Published Dec 2, 2009
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What is Advent, Really?
Waiting is not something most of us desire. We are able to warm up meals in seconds through the technology of microwave ovens. We communicate globally through the Internet. We have cell phones for instant communication through voice and text messaging and many other sophisticated devices to keep us plugged in and up to date every second. But Advent Season is a time of waiting—of looking forward with anticipation. You might ask, to what?
Advent begins this year on November 28, 2009, and will conclude on Christmas Eve, with the Christmas Season beginning on Christmas Day. The significance of Advent is that it is a time of waiting. Waiting for the celebration of God coming to earth being Incarnate in the baby Jesus—God made flesh to dwell among man. And it is also a time of waiting upon the promise of Jesus coming again at the end of the age to receive His own.
In our culture of instant gratification, it is difficult to wait. But oftentimes God calls us to wait. In the Old Testament, Abraham was called to wait for God’s direction and His promise of a son, which was fulfilled when he was 100 years old. The Bible is filled with stories of people of faith having to wait upon God, because He had their best interests at heart. Jesus, being the fulfillment of our salvation, though in the mystery of Him being God in man, had to wait for His time to come.
Learning how to wait upon God develops two character traits in our lives: 1) Trust and 2) Hope. These two elements renew our strength. “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
For me, sometimes waiting evokes fear and anxiety, but God says, “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed [unnerved]; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold [support] you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Does that grab you? God does not want us to be fearful to the point of literally being unnerved. He wants us to be absolutely confident as we trust Him that He will strengthen us, help us, and support us with His right hand. There is no place we can be more secure than in the palm of God’s hand.
You might ask how we get there? I think first by recognizing fear does not come from God. We have an enemy. St. Peter reminds us to be vigilant because, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And we know fear does not come from God because He says in II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Sink your faith deep into the truth that when you feel the spirit of fear, it is not coming from God, because He only gives us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. For those struggling with depression or addiction, who think they are losing their minds, recognize it is a lie straight from the devil, because God gives us sound minds.
God reminds us to be “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and [earnestly and humbly], with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Jesus came to bring that peace of God, which surpasses all understanding to guard our hearts and minds.
This Advent Season I would encourage you to make space for Jesus to come into your heart and bring you peace. He says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
I challenge you to contemplate how God would have you wait upon Him during the days of Advent and allow Him to prepare your hearts for the celebration of His coming, toward a day when He will come again to usher each of us into His eternal Presence.
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What do you value in life? Everyone has a value system and it can be most easily determined by what you spend your time doing. The bible says that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." We may say we value family, faith and serving others, but our actual behaviors may reveal that we value self, stuff or fame. To live a life of purity will require that God's view of sexuality be embraced as a top priority value. Take some time to assess your values and see if there may need to be an adjustment made so that you can close the gap between what you say you value and where your heart actually resides.