By Rev Syd Osenbaugh
The Healing Place (Nashville Assembly of God)
“Runners, to your marks . . . Get set . . . “
Those words indicate something significant to two different groups of people. To those in the stands, the spectators, the words let them know that something exciting is about to happen and their attention should be focused on the track. To those who are actually running the race, the words also indicate the need to be prepared. They are about to embark on an adventure that will challenge them, but also bring great reward.
There are many words, or phrases, in the English language that signal a need for preparation. One of these words is heard in the church world about this time each year. It is the word ‘Advent’. It is one of those words that is commonly used and recognized, but not necessarily thoroughly understood by those who hear it – and sometimes not even truly understood by those saying it. The word itself is not necessarily a church word exclusively. It’s meaning is simply the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. However, in its ecclesiastical use the word refers to the first season of the church year which includes the four Sundays leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
The significance of Advent as a church season differs from denomination to denomination. It can even be celebrated to a greater or lesser degree from fellowship to fellowship within a particular denomination. Some herald it with great fanfare, some see it as a time for special services, others view it as a season for prayer and fasting. However it is observed, the days and weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ birth should be a time of preparation.
The question is, will it be preparation to be a spectator or preparation to be a participant?
Christmas itself is, in many ways, a preparation for the coming of a more notable happening. Yes, the birth of Christ should be celebrated. It was an incredible gift to all of mankind. The birth was just the beginning of the gift, though. Jesus’ real offering to each of us came when He completed the reason for His coming to earth, when He died and rose again to conquer sin and death. As we see the baby in the manger and marvel at the miraculous arrival of the King of Kings we must also look ahead to the sacrifice that He made at the end of His earthly season – the sacrifice that broke down the dividing wall of hostility and made a way for us to become the children of God.
A spectator can sit back and appreciate the reality of what is happening. They might admire the commitment and training of those involved. It is the participants, though, that experience the true excitement of being a part of the event. They are the ones that rise to the challenge, give it their all, and enjoy the reward. As we look to the approach of Christmas, let’s choose to be participants in all that Christ has done for us.
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