Faith Column: The gifts of Christmas
Advent is a spiritual journey that Christians take through the truths of scripture pointing to the birth of the Messiah. It is a reaffirmation that he has come, is present in the world today and will come again in glory. It mirrors the journey of faith that Christians make after that moment of realization and acceptance of who Jesus is. We take that first step of faith in commitment, continuing hopefully to walk the road of faith with increasing understanding, looking forward to our destination, which is to be in his presence forever!
While we are not a liturgical church per se, we typically follow an advent format during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas evening. The traditional themes of advent are: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Christmas Eve homilies tend to focus on Jesus as the culmination of the expectation in the advent celebration.
This year we are focusing on four different themes found in the Christmas story — expectation, grace, adoption and reconciliation. While these themes are not found in the traditional advent liturgy they are cornerstones to the Christian faith. We are calling these themes “The Gifts of Christmas.”
Expectation. I really hadn’t considered expectation a gift until I began preparing for our advent sermon series, but the more I think about it, expectation is a wonderful gift providing hope, peace, love and joy. Two of the greatest life events celebrated includes weddings and the birth of a baby. Both of these life events usually have an aspect of expectation surrounding them. Observing advent and the anticipation of the birth of Christ, connects us to the reality of the long awaited coming of the Messiah experienced centuries ago. For us, today, it can help us to connect to the anticipation of the second advent of Christ yet to come, the glorious appearing of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) The Apostle Paul reminds us that salvation is a free gift from God, received (opened) by faith — this is the Christmas story.
Adoption. “He (Jesus) came to his own, and those who were gis own did not receive gim. But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)
The beloved disciple, John, tells us that the key to eternal life is to be born again. Paul will later liken this experience to being adopted into the family of God — having all the rights and privileges of the first born natural son of God, Jesus. Christmas is receiving Jesus — for unto us a son is given, a savior is born.
Reconciliation. The story, found in Christmas, is that God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ — Emmanuel, God with us. The baby Jesus became a man and lived a sinless life, died a horrible death and rose from the dead giving victory over sin, hell and death — he reconciled us to the Father. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5: 18,19)
In all of the getting and giving going on this time of year, I pray that you receive the best gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ.
Leonard Browning is the pastor at The Journey in Craig.