Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Advent Means

In my family, a greater-than-average love for Christmas is mandatory.  Cue my baby sister, who once said, pertaining to a boy she was seeing and why she liked him, "well, he really loves Christmas!"  It's true--we Kingston (Russell) women are nuts about the holiday.

My preparations for Advent have been frenzied.  But I am determined that Advent itself, the discipline of preparing oneself for Jesus to come, should be just the opposite.

My mom reminded me this weekend while I was home for Thanksgiving that as a little girl, I badgered her for months about the coming of Christmas, counting down the days many months in advance.  Once December rolled around, I couldn't sleep at night for the excitement!  That is just the spirit that Advent recaptures each year for me.  I may not be that enthusiastic seven-year-old anymore, but sitting in my cozy Connecticut apartment with the tree lit and my Bible open, I feel as though she and I have been reacquainted.  Only now it's not Malibu Barbie or American Girl Dolls that get me excited.  It's that this Jesus whom I love has come...and He will come again!

Christmas on Greenwood Ave.
Tonight, on the first night of Advent, the Scriptures speak of Jesus' second coming as much as his first.  2 Peter 3:1-10 reminds us that He is "not slow in keeping His promises," but He is waiting for just the right time to return for His bride.  And in Matthew 25, we're reminded to be prepared for that any-day-now arrival.  This is the hope of Advent: That Jesus would come through a birth canal (as Alistair Begg has pointed out in an essay "Wrapped in Humility"), and what's more that He promises to return for us, fully, finally, once and for all.

For those of us who love Jesus, this hope also means that we will live differently.  I'm increasingly challenged by that thought recently, especially as it pertains to my materialism.  {Ouch...this being vulnerable stuff is painful at times.}

I was really excited to see that my favorite non-profit/parachurch ministry/human rights organization is to be the recipient of this year's Advent Conspiracy campaign.  Advent Conspiracy is an organization that challenges Christians to remember what Christmas really means by giving more and spending less.  Check out the  video and support the work of IJM here!

If you want to follow along with the Scripture reading plan I use each year (it's adjusted from the Book of Common Prayer), you can find it below.  

Much love to you this Advent!

It will be said on that Day "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him."
Isaiah 25:9

Advent Readings 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For this I have Jesus

Our college pastor recently said something so inspired.  As we were chatting about the demands of ministry, he pondered a minute, then said "In ministry, all my weaknesses come out in full force.  And in ministry, I find that God's grace overflows for my weakness."  (That's my own paraphrase, and it's probably not quite as eloquent as he said it!)

Well it's been one of those days when I am soooo so painfully aware of all my weakness.  And it's true, God's grace does overflow.  I recently heard a story about a gentleman in the UK who clung to the words "for this I have Jesus" in every circumstance.  Such grace!

My world feels full of kids in impossibly hard situations who are languishing for a Savior.
For this I have Jesus.

As I meet with students, I'm overwhelmed by the need--they are steeped in religious tradition but do not understand the gospel; they are looking for something True but have so few resources.
For this I have Jesus.

I am weak and small and broken.  And even when I respond to God's call in obedience, the Enemy is lurking to tell me I've done the wrong thing, said the wrong thing, messed it all up.
For this I have Jesus.

I confess, on days like this one I selfishly wonder who is supposed to take care of me while I take care of others. 
For this I have Jesus.

The [New England] harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
For this we have Jesus.