November 29, 2015: What’s On Your Holy Day Menu?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we begin our preparations to celebrate Your birth, move each of us to make time for soul searching, for contemplating the importance of Divine truth in our lives, and for those quiet moments of prayer. Cause each of us to step back this advent season and look at the grand scope of life instead of getting caught up in the minutia of it. And then, with souls well-fed we’ll all be ready to embrace You with joy and singularity of purpose. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE COMING CHRISTMAS KING!

TEXT: Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Waiting on the Christ-Child:

The turkey has been consumed. The mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are all eaten. You’re full. And I’ll bet most of you don’t want to even think about another big meal. Instead, you’re focusing on Christmas and everything connected with your personal celebration of that glorious day. Some of you shopped this weekend. Some of you went out and got your tree. Others began the laborious task of writing Christmas cards. Each of you is well aware that the coming days will be hectic and filled with busyness. I’ll even bet a few of you wish it were already done because you’re already worn out by it. Amid a world that seems to be already tooling along at warp speed, the holiday season isn’t the respite and break it once was. No, it has become just another thing to “get through” and survive.

And yet, into all this stress has come Advent. This over-looked season can be your spiritual health break and stress reliever—if you let it. Advent can be your opportunity to recapture the innocent joy leading up to the holiday, the holy day, of Christmas. Celebrating Advent is a sure-fire cure from letting the Grinch of hectic stress steal the richness of Christ’s birthday from you. And so, as we begin to get ready for it all, I have this question for each of you:

WHAT’S ON YOUR HOLY DAY MENU?

I

Remember when you were a child? Remember when just the mention of Christmas filled you with awe and wonder? For me, it meant seeing long-lost relatives, eating special foods, making rosettes with my mother, decorating the tree, receiving presents, having a break from school, being deliciously bored afterwards, and having the excitement of the Children’s Program on Christmas Eve followed by a party at home! I was eager for Christmas. I anticipated the days leading up to it. It made my heart glad.

Is it still that way for you as an adult? I’ll bet your emotional tone has changed a bit, hasn’t it? I see it in your faces each Sunday leading up to December 25th. You become tired, draggy, stressed and worn-out by preparing the external trappings of that holy day. Yes, for many people the days leading up to December 25th are nothing more than stolen joy. So, what’s the antidote to a fulfilling month instead of one you’d like to forget? The antidote is Advent. It is putting Advent on your holy day menu.

II

Modern Americans seem to think that externals make or break any holiday celebration. We’re told to “make that list” and check it twice. Tree? Check. Cards? Check. Food? Check. Presents? Check. And then you’ve got to sandwich in work, errands, cleaning, phone calls and all the rest of living. No wonder you’re tired and played out when everything comes crashing to a halt on December 26th! Today, I implore each of you to step back and put yourself in a “time out.” That “time out” being a meaningful embracing of Advent.

Unless you eat food, your body will get run down and eventually you’ll get sick and collapse. Mental health dictates a similar menu of sleep and relaxation when it comes to your brain and nervous system. But what about your soul? What about that spiritual side of your being? If it’s not finely tuned, fed, and lubricated you’ll crash and burn inside. You’ll feel bankrupt inside.

Advent is an ageless prescription and an ageless cure to this problem. It begins with stepping back and making time for introspection. We call that repentance. It is being totally honest with yourself about what you want out of life—your hopes, dreams, and yes your short-comings, too. It continues with making time to ponder ageless truths from God’s Word about life, death, and everything that comes in between. Use your “Portals of Prayer” for this. Have a devotional time. Make time for prayer on a regular basis. Also, you need to step back from hecticity by going to church and feeding your soul each Sunday morning. For worship sets the tenor and the tone for each week.

Over the centuries, some people have taken to lighting candles each night during Lent. The Advent wreath is an outgrowth of this custom. There’s something quite mesmerizing about a flickering flame. The more you look at it, the more your breathing becomes less rapid, your blood pressure drops, and stress begins to fade away. For us as Christians, such candlelight is a daily reminder that the Light of the World is coming very soon. It’s a reminder that we need to get ready for Him by stepping outside our skin and retreating into His peaceful embrace. Faith over His total forgiveness of our sins and His total love—given without any expectations of any return by us—such faith creates a quiet space within and begins to fill each day with upcoming joy.

III

Jeremiah the prophet lived about 2600 years ago. God’s people faced untold stresses then, just like you and I do today. In fact, their stresses were even worse! Many were in slavery, captivity in Babylon, far from “home” and far from peace and safety. And yet, God watched over them. He even inaugurated what can be termed the first Advent season for them. For through Jeremiah, God gave them and us a most glorious promise of better times, glorious times. And that spiritual food is what gave them the will to survive and even flourish! “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah (that is to all God’s faithful, to the Christian Church). ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem (the city of God’s people, the Church) will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord our Righteousness.”

Those words are a direct promise from the lips of God. In them, He promises us His Son, Jesus, our Savior. He promises us the Prince of peace, the Lord our Righteousness. On December 25th we will once more celebrate the fulfillment of that promise. And your celebration of that holy day will be filled with meaning and joy only if you continue to hold onto that promise each day until then. Advent is about equipping you to hold onto it and never letting go.

So, on this 1st Sunday of Advent I again ask you this question: What’s On Your Holy Day Menu? Make it Christ alone and you truly will recapture the joy of Christmas. Amen