The 4 Blessings of the Advent Season
No one likes to wait. We are basically selfish people. I believe that the original sin and the sin we all share in is being selfish. Being selfish is doing what we want instead of what God tells us to do. How we live and make choices while we wait on God’s instruction and guidance tells a lot about our character.
Advent is a Latin word for “anticipation” and many churches and Christians are observing this four-week worship experience as part of celebrating Christmas. Anticipation is putting the most positive spin on waiting. If you can focus on something positive, then waiting is not only possible but even enjoyable.
The four weeks of Advent are focused on a different aspect of Jesus’s birth and blessings of faith: hope, peace, joy, and love.
The Blessing of Hope
Advent starts with hope because it is the key to a lasting, strong faith in God. In this time of the pandemic, we are all hopeful for the end of the pandemic. Hope is believing in God’s promises and good days are ahead. Hope is depending on God’s faithfulness and anticipating His blessings.
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The Jewish people knew about hope. Abraham and Sarah hoped for a child and Isaac was born in their old age. Enslaved for years by Egyptians, the Jews hoped for a deliverer and God sent Moses. Frustrated by unfaithful kings and world rulers, the Jews hoped for a Messiah and Jesus came riding on a donkey into Jerusalem. With God, hope comes in unexpected and powerful ways.
Jesus coming to the earth as a baby to the little village of Bethlehem was unexpected. Jesus choosing a tax collector and fishermen to be his disciples was unexpected. Hope teaches us to focus on God’s unexpected blessings. Like the psalmist teaches us in Isaiah 40:28-31:
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Jesus is the hope of the world. If you keep hoping in God, you will renew your strength. If you keep hoping, you will trust in God more than yourself or anything else in this world. If you keep hoping, you will be more filled with the Spirit of God.
The Blessing of Peace
Peace is the calm assurance that God is greater than any problem we face. When I am experiencing the most distress, I remember and read Philippians 4:4-8 as the Apostle Paul teaches:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
See how hope (focusing on God’s presence and power) and praying to God leads to a deep sense of peace that is a tremendous blessing to Christians and a great mystery to others.
The Blessing of Joy
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul writes about the joy that is dependent on God and not on circumstances. The Christmas story is full of joy with Mary, the shepherds, and the angels celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Joy is more than a party or temporary happiness. Joy is about having a heavenly perspective on earthly troubles. Joy is the tremendous blessing of being connected with God and his plans through a relationship based on His incredible unconditional love.
The Blessing of Love
One of my favorite choir songs during Christmas is “Love Came Down at Christmas.” Christina Georgina Rossetti, a poet from England in the 19th century, wrote the lyrics. Christina did not have an easy life. Her father, a college professor, suffered many health problems and fell into a deep depression. Along with her mother and brother, Christina had to work and support the family. In spite of difficult times, Christina kept her faith and focused on the love of God as we read in her poem.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
We all want the love of God. Christina’s poem reminds us that love is a feeling and an action, a noun, and a verb, and a gift to be shared. Others should anticipate love from us because of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Growing up, my family had the tradition of waiting until Christmas morning to place and unwrap all gifts under the tree. It was exciting to open the gifts, but it was over very quickly. I like my wife’s tradition of putting wrapped gifts under the tree a week or so before Christmas. I enjoy seeing the wrapped gifts and wondering with joyful anticipation what it could be. The gifts under the tree are daily reminders that I am remembered and loved.
We do not know what will happen with the pandemic or in 2021. Remember to keep on hoping in God. Pray for peace. Live with Joy. Share your love with others. Merry Christmas!
Paul Arnold is a husband, father, grandfather, and currently serves as a chaplain to a senior living facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He hosts several podcasts – Man to Man (career advice for men) and Pardon the Confusion (Sports) that are found on iTunes and www.redcircle.com