Friday, January 02, 2015

Moving from Advent to Christmas

In the lead up to Christmas Alison and I helped produce an Advent series for our church: 'Waiting for the King'. This is taken from something I wrote for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, on  the transition from Advent to Christmas. It's largely built upon some work I did for college in 2014 on the theology and practice of gratitude

How do we move from Advent to Christmas? Advent interrogates the desires of our hearts in light of the coming of Christ; Christmas celebrates his first coming – God with us. If Advent is the preparation, then Christmas is the feast. It’s the celebration of God coming into his world to liberate it from the darkness and brokenness that holds it enthralled, to set us free along with it from death and our own sin.

This aspect of Christmas can easily be lost amidst the stuffed stockings and Christmas ham. But it may surprise you that the solution lies not in stripping these things back from our festivities. The gospel’s solution is to receive these good things with thanksgiving. Every good part of creation – even the toys and the food – is to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4.1-5). It’s gratitude which prevents a mindless consumption at Christmas, and instead allows us to view the presents and the meals as good gifts of our generous father, as an echo of his extravagant generosity towards us in giving us his Son that first Christmas.

So as we move from Advent to Christmas, will you celebrate with gratitude and thankfulness in your heart?

One of the most extraordinary thanksgiving prayers ever written is found in the Anglican prayer book. It’s a prayer which connects our ordinary life with our salvation in Christ Jesus. It’s printed below, and you may like to use this Christmas to give expression to your heart’s delight in all of God’s gifts to us.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give humble and hearty thanks for all your goodness and loving kindness to us and to all men; we bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace; and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us that due sense of all your mercies, that our hearts may be truly thankful and that we may declare your praise not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and forever. Amen.
Photo: Ben Garrett