Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent 2: Exercising During Advent

Exercising During Advent

Advent, another word for arriving soon or breathlessly anticipating, is the time of preparation we Christians spend prior to Christmas.    Advent typically begins on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving (but not always!) and ends on December 25.   

In the busy world we live in, our preparations generally have a lot of busy-ness to them:   presents to buy and wrap, cookies to bake and send, parties to attend or give, bustling here and there usually rather breathlessly.    Christmas usually arrives far too quickly and, before we know it, the “season” is over, and we’re left with a sort of out-of-breath “when did THAT happen?” feeling.   

Some years ago, I heard a good definition of the word advent.   Our pastor wanted us to fix our hearts on the Savior’s pending arrival.   So he showed us what Advent—for a Christian—should LOOK like.    He said something like this: 

“You know how it was when you were a kid, and you were waiting along the parade route, and you couldn’t wait for the fire trucks and the marching bands and the floats and the candy to be tossed?   

Remember the anticipation of those few minutes before the first color guard came around the corner?   You had your head craning out, looking, looking, looking.    You wanted to be the first to see the color guard, to spy the flag.   

You’d venture a little bit further into the street hoping Mom or Dad wouldn’t call you back.    You’d stretch your neck; you’d stand on tip-toes hoping to get a glimpse.”

That’s what Advent is about.   That tippy-toe, stretching-your-neck, leaning-past-the-crowd, and trying-to-look-around-corners feeling.    Too often we get caught up in the busy-ness of the season and we forget what the whole business of the season is really about.    Satan is delighted when we focus on the presents and the tree and the decorations.  

We can re-focus our hearts and thoughts and use the time of Advent in a God-pleasing fashion.    Keeping Christ in Christmas involves more than superficially acknowledging Christ in your cards and letters. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually focusing all our attention on Christ—that is, every aspect of our life.      

An Exercise Program  You Can Follow!

What's a CHRISTian to do?    Start with your Christmas cards:   make sure they are CHRISTian-themed.   Your CHRISTmas letter should reflect a hopeful attitude.   Even the way you sign your card:   send a blessing to your loved ones!      Skip the ones that say "Happy Holidays" in favor of the ones with a Christian message.    Underline the word "CHRIST" in Christmas.  
How about getting rid of all the pop culture decorations in  your home?    Get rid of all your Santa Claus, reindeer and snowman stuff (I put my snowman stuff out in January instead).    Sell it on eBay so you're not tempted to put it up next year either! 

Put up a CHRISTian nativity scene on your front lawn.  How about a star or a cross.    We made a cross out of 2x4's and wrapped it with several strings of mini-lights and screwed it to our front deck---that cross was seen from quite a distance!   

Find a nativity diorama to decorate a table in your home.   I made one out of ceramics years ago that gets center stage in our home.  We have several other small ones picked up from second-hand shops that sit on side-tables or counters.    Remind children that these are only an artist's idea of what the real people may have looked like.  

Read your Bible (see passages below for prophecies about Christ).   The CHRISTmas narratives can be found in the New Testament books of Matthew (chapters 1 and 2) and in Luke (chapters 1 and 2).

Collect Christmas carols on CD and cassettes.    Skip the secular "Jingle Bells" and "Jolly Ol' Saint Nick" in favor of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and the very beautiful "Silent Night."    Take the time to learn the background of carols and hymns.

"Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing...."

Have you been stretching your neck?  Looking to the sky each day of the year (not just the 24 days of December prior to the 25th!)?   Are you standing on tippy-toes, peering through the crowd, anxious to see the Coming Savior?

Do you ask yourself when you wake up each morning, “Will He come back today?”   Do you ask your friends, “Is today the day?”

Here are some Bible passages from the Old Testament, prophecies about the coming Savior--which Jesus fulfilled when He was born in Bethlehem.    Stand on tippy-toes and stretch your neck!

Genesis 3, verse 14-16
2 Samuel 7, verse 16
Psalm 34, verses 1-3
Psalm 89, verses 3 & 4
Isaiah 7, verses 1 - 17 (focus on verse 14)
Isaiah 9, verses 6 & 7
Daniel 2, verse 44
Daniel 7, verses 13 - 14
Micah 5, verse 2 and 5

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12, NIV

So, please, exercise during Advent:   stretch your neck, stand on tippy toes, reach into the crowd!    The King is coming!    

Today may be the day! 

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