This afternoon’s post is by James Prescott. James lives in Sutton, near London in the UK. He is part of Vineyard Church Sutton, a community trying to explore what church looks like in a post-modern context. His interests include writing, reading, films, politics, sport & anything made by Apple. He’s currently working on a book on the Sabbath & God’s rhythms for our lives, and his writing can be found
Advent: Know the reality, know Jesus more deeply
So Advent is here already. Time always seems to pass so quickly, it almost seems too soon for it. But yet again we have come round to the Advent season, a preparation for Christmas.
In the secular consumer world we live in, this means several things. It means shopping, turkey, trees, decorations, wrapping paper, presents, cards, time with family, holidays, parties, drinking and getting off work. All to celebrate……
What’s the reason for all this celebrating? I mean look again at those things people do and many of us participate in. It could near enough be any party for any celebration, pretty much. None of those things mark out this time of year as different, and those things that we only have at Advent/Christmas, like trees and turkey, are more traditions than any reason to celebrate.
I mean, if that’s all it’s about why not just call it ‘Winter Festival’? You might as well do. You see there’s a reason for all these celebrations. Advent and Christmas, and their true message, do give us a reason to celebrate. I believe the more we understand the true nature of the story and understand what it really means for God to be with us at Christmas, the more genuine reason we have to celebrate. The more we understand what this really meant at the time, and means now, the easier it becomes to draw close to Jesus, and to know Him in a much deeper way – and as we do that, we have a real reason to celebrate.
Advent and Christmas is all about the coming of God, God making Himself present amongst us and taking human form, becoming incarnate. It’s the act of God being willing to come to us to save us. But even that idea can become romanticized.
We have built up this idea of the Christmas story which kind of waters it down. Donkeys, cattle, stable, all warm and fuzzy. Fine, there might be some reality on some level in those stories.
But dig a little deeper, and you understand more.
The story of the birth of Jesus is a story of an unmarried – though engaged – teenage girl who was pregnant, scandalous at the time in any context. It’s the story of a man who accepted her hand in marriage despite the scandal it would cause and damage it would do to his whole family’s reputation and potentially income for a long time to come. And the story of a baby born either in a cave or in a dingy dark room hidden away, with animals for company, and laid in a food trough.
Not exactly the romantic story of Christmas we hear all the time.
But it’s this that brings Jesus closer to us all – and makes Christmas worth celebrating.
This story tells us that Jesus is not about just blessing those who get it right all the time. He’s not just about those who are favoured in the world’s eyes. He’s about the poor, the marginalised, the oppressed – serving, blessing, giving, loving and accepting all people for who they are, where they are, how they are. Through the story of His coming He connects with us in this. He is empathising with the reality that life isn’t easy, that following God isn’t easy and involves tough choices, and that far from being alone in those tough choices, He is right there with us, close to us, near to us.
By laying our lives down, by surrendering to God and putting Him first – as Mary & Joseph did – we can open ourselves up to see more of God this Advent/Christmas season.
Through recognising that through the story of His birth Jesus can relate to us in our tough choices, in the struggles, in the times we feel alone and rejected by the world, we draw closer to God as we celebrate the time He came to us and immersed Himself totally in our human experience, and chose to experience life at it’s most raw and difficult.
We can truly have a reason to celebrate the coming of a Christ who even in His birth is showing that He is one with us, can empathise with us no matter what our circumstance, and never abandons us.