It’s December, and we’re already looking forward to next year with eager anticipation, believing that God has given us vision for 2020 and beyond.
A new year is always an opportunity to review, evaluate and press on. Having said that, I have to admit that old teaching habits die hard and I tend to think and plan in ‘academic’ years (September to August). Others find that the financial year (April to March) dictates their work.
Actually, the church’s year doesn’t begin on 1st January, 1st September or the first week in April, but on the first Sunday of Advent, looking forward to Jesus’ coming. History doesn’t tell us what time of year Jesus was born (it is highly unlikely that it was December) but Roman Christians in the 4th century began to celebrate the Messiah’s birth around the winter solstice (the shortest day). Taking hold of a pagan festival in honour of a Roman god Mithras or Sol Invicata meaning “unconquerable sun” on 25th December, these Christians shifted the focus from a mythological god to the true deity, the unconquerable Son of God, Jesus the Light of the world.
Traditionally during Advent the church remembers how the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of a King, (the Messiah) and the New Testament writers looked forward to the second coming (second Advent) of this very same Lord and King at the conclusion of history. This is why Advent is primarily a time of preparation and waiting on God. The New Testament writers, and Jesus himself, foretold his second coming. We are not given a date, but as surely as He came to earth over 2000 years ago we can be certain that Jesus will return.
The Biblical challenge with regard to Christ’s second coming is to “be ready” and Advent invites us to make sure that we are. There is so much to do and so much to prepare in the build up to Christmas, but the most important preparation of all is for Jesus. The Advent question is not are we prepared for Christmas, but are we prepared for Christ?
Thank you all for your friendship and partnership over the last twelve months. Here’s to the future!