Advent Devotion: Turn on the light

christmastreelights

One of the staples of Christmas décor is the Christmas light. Some like to wrap every inch of their yard in multicolored lights, while others are more reserved with candles in their windows. Whatever you fancy is in the realm of advent luminosities, we can all agree that lights make Christmas time much brighter. As Christians and the church we are called to be lights illuminating Christ. As the body of Christ our utmost goal throughout our lives should be to show the world who Jesus is.

The role of the church is to turn on a light. If we read through Revelation we see an interesting concept. In the first chapter John calls churches lampstands. Now we as hip north americans on the cusp of 2012 [the future] may not totally understand what he is talking about with the lampstand. We have lights and lamps, but the people of the early church would have gotten what he was talking about better.

If we research a little bit we can find that in Exodus the lampstand was one of the pieces of furniture that God instructed them to build and place in the Tabernacle. God gave specific instructions about how the lampstand was to be built, the kind of oil it should burn, where it was to be placed, and what it was to illuminate.

We can read this in Exodus 25:31-40. The lampstand was the only source of light inside the tabernacle besides the presence of God. A job of the priest was to just make sure the light never went out on the lampstand. The most interesting details about the lampstand is what its purpose was. Its purpose was to cast its light on the bread of presence or the showbread.

Now you are pretty intrigued huh.. A menorah that lights up a loaf of bread. But there is meaning behind this bread. It represented a bread offering given to the Lord to show that Israel was giving Him their bounty and also stated that God is the one who gave them the bread in the first place.

So this gold lampstand was made to sit next to a table and kept watch over to make sure it was lit so that it could shine and show the nation that God will always provide for them and He is always present. This is also the object that Jesus would use to symbolize his own body broken for us.

So we as the Church are called to be this lampstand. The church exists to shine a light into the darkness. A light that highlights God’s goodness and reveals Jesus in order that the world might know him. The soul purpose of the lampstand was to focus its beam on the bread of presence.

The same is true for the church, our purpose is to showing others who God is. He in turn can show the world. During this time of year with lights around us all the time we must be on our watch. It is our calling to keep the light burning bright, the wicks trimmed, the lampstand in the right place. If we begin to dim than we must take immediate action. Let us keep our light burning bright into the next year and the future to proclaim that Christ is Lord.

Dan Ulrich is the director of youth and young adults at Sicklerville UMC. He is a former camper and has served in a variety of roles in the camp including his current position as vice president.

Waiting and Anticipating

waitingfortrain

Waiting is never easy. Waiting for Christmas is tortuous as a kid. My sister and I would agonize over our advent countdown and would take every opportunity to snoop through the house to see if we could find our gifts. We never did, until one year.

One Christmas morning- when my sister and I were about eight or nine years old, my sister just wasn’t very excited about her gifts. She opened them, smiled, and said thank-you to mom and dad. There was no paper throwing. No shrieks of joy. What we found out later was that my sister had found our parent’s super secret hiding place a week before Christmas and had opened all her gifts ahead of time before carefully re-wrapping each one so mom and dad wouldn’t find out. My sister’s impatience with Christmas backfired and sapped the joy out of Christmas morning.

Waiting is never easy.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of Ten Virgins. Some were wise and had plenty of oil for their lamps and would be prepared when the bridegroom came to pick them up. The others were foolish and did not have enough oil. The foolish virgins went out to buy more oil and, consequently, missed the arrival of the bridegroom and were shut out of the wedding banquet. Jesus says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13).”

Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation. We anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and, we wait for and anticipate when Christ will return. Let’s be honest, people have been waiting for the return of Jesus for nearly 2000 years. Waiting is tough! But we have promises from God that Jesus will return- and when he does that creation will be redeemed and restored. Salvation will be fully realized.

Who are we in the parable? Are we the foolish virgins who were not prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom- therefore missing the wedding banquet? Or are we more like the wise virgins who were prepared and waiting for the bridegroom and welcomed into the wedding banquet?

This Advent and Christmas season, we must consider how we are waiting and anticipating the coming of Christ. Are we living a life that makes the most of our waiting? Will we be ready when Jesus returns? Are we telling others so that they, too, can be ready when Jesus the Bridegroom comes to take his bride, the Church, to the Heavenly banquet?

In Revelation 22:20- Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”

Today’s ReadingsPsalm 50, 59, 60, 33, Zech 4:1-14, Rev 4:9-5:5, Matt 25:1-13

Steve LaMotte is the pastor of Hope UMC in Dover, Del., and has served as a dean, speaker and several other capacities at camp. He blogs at stevelamotte.blogspot.com

Advent Devotion: Beyond the Trappings

palmflower

The smell of palm flowers in the air. Hot, sultry days giving way to breezy cool nights full of the sound of exploding fireworks. Piles of juicy watermelons for sale along the side of the highway. The clay ovens being heated with wood fires to bake delicious pans full of bread made with cornmeal and manioc flour. Yup, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Doesn’t sound like Christmas to you? Well, what do you associate with Christmas? The smell of cinnamon, pine, and spices? Cold, crisp days promising snow? Quiet, peaceful nights and the possibility of carolers at the door? Delicious Christmas cookies and pies being baked in the oven and filling the house with sweet smells?

When I think about the sights, sensations, fragrances, and sounds of Christmas in the northern hemisphere and those of my adopted home, Paraguay, I realize they could hardly be more different. Gradually I’m learning to replace in my mind the American ones with the Paraguayan ones, but it’s a long process—these are emotional associations at a deep level!

But all of this has forced me to think about what are the important aspects of Christmas and which elements are really dispensable. It turns out that many of the aspects of Christmas that I have been so attached to are not in fact vital to the celebration at all! I’m obliged to return to Scripture once again and try to imagine what it must have been like for Mary when the angel said to her, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus … for nothing is impossible with God!” (Luke 1:31, 37) Very few of her sensations in the moments and months following that announcement can have been pleasant or agreeable. There was rejection, discomfort, confusion, and loneliness. There was the understanding that her obedience to God’s plans would not be easy or convenient. But finally there was the calm and deep security: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

Tonight I will interpret into Guarani for my dad, who will preach a Christmas message to a house church in our rural, poor community in Paraguay. There will be very few of the trappings of Christmas in evidence in the simple gathering. But the heart of Christmas remains and, perhaps, shouts louder for the lack of adornment: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:5) “We wait for the blessed hope– the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:13-14)

Andy Bowen is a longtime friend of the camp who serves as a missionary in Paraguay.