Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Advent Preparation from Breakpoint

Advent Preparation
Embracing the Story behind Christmas

By: John Stonestreet

The holiday season can seem every bit as chaotic, random and thrown together as the playlists of those obnoxious 24/7 Christmas music stations. Going from Black Friday to church pageants to being frisked by the TSA as we travel to sometimes awkward family gatherings strangely resembles going from the materialism of “Santa Baby,” to the light spirituality of “The Little Drummer Boy,” to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” concluding with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
And we end up feeling like Charlie Brown screaming at Linus, “Can’t anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”
So what do we do?  Well, one important thing is to remember what Eric Metaxas reminded us of a week ago: that it’s not really Christmas season—it’s Advent season, a time set aside by the church to help believers prepare to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.
And it’s not just in remembrance of His incarnation, coming to Bethlehem as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, but also in anticipation of His return as the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” who will “send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26-27).
Over the past few years, walking through this season of Advent in prayer, scripture and devotional readings has been a huge blessing to my family, my church, and to me personally.
Another thing that has really helped me is studying just how big this Christmas story is. Behind all the gifts, the carols, nativity scenes, and dinner parties is a narrative that spans from the creation of the heavens and earth to the re-creation of the heavens and earth.
Here’s what I mean: All those characters we remember in the Christmas story—Mary, the Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels, Joseph, Zachariah, Elizabeth, Simeon—they all have something in common. They identified what was happening to them as being firmly rooted in the promises of God—promises to His people detailed in the Old Testament. Thinking like they did—that behind all of the noise and chaos of this time of year is a story being unfolded—has changed almost everything about how I approach Advent and Christmas.
One resource I go back to over and over again to remind myself of this is Michael Card’s incredible CD “The Promise.” Rather than just picking eight to ten Christmas carols he liked and re-singing them, Michael’s CD beautifully takes us in song on the journey from the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus through the specifics of the details in the nativity, to the establishment of Jesus on the throne of David as the ruler of all things.
It’s absolutely stunning, and Michael joined me on “BreakPoint This Week” last weekend to walk through these songs and therefore the big story of Christ’s coming from the Old Testament to the New. In between Michael’s narration are key segments of many of the songs. It’s something you’ll want to listen to—go to BreakPoint.org and click on the “This Week” tab.
And I’ve partnered with T. M. Moore to prepare a special Advent study for you and your family called “He Has Come.” The study consists of a teaching DVD, devotional studies on Advent, and a CD of many sacred carols which reflect the worldview truths established by the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
We have both the Michael Card CD and our “He Has Come” Advent study for you at the BreakPoint book store online. If you’d like both for yourself or your family or friends, we’re offering them together in a special Christmas bundle at BreakPoint.org.
And this Advent, let’s look beyond all the glitzy schmaltziness of our culture’s celebration of the holidays, and see the grand story behind Christmas, and prepare ourselves to celebrate the bedrock truth of our faith and the reason for our hope: Christ has come, and He shall come again...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Remembering Christ's Birth During Advent

Thanksgiving 2012 is now history. Most of us are probably having ham or turkey sandwiches today along with the usual leftovers. Some may even complain about leftovers while much of the world is still hungry. Christmas decorations have been hanging in the Big*Box stores since Halloween, their second biggest retail season only to Christmas, due largely to our culture's fascination with the occult and the vampire craziness of late in television and motion pictures. Black Friday is now being pushed to Thursday, even sooner on some internet shopping sites. Jesus and His birth are almost forgotten by much of our quasi-religious and atheistic culture.

A good way for the individual and the church to remember the signifigence of this Christmas Season is the observance of the four Sundays of Advent. Unfortunately there are no published sermons on Wesley’s preaching during the Advent season or even addressing the Christmas message.  However, his perpetuation of the traditional Anglican celebration of Christmas is evidenced in his instructions to the North American Methodists.  Our Catholic and most of our mainline churches already observe Advent. Sadly, many of our Wesleyan and sister churches do not. At best, some will celebrate with minimally with a service after Thanksgiving such as"Hanging of the Greens." This is great, but why stop here. Here is the 2012 Calendar:

Advent Dates for 2012
• December 2 - First Sunday of Advent 
• December 9 - Second Sunday of Advent 
• December 16 - Third Sunday of Advent 
• December 23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last, or fourth Sunday of Advent.

In Eastern Orthodox churches which use the Julian calendar, Advent begins earlier, on November 15, and lasts 40 days, rather than 4 weeks.

Why not light a candle and read the complimentary Scriptures leading up to Christmas? This only takes a few minutes during the morning worship service and helps us to focus on what happened two thousand years ago. Its also great to hear Scripture in our Bible starved society. of today. That's what I think anyway...what are your thoughts? keith 1 Cor 13

Keith Kiper is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church. He currently serves as Media Pastor at Boonville Wesleyan Church. He is married to the former Vicky Brown. The Kiper's have  a grown daughter Kristen in college, a Maltipoo named Opie, a Cockerpoo named Jackson and two cats. Keith manages several facebook pages, blogs, and websites.