Tag Archives: advent

Anticipating Emmanuel

Advent is all about the Hope coming with the arrival of Emmanuel—“God with us.” But many of us have a less-than-full embracing of Emmanuel.

How come we only talk about God entering into his own creation (which, of course, God did through the birth of Jesus) at Christmas? I mean: I love, love, love the word Emmanuel (am I allowed to have a ‘favorite Bible word?’). It’s pregnant with the entire gospel. That single word summarizes every aspect of Christianity that keeps me tethered when I’m feeling hopeless for the church or annoyed by my brothers and sisters or disgusted with my own inability.

But, treating Emmanuel as a Christmas-only word, well, that’s a rip off. In a sense, it’s as if we pack up Emmanuel with the ornaments and lights, and shelve it for 11 months.

God with us. 12 months a year (not just one). At Christmas we hold expectation of Jesus’ coming. What if we had that same expectation that God could powerfully show up at even the most mundane and ordinary moments of our day-to-day lives? If we truly believe that; if we really lean into that; if we really remember that the power and intimacy of God is with us at every moment; our experience of God will be revolutionized.

Maybe that’s the bottom line of Advent: what’s it look like for you and me–as children of God–to live with an Advent expectancy that God can move powerfully all the year around? Let’s dream big ‘Christmas-sized’ dreams about what God can do with us today and in the coming year. How about a little infusion of hope and anticipation in your faith today? I’m telling you, it’s like an extra serving of Christmas dessert.

ADVENT: A Journey Of Waiting, Watching And Preparing For The Light

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early in 2012, The Youth Cartel released a totally cool devotional called LENT. quite surprisingly, it was a devotional about LENT. weird, huh?

erik willits really created a fantastic 40-day devotional journey. amazing, really. and the response was fantastic. of course, sales of that one have sorta tapered off at the moment (hopefully people will think of using it in their ministries again in the new year). but we asked erik to write another one, this time for advent. using our creative book titling powers, we decided to name this one ADVENT.

we’re a youth ministry organization, and erik’s a youth pastor. so let’s call it a youth ministry product. but, really, it’s not limited to youth ministry use (in fact, erik’s entire church used the LENT devotional last year). ADVENT can be used with any age, and erik wrote it with that in mind.

as erik writes in the intro:

The idea for this guide to Advent and Christmastide is that you will enter into this journey with your church, youth group, small group or family. The journey of learning to wait, prepare and hope shouldn’t be done alone. Ultimately, it should stir in you the desire to help the poor and give to those in need. It should encourage you to walk and not run and pray instead of purchase. Having people with you on the journey will help you to do all these things well.

you can download a longer sample here. but here’s a random entry i grabbed:

PREPARE // DAY 9
READING :: Luke 3:1-18

John the Baptist is our Advent portrait of preparation! He’s our icon, if you will—the image that points us to the greater reality God is leading us into.

In Matthew’s account, John is painted as a peculiar prophet, wearing a camel hair coat with a sweet leather belt to complete his outfit. He dines on bugs and wild honey—exotic, right? Now, don’t worry, the takeaway from the life of John the Baptist isn’t to eat exotic bugs and wear fur coats and leather belts (unless you want to). What we learn from John the Baptist is that living a life prepared for the Messiah means looking a little peculiar to the culture around you.

Do we as Christians look any different in the way we participate in Advent and prepare for the birth of Christ than the rest of our culture? In my observation, many times those who believe in Jesus and those who don’t participate in Advent in a similar way—by hanging lots of lights and buying lots of gifts. In fact, the majority of Christians I know prepare for Christmas, which means participating in Advent, by preparing to give and receive presents and have Christmas parties. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Christmas party as much as the next guy, but I don’t want that to be primary marker of my Advent experience.

This is why the way of John the Baptist and the Advent he lives is so radical and counter-cultural. As we authentically engage the Advent portrayed by John the Baptist, our response should be the same as those who listened to him in Luke 3: “What should we do?” And John tells us. “If you have two coats, give one away and do the same with your food.” He then talks to different people with different influences and abilities and helps each of them with a practical way to prepare for the coming of the Christ and His Kingdom.

Why not take a moment and evaluate your gifts, abilities, possessions and circles of influence? Bring a friend, parent or pastor into the conversation and come up with a “John the Baptist” approach. Meaning, if John were to look at your life, what kind of practical challenge would he give you this Advent, as you prepare for the coming of Jesus in His birth, His return and in the coming of His Kingdom on earth?

How would John the Baptist challenge you to prepare for Jesus this Advent?

we’ve really priced this one for group usage. it’s just $9.99 each; but order 20 or more copies and you can get them for $6.49 each. of course, check out the the downloadable sample here. such a great way to have a focus other than ski trips or presents or ugly sweaters!