What’s the big deal about Advent?

Advent time! Seems it comes every year, oh Goodie! Light the candles, get out a funny colored candle wreath and put out some candy…yada yahdah yadda. What’s the big deal about Advent? advent and shopping pic

We’re parents, practical and realistic. Advent really just means more work for us. Kids have to wear their “nicest” clothes, and we HAVE TO get out of bed for four weeks in a row to make the Sunday morning church services that comprise Advent.  Extra shopping, extra cleaning, ironing and less private time for you. Advent season really can be such a huge bother.

True.

On the other hand, it’s an enduring tradition that actually goes back as far as Christmas itself, in fact further. It seems that prophets and holy ones as far back as Ruth,Micah and Isaiah all described the coming of a “Christ” or a savior for mankind, the “Messiah”.

saviorsite.com

saviorsite.com

Their prophetic words, written in ancient text’s thousands of years before the actual birth of the one we call Jesus, shows the historic scope and awe around Advent. For thousands of years, millions of people were anxiously awaiting His coming…hopeful for true change.

Not so much today.

We get used to the marketing pageantry and “over-the-top” Christmas services and LED light displays. Advent is well… a bit stale these days…overshadowed by the things we do instead of the reason we do them for.

Advent is as big and meaningful as you want it to be. If life is pretty safe for us right now…well Advent may get kinda pushed back a bit. If life is scaring the bejeepers out of us, Advent might be growing in its importance. How much do we think we need to be visited by the Messiah, that is the Advent question.

Advent really can renew our Hopes if we let it.

Hope that things in our lives can change. And maybe… the promises of Jesus can really come true for us. The promise to forgive us of our failures and to revive our almost dead-end-lives. To give us a future with purpose and a safe path to walk in.  

What’s Advent going to mean to you this year?

Is it as simple as taking one more chance to reconcile with your estranged and hormonally imbalanced teenager or lighting up that cooling passion you once used to call your marriage?  Is it risking the effort to reconnect with someone who really offended us and has maybe been forced out of our lives prematurely?

Advent - Hope

Advent – Hope

How about actually talking with that super annoying person at Church? Maybe taking the extra moment to wave back as you pass by your nosy neighbor. What about forgiving the judgmental-snobby and oh so hypocritical click of popular moms who always seem to see you at your worst and whisper behind your back?

Advent means…Jesus kept his promise. He came. Advent reminds us that not only did He come once, but He promises to keep coming back for each of us. He promises to keep forgiving, to keep loving and to keep saving us from ourselves…

What if we risked more this Christmas. Stretching out just a bit beyond our comfort zone to find ways to touch those who really do need to receive our forgiveness.

To take the risk of loving those who are “unlovely” in our lives and allowing people we hardly know to inconvenience us with their needs. That’s pretty simple and practical stuff,  and its a whole lot more meaningful than a maxed out Kohl’s charge card and a month of daily migraines.

Advent is here, let’s think about how we can celebrate it brand new, this year.

Merry Christmas!!!

Pastor Brad.

Rob Bell…heretic or hero ?

Rob Bell, the charismatic founder of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Known as an innovative speaker, pastor, teacher, lecturer and author. Deemed by some to be a hero, and to others a heretic. Pastor Bell’s book, “Love Wins” is in the middle of all out debate online, in print, on tv and among Christian theologians on the nature of Hell…he is as controversial as radioactive baby food. Is he a Heretic ? Or is he a Hero?

The Question I believe is actually deeper than that… instead of focusing on the media fire storm around the book, what about the actual discussion on the ideas in the book? For me, one detail has emerged far and above the rest, and that does not involve a discussion on Hell, but what about our understanding of “Heaven”?

Is it possible that we have been over-simplifying and under-emphasising the Hope of the gospel ?

After reading the book… (which to discuss intelligently is a MUST) I believe you will find yourself agreeing with and dis-agreeing with Mr. Bell on several issues. His avoidance of the significant issue of what Judgement is, or could be or will be for souls after death is notable in the book. So for now, the confidence to label the man a HERETIC is off the table for me.

As far as calling him a HERO… I’m not willing to go that far…yet. Jury is still out. For now, I’ll say no. (See Francis Chan’s Video Commentary on this… His comments are precisely what I felt but couldn’t articulate after reading Rob’s book… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnrJVTSYLr8 )

But what about Heaven ?

That is the most fascinating question, the critical “take away” reminder that Rob Bell brings to us from his book. As Christians in a culture of media and marketing and canned infomercial styled faith, we may be guilty of missing the point.  What if the gospel wasn’t just a “get out of jail” card for our soul after death, but a solution for life, practical and available in the “here and now” ? What if Eternal life, was describing what life was meant to be like, and is now possible for those who embrace Jesus as the savior he claimed to be?

What if the whole perspective on our lives was meant to be lived with the reality that everything old was made new, and that everything broken was to be made whole and that every loss redeemed? That the power of the cross was sufficient to re-birth our lives as they were meant to be lived. A fresh start, a radical transformation. Then, the punishment for those who reject that gospel of new life would have to be… old life. Dying… Hopelessness, brokeness, despair… Hell.

That’s fascinating, even likely. But not the point.

Does our understanding of the bible and Jesus then rule out the existence of Hell ? I do not belive so. Rob seems to imply he might go there… ?Not my concern, its debatable, unknowable and brilliant faithful Christian minds for over a thousand years have raised the same question with similar results.

In the end, for me its to some degree irrelevant, my concern is living my life now. I believe that Rob is right in this portion of his reasoning… God has provided us all with the option to “Choose” to live from a “New” source of life that is available only in a re-united relationship with God (Jesus). To choose not to do that is our freedom… and our responsibility. To reject that life leads to Hell.

To accept that leads to salvation… Such a “New” saved life should explode with vibrant and relentless love, hope and peace. That life would influence everyone around it, and that witness would provide to the poor, the dying and the oppressed of the tangible evidence that there is a savior. It would reek of Jesus and it would be impossible to deny that a life in Christ was literally like living as though we were in heaven now.

What I see instead for most of us professing Christians… is something closer to simple survival.

Rob Bell in his controversy, I believe is providing us all with a very powerful platform for further study… forget the issue of whether Hell is a literal or figurative concept. What about “Heaven”? Have you actually considered that the life Jesus promised for us all, is more than a harp and some blue sky… it might be right in front of you now, waiting for you to discover, today ?

In the end, you need to read the book and you need to read it with an open bible. Search the scriptures, find out if what you think you believe is what it really says. You might be surprised at what you find… I was.

Bit of departure from our usual parenting fare today, but I thought it was worth the time, and curious as to your own observations on this controversial subject.

Peace out,

brad.