Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What is the meaning of Advent? Why do Christians celebrate Advent?

Calendar of Christian Holidays and festivals

Calendar of Christian Holidays and festivals

Advent is:

Advent is the season that begins the liturgical year. It consists of four Sundays starting with the Sunday closest to November 30th. The word advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” In the societies of the Roman empire, the word adventus referred to the arrival of a person of dignity and great power — a king, emperor, or even one of the gods. For Christians, Advent is the time when the church patiently prepares for the coming of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. On a personal spiritual level, Advent is a time when we should long for a new breaking in of God’s Spirit upon us.

Here is a good post about the story of Advent by Rev. Donald Sensing at Sense of Events blog.

Excerpt:

They were not a wealthy couple. They got by all right in Nazareth because Joseph was a carpenter, a skilled job, but he didn’t make enough money for the finer things of life. Like everyone else in their country, Joseph and Mary relied heavily on their extended families to help them get through the lean times. And when they were doing well, there was always a third cousin or an aunt twice removed who wasn’t, so they helped as much as they could.

To say it was inconvenient to leave Nazareth to travel to Bethlehem would be the greatest of understatements. They had not counted on leaving Nazareth before the child was born. In fact, they didn’t think they would leave Nazareth ever. But a decree had gone out from the Roman emperor that the whole empire would have to pay a special tax. For some reason, the rulers of Judea decided that they may as well take a census while they were at it. Because of the tribal and clannish nature of society, the authorities ordered everyone to go to their ancestral hometowns to be counted and pay the tax.

Protests that some people could not make the trip, such as the aged and infirm, were simply met with rebuff. So Mary, very late in pregnancy, was compelled to schlep down the Jordan River valley on the back of a donkey. The journey by road was about ninety miles, plus having to climb more than 1,300 feet in altitude, so the trip took more than a week. You can’t travel fast leading a donkey on foot carrying a very pregnant woman.

They arrived in Bethlehem on yom rishon, which simply means, “the first day of the week,” the Jews having a specific name for a day of the week only for the Sabbath, the last day of the week. On the Sabbath, they had not traveled because religious law forbade long-distance travel on that day. Besides, they had needed the rest. So on Sunday afternoon, yom rishon, they reached Bethlehem, just one couple among hundreds of families arriving for the census.

Joseph was a lineal descendant of King David, whose hometown had been Bethlehem. Joseph never made too much of his royal ancestry. Certainly, he was not the only descendant of David, and just as certainly, Joseph never thought about claiming the ancient throne. The Jews had lived under foreign domination for hundreds of years, first by the Greeks and then the Romans. The idea of regaining political independence was simply absurd. There was no way successfully to fight the Roman army, as dozens of Mediterranean nations had discovered.

The little town of Bethlehem lacked the infrastructure to cope with a large influx of people needing to stay for several days at a minimum. The early arrivers had gained lodging with relatives, but the small houses filled up fast. There were few inns in the town that had filled well before Joseph and Mary got to town.

Joseph tried to gain lodging at an inn, but the owner was unyielding. He explained that to take them in, he’d have to throw someone else out. He would not have such dishonor on his head, pregnant Mary or no.

“Try the outside of town,” the man said. “There may be a few homes there with space for a kinsman.”

Click here to read the rest. This is a good post to send to people who don’t know what Christmas is about.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the meaning and significance of the holiday of Pentecost?

From Patheos, an article by New Testament scholar and pastor Mark D. Roberts.

Introduction:

For Christians, Pentecost is a holiday on which we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. Before the events of the first Pentecost, which came a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection, there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Thus, from an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started. This is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it. Thus Pentecost is the church’s birthday.

I’m guessing most of you know the story of what happens. Peter preaches on who Jesus was, and the meaning of his bodily resurrection – and a whole lot of people believe him and become Christians.

Here are the topics that Roberts mentions in the article:

  1. The Presence and Power of the Spirit
  2. The Central Role of the Church in God’s Work in the World
  3. The Multilingual Nature and Mission of the Church
  4. The Inclusive Ministry of the Church

I wanted to excerpt the part of the article where Dr. Roberts explains a part that I think is important.

Excerpt:

3. The Multilingual Nature and Mission of the Church

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered believers in Jesus to praise God in many languages that they had not learned in the ordinary manner (Acts 2:5-13). Symbolically, this miracle reinforces the multilingual, multicultural, multiracial mission of the church. We are to be a community in which all people are drawn together by God’s love in Christ. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Personal Implications: Although there are some glorious exceptions, it seems that the church has not, in general, lived out its multilingual mission. We are often divided according to language, race, and ethnicity. Pentecost challenges all of us to examine our own attitudes in the regard, to reject and repent of any prejudice that lurks within us, and to open our hearts to all people, even and especially those who do not share our language and culture. Yes, I know this is not easy. But it is central to our calling. And it is something that the Spirit of God will help us to do if we are available.

So this is a good thing to remember. Anyone who is willing to believe in Christ and re-prioritize their lives based on his identity and teachings can be a Christian.The Holy Spirit is available to anyone who is willing to respond to God’s drawing them towards himself – anyone who asks God to forgive their sins and re-orient their lives to that it is Christ-directed.

You really can’t look at a person and tell what they are going to be able to contribute to the mission of Christ. They might have a different skin color. They could come from far-away countries. And have different cultural backgrounds. They could be single and childless, or they could be married with children. They could be lonely or popular. They could be ugly or beautiful. They could be emotional and artistic, or scientific and technical. They could come from a happy family or have no family. They could be rich or they could be poor. They might not fit the mold of what we expect for what counts as a good Christian.

I’m not turning a blind eye to sin here, because sin that is celebrated and unrepented IS a reason to reject someone’s claim to be a Christian. I am trying to point out that we should not be rejecting or discounting sincere, effective Christians for non-moral considerations. This is not a country club. It’s all hands on deck.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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