Earlier this week, I began reading an advent season devotional with my family each evening. Advent is the Christian season of waiting, anticipation, and eager expectation of the coming of Christ.
The season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. In our fast-paced modern world, Advent is often forgotten due to the ever-increasing emphasis on Christmas Day. Now I'm not suggesting that Christmas Day is any less important than it has ever been. After all, Christmas Day is the day that we celebrate one of the most significant events in human history, namely, that God incarnate was born, and his name is Jesus.
Now I realize that, traditionally, the Christmas season has begun the day after Thanksgiving with the infamous Black Friday shopping day. But historically, this is inaccurate. Throughout church history, the Christmas season—Advent—didn’t start until Christmas Day and the days leading up to Christmas, and explicitly beginning four Sundays before Christmas (you should Google “Advent” for more of the historical foundation of this wonderful season).
Now back to my Advent reading. The theme of one of our devotions this week was willingness. The devotion was centered on the willingness of Jesus, God the Son, to come and be born in human flesh, to live a righteous life fully as a man, and to give his life sacrificially for the redemption of sinners. Although in fewer words, this was essentially the message of the angel Gabriel to Joseph, Jesus' earthly father, regarding the purpose of the Christ-child in Matthew 1:21. Jesus was born to die and to die “willingly." Let that sink in. The author of the devotional, Pastor Paul Tripp, simply asks this question throughout the reading: "Am I characterized by willingness?"
I haven't been able to lay this question down. I've mulled over it now for 48 hours, as of the time of this writing, and I must say that I'm surprised by how unwilling I can be at times. Sometimes my unwillingness shows up in a lack of patience with my children or a friend or a coworker. I can be unwilling to be mildly inconvenienced for someone or unwilling to be interrupted. Unwilling to serve, unwilling to. . . well, I could go on and on.
But let me share with you how I intend to celebrate the Advent season this year. I want to be willing, and I mean to take steps to do it. Since I read that Advent devotion, I have set in my heart and mind by praying for God's help to be aware of any opportunity I have to demonstrate a willing spirit. In doing this, I have found seemingly endless possibilities to bless others by allowing the willing Spirit of Christ, which is in me, to do what he always seeks to do. And what is that He seeks? It is to help me live like Jesus, even if it should mean laying down my life for others.
So how's it going for these last 48-plus hours, you ask? It's both wonderful and challenging. I've had to slow down and think anew about my holiday celebrations and how they ought to point me to Jesus. I've had to think about gift-giving in terms of giving gifts out of my love for someone versus because I drew their name. And may I say that name drawing is a wonderful way to decide to buy a gift for someone? It’s much like praying, "Lord, I want to bless someone with a special gift. Would you choose who I need to show some special love to?"
Remember, it is better to give than to receive. And I think it's better because being a good giver of gifts is demonstrating a willingness that finds its root in the greatest gift that has ever been bestowed on mankind. That is the gift of God coming in human form to live with us and willingly die for us.
May our Advent and Christmas seasons be filled with the love, joy, and peace that has been secured for us in Jesus Christ.
Yours, joyfully in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis