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Advent season has begun. Many churches and Christians observe specific rituals and remembrances during advent season. Special candles are lit, and Scriptures are read. Some families have advent devotions. Some followers of Jesus will read through the advent accounts in the Gospels.

For many however, the theological implications of advent have been overshadowed by the commercialization of the Christmas holidays: Christmas movies that don’t contain any references to Christ; shopping and gift buying with only minimal interest in the needs of others; busyness and bustle that stretches and stresses us as the year wanes away.

Let me encourage you not to bind yourself to the commercialization of the Christmas season. Remember that Christmas is advent.

Advent means the arrival of someone notable or important.

When we discuss advent, we are not talking about your friends or family coming over for the holidays. Nor do we mean the jolly old Saint Nick arriving to leave presents at your house.

Advent means the arrival of the Christ-child. The arrival of the Christ-child more than 2000 years ago invites us to experience what is meaningful.

Advent is a time to reflect. Reflect on the Christ who came into the world. Make time for gathered worship at your church. Make time to read the Bible, especially the Gospels. Make time to think about the events of the Advent and especially the One who came.

Advent is a time to refocus. Refocus on the reason Christ came. Jesus did not arrive in the world to bring us presents and financial blessings. He is not a religious version of Santa Claus. Jesus is Lord, and as we are reminded in one of my favorite carols, Jesus was Lord at birth (“Silent Night”). Jesus did not come that we might sentimentalize the Christmas season. Jesus came with a ministry and a mission to serve, preach, and bring salvation. Advent is important because of Jesus’ passion and resurrection.

So as you focus on the Christ-child, remember that he grew up to be our substitute on Calvary’s cross.

Advent is a time to renew. Renew your commitment to Jesus Christ. Are you following Jesus? Or are you following your own way of life? Jesus did not come merely to save us. He came to remake us. Jesus doesn’t merely invite us to experience forgiveness. He invites us to experience regeneration. Jesus does not only call us to meet him. He calls us to follow him. Advent is a time to renew your commitment as a Christ-follower.

Here are some specific ways for you to renew your commitment to Christ this advent season:

  • Make time to read the advent stories and thank Jesus for coming. If you are not currently reading the Bible regularly, why don’t you begin December 1 by reading one chapter a day in the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Luke. Or here is a link to an advent devotional by John Piper. For the first 25 days of December, thank God for one specific thing he has done for you because of advent.
  • Rekindle an old advent tradition or begin a new one. Make a meal (or cookies) for someone who is lonely. Buy Christmas gifts for a family in need (parents, have your children help with this and involve them in generosity). Go caroling. Embrace the joy of the shepherds who just had to tell what they had seen on that first Christmas night.
  • Be present at gathered worship. The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on church attendance. Sure, it is convenient to watch at home or to not go at all. But one way to renew your commitment to Christ is to make time to be in gathered worship. You need it, and your fellow church members need to see you there as well. Let your worship this advent season renew your faith in Jesus.
  • Invite others to meet Christ. Christmas traditions and trappings are beautiful. Enjoy your tree, the meals, the gatherings, and the presents. But never forget that Christmas would mean little without the cross. Jesus came to save not to make us sentimental. Give someone the greatest gift this season. Invite them to receive eternal life by following Jesus.

Above all, celebrate the Christ who came to bring us life.

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

The past couple of weeks in the life of Wilkesboro Baptist Church have been amazing. I am thankful to our Lord for answered prayers and for souls saved.

In recent weeks, children, teenagers, and adults have placed their trust in Jesus Christ. Some of them will follow through with believer’s baptism on Sunday November 28.

Baptism on November 28 coincides with the final sermon in our current sermon series: LIFE, DEATH, HELL, HEAVEN. The final sermon in the series is on HEAVEN. We will celebrate the professions of faith through baptism and look at what the Bible teaches about HEAVEN in our services this week.

This series has reminded me of some specific things for which I am thankful:

  • I’m thankful that God answered the prayers of family and friends for the salvation of sinners. Many of those who have professed faith recently have been on my prayer list and/or on the prayer lists of parents, Sunday school classes, and discipleship groups.
  • I’m thankful for the opportunity to preach the gospel and to share the gospel personally. It is my calling and joy to preach the gospel, and I’m grateful when God brings sinners to salvation connected to our worship services. But it is also my calling to share the gospel personally. I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel personally with some of those who have recently come to faith.
  • I’m thankful for parents who are faithful to share the gospel with their children, bring them to church, and pray for their children. The tears of joy in the eyes of parents when their children come to faith is an unforgettable privilege I am thankful for.
  • I’m thankful for our children and student ministries and our ministerial staff who lead them, Tad Craig and Danielle Hicks. Their gospel-centered teaching and leadership help saturate children and students with the good news of Jesus.
  • I’m thankful for baptism. Baptism is the public declaration of one’s personal decision to follow Jesus. It is a time for the church to celebrate with those who have trusted in Jesus Christ.
  • I’m thankful for our Trinitarian God who saves. Before the world began, God the Father planned our salvation (not just the events that occurred 2,000 years ago, but also the personal circumstances that have brought each of us to salvation). God the Son secured our salvation by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. God the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and makes us alive by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Remember this, as much as we want God to save our friends and family, our neighbors and the nations, God wants to save them more.

What things are you thankful for? Give this question some thought this week. Make time to thank God for what he’s done and for what he’s doing.

During this Thanksgiving week, let me encourage you to not only be thankful, but to celebrate with us at Wilkesboro Baptist.

  • Plan to attend either the 9:30 am service or the 11:00 am service on November 28. We’re baptizing in both services, and we will look at what the Bible says about HEAVEN in all our services this week.
  • Invite others to attend. The willingness of our church folks to invite friends and family to attend during this sermon series has been a blessing! Keep inviting. Sunday, November 28 will be a special day that you don’t want to miss.
  • Continue to pray. God is at work. Don’t lose heart in praying for sinners to come to faith in Jesus. God is answering your prayers and mine. Keep asking God to save. Ask God to open blinded eyes, to soften hard hearts, and to rescue sinners from death and hell.
  • Share the good news. The good news is meant to be shared. God rescued us, but he also commissioned us to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. Look for an opportunity this week to tell someone about the life that Christ has given you.

We ought to be thankful for the salvation we’ve received, and we ought to be faithful to share the good news with those who’ve yet to receive salvation. In this past week’s sermon I referenced a powerful appeal by Charles Spurgeon to his congregation at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Let this appeal both burden and bless us this week as we pray for, invite, and share with our neighbors and the nations.

Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Sermon XX: The Wailing of Risca.”[1]

[1] Quoted by Denny Burk,. Four Views on Hell (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) (p. 43). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash