By Rev. Jared Stillions
Advent shifts our focus from the world’s “me-first I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now” attitude. Whether we want to admit it or not, that is the primary message our culture teaches us in the weeks leading up Christmas. Advent guards us against such self-serving attitudes by focusing us, not on getting presents (or getting others to like us by giving them presents), eating too much, and spending next month’s “rent check,” but on the coming judgment day. No wonder we try so hard to ignore somber and serious Advent in favor of ever-earlier, frivolous, and greedy retail Christmas.
Why would we want to focus on such a “downer” like Advent when retail Christmas provides such an escape from the low points and drudgery of life? Two primary reasons come to mind. First, judgment day brings its own hope. On that last day when Jesus returns to “judge the living and the dead,” he will also give his final sentence to our ancient enemies, the unholy trio, sin, death, and the devil. Though they were already defeated on the cross, they will finally and for eternity be banished from God’s creation. Jesus will remove and expel them from our lives. We’re so used to their presence and influence in our lives we dread their elimination. Can you even imagine what it would be like to have all sin and failure, all death and sickness, and all of the devil’s power and evil 100% out of your life?
Second, it is in the low points of life that we find Jesus. Remember, the King of Kings was not born in a palace with a “silver spoon in his mouth,” lying on satin sheets with a golden crown. He is the son of a teen mom, shunned by the world, lying on the hay in a wooden feed trough. He will travel from here to the wood of cross for the sake of all of us humans, weakened and wobbly from sin, death, and the devil. Here in the depths, God comes down from heaven to save us. In weakness, not false joy, forced revelry, and over-extended credit cards, Jesus becomes our strength. He will hold on to us even when we are too weak to hold on to him.
Be of good cheer this Advent and Christmas: Jesus brings a joy that surpasses all of the world’s thrills and escapes. He brings the best gifts of all: himself and his everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness!