2005-12-13 - The Santa and Savior of Advent
In John 9:5, Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Jesus is no longer physically in this world; he has ascended to the right hand of God the Father. We are now the light. The dancing flames of the advent wreath's candles should encourage us to be lights in this world until the Christ Candle is lit in our midst once more. To be a light in a world of darkness, we can examine the relationship between the Savior and the Santa of Christmas and make the familiar secular one a parable that can be used to show the spiritual to others.
As an introductory note, there is a broad spectrum of churches that celebrate different Advent traditions, because there's not a universal standard. In the history of the church, Advent celebrations are somewhat new. Various groups of people like the prophets, angels, shepherds, and wise men, individuals like John the Baptist and Mary, or other things may be used to illustrate themes of advent. Other themes exist, but most traditions celebrate four major themes: Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace. This devotional may mention some of the figures or secondary themes and may not be in the order of your own celebrations, but I hope it will strengthen your flame and help you to light up more of the darkness.
Now to continue with the Santa and Savior of Advent...
Think about why you give gifts. Do you give gifts to others with no expectations at all, or do you give to others just to do your share of the give and take gift exchange? Do you try to show up others by giving better gifts than them, or do you not make a fuss over the price of the gifts? Do you give of your excess, or do you give knowing you will be going without? Sacrificial, unconditional, humble giving - that is true giving. That kind of giving can be summed up in one word - love. If you think about it, Santa must love us a pretty good bit. He is humble, never sticking around for the recognition and thanks. He is sacrificial, because giving to others is his life's work. But he falls a little short at times, because there are those rumors about lumps of coal for the bad. There is one who loves us even more - even if we're naughty, not nice.
Jesus was humble, choosing to hang up his crown for a cradle and the life of a poor person. Jesus' life was also spent giving to others. And he loves us all. John recorded that Jesus told Nicodemus; "...God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Paul notes, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Jesus Christ came to show His love for us by taking our place. He gave his own life in my stead, that I might be justified when the judgment comes. Though a bit simplistic you can think of being justified as meaning "just if I'd". I will stand before God with Christ's blood atoning for my sins "just if I'd" paid the price myself and survived, which I couldn't, or never sinned my entire life, which I haven't. Jesus gave sacrificially, unconditionally, and humbly; he gave out of love.
Isaiah 40:10-11 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
At the malls, you may see a couple shopping frantically from store to store. The man looks tired and worn as his load gets heavier. But examining another couple at the same mall finds the woman rushing from store to store and the man on a bench surrounded by packages. He smiles as parents walk by with kids doing funny things. He notices the plants sat beside the bench. He is smiling. He is resting at peace with the shopping experience. He is a wise man.
In holiday storms, the hustle and bustle that is part of Christmas for so many, there is one scene that sits still - the nativity scene. It remains a symbol of the angel's words "peace on earth". (Luke 2:14 NLT) The Greek word used there is eirene. Its root is eiro, meaning to join, and it means one, peace, quietness, rest, or to set at one again like when Jesus said, "Go in peace" (Mark 5:34) or "Peace be unto you" (John 20:19,21). When we are at one with God and when we rest in him then we may have peace. There is also a second Greek word for peace, siopao. Its root word is siope meaning silence, hush, or stillness and it means to be dumb, but not deaf, or to be calm. That is the peace found in Mark 4.
Mark 4:36-39 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. 37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? 39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
I wonder at times if he was talking to nature, or to the disciples - and nature just overheard. Was it the sea or the men that most needed the great calm? Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalms 46:10)
To be continued next week.