This Advent I’ve asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors, representing a variety of faith traditions, to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year’s theme: “Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?”
The next pastor to be featured is Stephen Vicaro, Pastor of the Hillside-O’Malley SDA Church. Stephen comes from a non-Advent celebrating tradition.[img_assist|nid=163916|title=Pastor Stephen Vicaro, Hillside O’Malley SDA Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=403]
Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?
I would have to say a resounding “Yes!” There are at least three great events in Christian history that should be celebrated whole-heartedly by the church: 1) Christ’s First Advent, 2) The Crucifixion, and 3) Christ’s Second Advent (still in the future).
All three of these events represent the giving nature of God. With the first Advent God gave His own Son to the human race, to be One of us, or as the Bible puts it, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). With the Crucifixion, Christ gave Himself as the ultimate Sacrifice on our behalf. He made atonement (or at-one-ment) for our sins, that He might save us from our sins. With the Second Advent, God will give us eternal life in its completed form. Speaking of the redeemed, Revelation 21:3 declares, “God Himself will be with them and be their God.” All of these greatest of events in human history have to do with God giving to each of us the opportunity to be reunited with the Creator God of the universe. That’s a reason to celebrate!
To be clear, there is nothing special about the particular time of year, nor the date December 25. Many Christians know that Jesus was not born in the Winter, but in the Fall. Though there is merit in all of Christendom celebrating in unison the birth of our Lord, it is important to remember that Jesus, the Gift, is the focal point, not the date or the time of year.
Our secular culture celebrates Christmas, not as a recognition of God’s Gift, but of materialism and the “spirit of Christmas.” Our culture has put a magical mystique to December 25 that has more to do with reindeer and elves than with the baby Jesus. I think that this is why God distinctly excluded the exact date from the Scriptures. He didn’t want us to view the birthday as more important than the One born on the day.
For example, in John 11, when Jesus approached Bethany on His way to resurrecting Lazarus, we find this dialogue:
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…”
Martha had misunderstood the Scriptures teaching about the resurrection. She wrongly understood that the resurrection would happen on a certain day, and that was wherein her brother’s hope lie. Jesus had to explain to her that it wasn’t the “day” that would bring about Lazarus’ restoration of life, but it was Jesus, Himself, that would resurrect him.
In the same way, as we commemorate the First Advent, let us remember that it is Christ, Himself, that is to be celebrated.