Being a Christian in word and deed — that is Advent!

The old church year is over. The new one has begun. The time of Advent is about more than merely singing nice songs, setting up the Christmas tree, and enjoying the fine aromas of the season. The season of waiting is to be a time of action!

Divine services in the Advent season always have a special character. There are many familiar songs. The Christmas tree is set up and decorated. The children—and even some adults—have special expectations throughout this season. In the New Apostolic congregations, this year’s Advent season is captioned by the theme: “The light of the world,” a familiar borrowing from one of the striking “I am” statements of the Son of God.

Do not look back — look ahead!

“Just look at this place!” One can well imagine how shattered and depressed the Babylonian exiles were when they looked upon their beloved city of Jerusalem after returning from their time of captivity. The divine service on 1 December 2019 focuses on this theme: Jerusalem lies in shambles—it is one of the darkest periods for the people of Israel of the time. The city of God lies in ruin and ashes. The temple is destroyed. The people are without courage, without hope, and without direction. The liberated captives leave their place of captivity only to arrive in a world of chaos. But God would not be God if He did not encourage His people again! Through the words of the prophet, He promises a new era of glory: “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60: 2-3). Therefore take courage, Christians of the present: the brightness of this new time is the sacrifice of Christ. It brings the light of grace and forgiveness into the world!

Rather light than darkness

The light of the world also shines on the second Sunday of Advent. This time, the focus is on the will of God and the truth: “And men loved darkness rather than light,” we read in John 3: 19. The reason for this follows immediately thereafter, namely “because their deeds were evil.” But things are not to stay that way! As the light, Jesus Christ illuminates the path upon which the Christian is to walk. Following the Lord makes it possible for the sinner to attain salvation and enter the kingdom of God.

A time of expectation and action — not a time to kill!

Advent is also a time of remembering and expectation. The sermon on the third Sunday of Advent focuses on the actions of Simeon and Anna. Simeon was a devout man, who waited daily for the birth of the promised Messiah. Anna was a prophetess, who never left the temple, and who served God every day. Being devout and remaining in the temple—these are two characteristics that are also very becoming to Christians of the present. Our Advent is to be a time of action, not a time to kill.

Praising, giving thanks, and doing good works

The fourth Sunday of Advent revolves around praise and giving thanks, but also focuses on the wellbeing of our neighbour. There are so many reasons to give thanks to God. One of the strongest reasons, however, is that God has sent His Son into this world in order to deliver mankind! Our praise of God not only consists of beautiful hymns and giving thanks. Let us also show our gratitude with our deeds, and turn to our neighbour in love. Being a Christian in word and deed—that is the kind of action called for in Advent!

God loves mankind

God’s friendliness and love for man is now manifest! That is the message of Christmas 2019. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and filled with the truth that Christ teaches us, we can thank God by serving Him in love. Without fear, we proclaim the bright light of the gospel in word and deed. We proclaim the friendliness of God, His love for mankind, and His compassion in both word and deed (1 Peter 2: 9). Concerning this, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider remarks: “If we take the message of Christmas seriously, we will endeavour to oppose all things that contradict God’s love for mankind!”

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Peter Johanning