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NOV 30, 2016

Tomorrow is the 1st of December which means the beginning of the Advent Season. Although this is an important time of the year for Christ followers, many Christians don't understand the significance of it. My friend Gino Espineli wrote a wonderful article explaining what Advent is and what it means to Christ followers. I hope this encourages you and helps you prepare for your heart to worship Christ this Christmas season.

-Pastor Manny


"From the Cross to the Cradle" by M Gino Espineli

As November winds down and we transition from one holiday to the next, the seasonal shift from Fall to Winter is well underway. Meanwhile, the Church enters into a time of preparation, a time many refer to as ADVENT. For you historians/ linguists out there, "Advent" is a word with Latin roots meaning "coming," and it is used to describe the time (usually 4 Sundays) prior to celebrating Christ's birth. Fun fact: Advent has been observed by the Church at large as early as the 4th century. During this time of preparation Christians become intentional about focusing on the greatest ADVENTure ever undertaken... God coming into human history (also known as the incarnation) on the ultimate rescue mission!

"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." - Paul speaking about himself in 1 Timothy 1:15

As you read or listen along in your Bible (whether in the Old or New Testament) you will surely find the "scarlet thread" that either foreshadows or alludes to the "crux" (Cross) of the larger biblical narrative... namely, the Truth of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. This is both the historical and central Truth of the Christian Faith; the monumental Truth that the Old Testament saints looked forward to and the New Testament saints lived in light of. Even the most liberal, atheistic, and agnostic scholars, historians, scientist, skeptics alike will not dispute the historicity of (the biblical or extra-biblical resources that corroborate) the existence of Jesus as a historical figure and the sequence of events concerning His death, burial, and resurrection (especially with other reputable scholars, historians, and scientists). "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance..."

Our response to this Truth should mirror this excerpt taken from the letter Paul addressed to Timothy, a "son in the faith" (an apprentice of sorts). This was a letter he wrote later in his life shortly before his martyrdom in Rome. Paul, arguably one of the greatest people who had ever lived, could have easily laid claim to what many of us would say about ourselves in our own estimation... "I'm a good person... I'm not that bad... certainly there are others who are far worse..." yet he spoke about himself as "the chief or foremost sinner." What was he getting at? This is Paul we're talking about here: missionary trips, healing the sick, helping the poor, planting as well as pastoring many churches, and yet in light of the Truth of the Gospel (good news), his own estimation about himself is that he is the worst sinner!? Over time he became more and more aware of his brokenness (the bad news) while at the same time growing more and more aware of God's holiness (righteous standard). There grew a gap between Paul and God that continued to increase over time...

And this is where we find the unconditional love of God, in that gap that could only be closed by the person and work of Jesus Christ (the good news). This is why we celebrate Christ's birth! In one breath we consider our sin/ brokenness/ need of rescuing and in the next we consider the immense love He has for us by coming to rescue us (decisively making it right between us and God)!

In between decorating and listening to your favorite Christmas tunes, observing time honored family traditions, getting caught up in the hustle/ bustle of gift shopping, and the occasional cup of hot cocoa (with marshmallows) cozied up by the fireplace... my hope is that you will reflect on the significance of this reality shaping event for you and your family. Let's work our way backwards from the Cross to the "cradle" (manger) during this Advent. In order to understand and experience the heights, depths, lengths, and widths of His love for us in Christ we must first understand the heights, depths, lengths, and widths of our sin/ brokenness. To put it another way, many of us forget to ask and reflect on the question: "Why did God have to go to extreme measures to come and be born into this world to rescue/ save me?" We also forget to answer the question by admitting "because as a sinner, I need rescuing/ saving."

*Take a moment and pray/ reflect on the (empirical evidence and) reality of your own sin and prepare your heart/ mind for celebrating the reality of the "coming" of your Savior.

#Gospel #Advent #Christmas