WHAT IS ADVENT?

December 18, 2019


Advent for 2019 started on Sunday, Dec. 1st, and goes through Tuesday, Dec. 24th.


But just what is Advent season, and how are we supposed to celebrate it? Most people simply refer to this time of year as the Christmas season.  And I suppose that’s okay if it gets people in the frame of mind of thinking about Jesus and His advent into this world as a miraculously-born baby, 2000 years ago.  This is truly my favorite season for several reasons, but for mostly focusing on the gift of Christ to all humanity.


I get very upset when I see Christmas made into such a commercialized opportunity for merchants to sell goods to the public who all want to buy gifts for their family and friends. Buying gifts for family and friends is okay if you don’t overdo it. And if you can afford it.


I had an older relative years ago (now deceased) who would buy gifts for her many family members, including several grandchildren, and a number of friends, every Christmas. She had a charge account at a large department store where she would buy these gifts, and it literally took her all year long to pay off the bill in monthly installments.  Then the cycle would start all over again the next year.  I don’t think that’s right. It voids the whole meaning of Christmas.


Sandra and I were talking the other day about our Christmas shopping list.  We both agreed not to get each other a Christmas gift.  We both said there was nothing either of us needed.  We have too much stuff already.  We have a big house and two storage buildings in our back yard. Everything is full of things, many of which we don’t even need or want.


When I was in seminary, many years ago in Kansas City, Mo, I went to the biggest shopping mall I had ever seen.  It was three stories tall.  I went with some of my friends who wanted to do a little shopping.  After about an hour of walking around I told my friends I was tired and was going to sit down at a table in the food court and wait for them to get through.


The food court was very crowded.  I didn’t see an empty table.  So I walked over to a table where an old man in his eighties was sitting by himself.  I asked him if I could sit with him.  He said, “Sure, I’d love some company.” We talked awhile, introduced ourselves to each other, and he told me he was visiting his daughter and grandchildren.  He lived several hundred miles away in a very small town.  He said his grandchildren asked him if he had ever seen a shopping mall?  He told them he had never even heard of one.  They told him all about this particular mall and told him they wanted to take him to it. Then the old man said, “So here I am. After walking over just part of this mall for about an hour, my grandchildren asked me what I thought about the mall? And I told them ‘I never saw so many things in my life I didn’t need’.”


I’ll never forget his comment.  It was one of those statements preachers hear sometimes and say to themselves, “That will preach.”  And I’ve told that story many times to congregations I’ve pastored through the years.


What do you  REALLY need this Christmas, or for that matter, any other time of year?  If you are reading this, you have a computer or mobile device.  You are probably not really lacking for anything.


I do enjoy giving gifts, too, to my family and friends.  Unfortunately, the gifts I would like to give them can not be purchased with any amount of money.  I would give my family and friends the gifts of happiness, peace, contentment, health and a GOOD relationship with God.  But I can’t give that.  Neither can you give those things to another person.  That’s why God sent Jesus.  Only Jesus can give all these things.


I guess the tradition of giving Christmas gifts started when wise men from the East took gifts to the baby Jesus long ago.
Of course, we can’t give Jesus a gift personally, but we can give gifts to others.  Especially the poor and needy, and the hungry.  Remember Jesus saying that if you even give people a cup of water in His name, it’s the same as giving it to Him?
1 John 3:17 says, “But whosever hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”


I don’t have much money, but I am blessed with a lot more than many have. Just here in the town where I live, there are many homeless, needy and hungry people; some of them children. We have a non-profit, Christian organization here in town that feeds, clothes and houses thousands of needy people throughout the year. Sandra and I got a letter just before Thanksgiving from this organization asking us if we could make a donation to feed the hungry.  They can feed a hungry person a big nutritious meal for $2.10.  So, Sandra and I sent a generous check.  About a week ago we got another request from them for a donation to help feed a large Christmas meal.  We’re sending a check today.


You don’t have to wait to get a letter from an organization asking for help to feed the hungry, etc.  There are opportunities (and responsibilities) you see every day.
The Bible says that we may sometimes entertain angels unawares.  A few weeks ago, I saw a homeless veteran on a busy intersection in my town. There was a fast food restaurant nearby, and I went through the drive-through and bought him a bag of food.  Just a week ago, I was sitting in my car waiting while Sandra was in a store doing some shopping.  A young man about 25 came up to my car and asked me if I could buy him something to eat.  He said he had just gotten out of jail the day before and had not had anything to eat since then.  He was trying to get back home to Chicago. There was a burger restaurant right across the street. I told him to go over there and buy him some food with the money I gave him.  Was he scamming me? Maybe. I don’t know.  But I gave him help in the spirit of Christian love. That’s all I know how to do.


So this Advent (Christmas) season, when you buy gifts for giving, please remember to give them in the spirit of Christian love.


God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley