December 2012

Monthly Archive

Advent Cleansing: Don’t Leave Us Alone

Posted by on 18 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Advent, Robert E. Webber

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 51:11

The fourth Sunday of Advent rapidly approaches which means that Christmas Day is quickly arriving. We must not forget that Advent is a time of repentance: we give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to search our hearts for any attitude that would produce shame upon our Savior’s return. We need a heart change to be ready for Christ’s second coming and an interior cleansing for the celebration of Christ’s first coming. Repentance is the recognition that God is right and that we are wrong. We are wrong because we have broken God’s law, and as a result, our selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others. Repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in our behavior. Advent means character transformation.

Advent is a time when we ask, even plead with God not to leave us alone, for when God leaves us to our own choices and turns us over to our own ways, we are certain to drift from him . . . . If we would break away from a spiritual life growing cold and a Christ who is becoming distant, we must be attentive to our spiritual discipline and long for God to break in on us with new life. When we do this, we experience the true meaning of Advent spirituality.

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 43, 53.

Advent Meaning: The Three Comings

Posted by on 06 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Advent, Robert E. Webber

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The season of Advent celebrates three comings of Christ: one future, one past, and one present.

Advent prepares our hearts for the second coming of Christ as we express gratitude to Christ for his first coming. Our hearts must must be prepared and ready for his return. Advent is a season of repentance for we know that Christ comes again in holiness, power, and judgment.

Advent leads us into deeper repentance: Christ comes now into our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Advent is a season of joy for we are grateful for Christ’s coming in the manger: the incarnation made the way for our salvation. Advent can be summarized as life of repentance leading to a present joy-filled, fresh experience of the risen Christ.

In preparation for the coming church year, we yearn for the transformation of our hearts. Advent waiting is the prayerful longing to see Jesus face-to-face and experience afresh God’s Holy Spirit pouring upon us in love and grace.  Advent waiting is thankfulness for Christ’s first coming while eagerly expecting Christ’s second coming in glorious majesty. Advent waiting cleanses, converts and renews our hearts as we await Christ’s physical appearance in the skies.

In this present world, we endure while calmly trusting the Holy Spirit to be Christ in us in the midst of a fallen and decadent world. In hope, we look forward to seeing our blessed Savior face-to-face.

A summary of Robert Webber’s thoughts on Advent from his book, Ancient-Future Time:

Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

The Messiah’s coming is understood in three different senses: (1) His coming to earth in Bethlehem, (3) His second-coming at the consummation of God’s purposes and (3) His coming in the present moment into my life.

The coming of Messiah to me in this moment is predicated on repentance.

Repentance is not something we can take, but it must be granted us by God.

Isaiah is the prophet of Advent because in his life and prophetic word, he represented the hope of Advent.

John the Baptist and Mary, Jesus mother, reveal Advent spirituality: the former by his single-minded mission and self-giving love, the latter by her willingness to yield her life to God’s will.

Robert Webber, Ancient Future Faith: Forming Spirituality Through the Church Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).

HT: Joel Willitts

 

Advent Expectation: Personal Renewal

Posted by on 03 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Advent, Pope Benedict XVI

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

Mark 1:3

The season of Advent is one of my favorite times in the Christian calendar. Advent is like New Year’s Eve, the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts to seek God afresh for the coming year. Advent is like a revival, the Holy Spirit examines our deepest longings and speaks to our impure motives and attitudes. Advent is like a prophecy film, we are reminded that Christ is coming again and that this life is not as good as it gets. Advent is the Holy Spirit knocking on the doors of our hearts drawing us to Jesus. The expectation of Advent is the anticipation of Christ changing our hearts: minute by minute, day by day, month by month.

Advent is not an miracle out of the blue such as is offered by the preachers of revolution and the heralds of new ways of salvation. God acts in an entirely human ways with us, leading us step by step and waiting for us. The days of Advent are like a quiet knocking at the door of our smothered souls, inviting us to undertake the risk of stepping forward toward God’s mysterious presence, which alone can make us free.

Pope Benedict XVI, Seek That Which Is Above (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986), 22.

Advent Repentance: Burn Everything Away

Posted by on 01 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: Advent, Repentance

 

He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.

Mal. 3:3

Increasingly, the season of Advent is being turned into a pre-Christmas holiday. Overwhelmed by shopping, gift-giving, parties, and meal preparations, the major themes of Advent are being lost. In the flurry of activity, we forget that Advent has three focuses: the Second Coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-17), Jesus’s becoming fully man at his first coming (Titus 2:11), and his coming into our hearts now by the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17).

Scripture teaches that the Second Coming should be a motivator for desiring holiness (1 John 3:2-3). When Jesus appears in the clouds, we whose hearts have been changed by the gospel, will want to be living lives that please him. We desire our attitudes and actions to reflect the grace that has been given us in the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:28). We want to bring joy to his heart as we see him face-to-face (2 Thess. 1:10). Therefore, repentance is a key theme in the season of Advent: deep repentance of heart and mind as we prepare for Christ’s visible return.

Repentance begins as a work of the Holy Spirit; he changes our minds convincing us that our actions are wrong and hurtful. The Holy Spirit’s conviction leads to brokenness over our failure resulting in an admitting of that wrong to the Lord (and to others, if necessary). Our confession opens the door of our hearts to the receiving God’s great forgiveness. The overwhelming, enabling grace of God pours out into our hearts bringing about a change in our behavior.

In short, repentance is a change of mind that by God’s grace leads to change of heart which creates a change in our behavior. Repentance is simple, but not easy: a change of thinking that causes a softening of the heart which alters our conduct. All begins with the recognition that God is right and that we are wrong. We are wrong because we have broken God’s law, Christ’s commands, and /or the Holy Spirit’s leading. As a result, our selfish actions have wounded God’s heart and hurt others. Upon repenting, grace is available for pardon and grace is available for power. Pardon for forgiveness of sin and power to overcome the sin that so easily defeated us. Repentance does not earn God’s forgiveness, his forgiveness is already available through Christ’s finished work on the Cross.

My good friend and fellow parishioner of Lamb of God Church, “Jay” Ferguson, wrote this prayer as a meditation for last year’s Advent season. Jay has now passed and we miss him greatly. Jay’s prayer puts into words the cry of our hearts: “Lord, deal with us. Cleanse us from sin, purify our consciences, renew our spirits. We want to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming as well as being ready to worship and praise the Lord for his first coming.”

Burn Everything Away

Father, in Jesus’ name, burn away every dream, desire, attitude, thought, feeling, word and action that is not a result of Your Spirit reigning in my life.

Burn away everything that is more important to me than my revelation of You and my relationship with You.

Burn away everything that hinders me from loving You with all my heart and loving my neighbors as I love myself.

Burn away everything that hinders me from hearing and obeying Your voice.

Burn away everything I believe about who You are and what You are like that is not the Truth.

Burn away everything in my heart and mind that causes me to desire to harm or destroy those who desire or act to harm or destroy me.

Burn away the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh and the pride in my life.

Burn away everything that causes me to desire to own or possess anything that is not rightfully mine.

Burn away everything that causes me to desire to lie or exaggerate to get what I want or impress or harm others.

Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that I will be deeply intimate with You, filled with your Holy Spirit, free of pride, lust and fear, loving, patient, kind, tender- hearted, forgiving, joyful, thankful, grateful, humble, considerate, healthy, successful, prosperous and very generous.

Dr. James H. Ferguson