) who said:

Christian friends: If your church were to work together to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees and one of them turned out to be a terrorist, would he/she be emboldened in their convictions after living with you for a year, or is it possible that Jesus’ love in your church is stronger than hate? Don’t underestimate ISIS? Ha. Don’t underestimate Jesus.

This got me thinking.  If we truly believe in the love of Jesus, and we truly show that love, wouldn’t we overcome more than ISIS?  Think about it.  If we were to actually live like Jesus, loving one another, caring for one another, being more concerned about connecting people to God than judging them, wouldn’t things change for the better – in Syria, in Philadelphia, in Detroit, in any place in the world?

Or am I wrong?

If so, our faith is empty and our God is impotent.  I am reminded what Paul said in First Corinthians:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not  even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise    him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Don’t underestimate Jesus.  Ever.