Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent and the Cross

Advent is a time of preparation. It’s a time in which we prepare our hearts and our minds to remember and receive the greatest gift of all-the gift of hope found in a baby lying in a manger. It’s a time in which we recall the story of His birth and the importance of His coming. And you cannot separate the two as the gift of hope is really the gift of freedom-the gift of salvation. Advent and the Cross are linked and they are linked by the one they have in common-Jesus, our Savior.
Sadly, Advent and Christmas have been hijacked by distractions of the world. You know, the ones that present great opportunities in the form of sales-whether it’s buy one, get one half off, or the deep discounts of 50%-60% off everything in the store. Like that huge flat screen tv you’ve been eyeing…these are the “joyous” distractions that keep our focus and energy on others.  
To be clear, thinking about others isn’t a bad thing, but it has the potential in this frame of mind or focus to distract us from what Advent is really about. Too often this time of year is spent on stressing about that perfect gift for that special someone or family member-a focus on gifts and more stuff. Again, thinking about others and purchasing gifts are inherently bad, but it is when you find yourself wracked with stress or guilt that we know we have lost our way. What’s worse…is that it has become the norm.
Christmas for many begins just before Thanksgiving-there are plans to camp out at the store that meets the greatest needs for all on the list,  that also minimize the financial impact on the future. It’s the “joyous” participation of saving money all in the guise of the Christmas spirit. Sure, Mary and Joseph encountered some bumps along the road-no room in the inn and staying in a stable full of animals, but their purpose was to prepare for the child that was to be born…I wonder, what does the stress of shopping prepare us for?
Friends, I challenge you to prayerfully consider this Advent the real “reason for the season”-especially if you haven’t begun or finished your shopping. As it isn’t found in the stress, but in the peace, hope, and joy that comes from a heart that is prepared for the coming of the Lord. It’s in the time that is spent in all the right places at all the right times among those who matter most in your life. It’s not found in the gifts under the tree and whether or not it will be good enough, it’s found in the presence of being present.
May you come to lay down your stress this Advent and open your heart and your mind to the joy of the season…to let God be at work in and through you in all that you say and in all that you do in His name.

Amen and Merry Christmas!

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