Have you ever heard of the axiom, “I am a Christian but I don’t go to church.” In many ways, this has replaced the Apostles Creed as the most fundamental creed for many individuals who classify themselves as Christians today. What are you supposed to say to that? People typically expect you to simply smile and nod because the air of American Christianity has become obsessed with the soma of personal acceptance and tolerance regardless of the position. But are positions equally tenable?
Have you yet encountered a Cinco de Mayo Bush decorated on the neighbor’s lawn? That’s nonsense. We are properly entering into the season of Advent. Our church takes advantage of this time of year by focusing on two crucial facets of Scripture. Firstly, we look forward to celebrating the historical moment when the Eternal Son of God “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, [and] was born of the Virgin Mary” (Apostle Creed, Art. 3). The historic Church has called this the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. This season will find an unexpected number of evangelicals who likely wouldn’t bolster a statue of Jesus for any other moment in His life as the Messiah, setting up mini-replicas, as anachronistic as they may appear (I’m looking at you Wise-men!) and preparing for the Coming of the King.
The second facet of Advent, that is often subsumed under the auspices of nostalgia draped in a Charlie Brown Christmas spectacular, is the reality of the Second Coming of Christ. No one really has an issue with talking about the birth of Christ, generally speaking. But any conversations surrounding the Second Coming are hushed under the banners of a generic Holiday cheer.
What are we as Biblical Christians to make of it? Rather than simply using this time to bolster our Amazon wish-lists or circle every object in the circulars that may arrive by mail – we have been called to consider our own hearts. You see it is not enough that we prepare room for Christ on our shelves, where we keep our pocket-sized Jesus. Nor is it enough to drape our homes with lights, or barrage our neighbors and family with cards here and there. The real focus is on preparing our hearts more than our mantles.
Our church has a wonderful tradition of ending our Candlelight Christmas Eve service with the singing of Isaac Watt’s classic hymn, “Joy to the World!” And in that hymn, we are reminded of the union of the First Advent (Christ’s Incarnation) and the Second Advent (Christ’s Second Coming in judgment against the non-believing world and to the victory of His beloved Church). We need only look to the first verse, “Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room”
Jesus’s coming into the world is not a bare historical fact; as if such a thing exists. Jesus’s coming into the world and suffering in our place, was the only possible means of reconciling a lost and sinful world drunk on narcissism, vague cheer, and empty traditions by bringing them into His family. If you are Christian today, you are part of the family of God. By Christ’s substitutionary death made yours by faith in Him, God has transferred you from the court room of God’s justice to the living room by God’s mercy under His eternal declaration of “Not Guilty”. You’ve been made family.
You don’t hide from family that you love. You don’t make plans to keep them at bay. You don’t ignore their phone calls or get-togethers. Family is supposed to be a source of strength, hope, and encouragement to you. And because that is the case you go out of the way to be with them, because life-together is life-giving. That’s what Church is all about. To be a Christian who doesn’t go to church is like claiming to be a corded lamp that works really well when its left in the woods without power. Like that lamp, you need to be connected. In other words, you aren’t designed to do this alone, and you are in fact hindered if you stay isolated. I pray that this advent season, O Christian, will bolster your love for Christ and His Family, and that you will join in singing of the “wonders of His love.” I pray that you will see your place in and among the family of God.