We have entered the time of year that Christians call Advent – a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, the King of kings. More popularly, we have entered what’s known as the Christmas shopping season.
As we come into this season, we are accustomed to hearing about the dangers of materialism. And these admonitions are fitting. For countless souls, there is hardly a thought about the reason for the season, all while consumed with the buying and getting of stuff. So, a warning about materialism is definitely in order.
But along with the warning, we should recognize that there is nothing wrong with material things, per se. Christ’s incarnation during His first Advent makes this obvious.
When Christ came into the world, He did so by taking on a human, fleshly body. As He grew in wisdom and stature, He interacted with the material world. He wore clothes, ate food, rode in boats, and did many other things that we can identify with. Since all these things were from His Father, we can confidently say that He enjoyed them.
At age of 30, Jesus began His three year ministry which ended with His death and resurrection. The purpose of this ministry was to bring redemption to the world. A redemption that applies not just to the spirits of men, but to the whole creation. He came, in other words, that the whole earth would be restored and all the stuff in it would be set apart for the Lord.
All this has a bearing on how we think about the things we get and give for Christmas.
“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry,sound learning, and pure manners.
“Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
“Endure with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness … and compassion for all infirmities.”
~ Book of Common Prayer
There’s a paradox about being thankful. On the one hand we know we should be grateful, but on the other hand ingratitude seems to be where we so naturally find ourselves.
The Bible expresses this paradox throughout its pages.
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” the Bible tells us (Ps.107:1). “In everything give thanks,” it says (1 Thess.5:18). Yet, despite these exhortations we find plenty of grumbling (Ex.16:7), forgetfulness of God’s mercy (Dt.8:12), and refusals to honor Him or give thanks (Rom.1:21).
God calls us to thankfulness, but gratitude is rare.
This is something we can identify with all too well when our own busyness, self-sufficiency, and preoccupation with our own plans keeps us from giving thanks when it’s due.
So, how does one get and keep a grateful heart? The answer is to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
If our state of gratitude is only linked to our immediate circumstances, we’ll constantly be vulnerable to ingratitude because we’ll always be tempted to focus on what’s wrong with our present situation. This is true whether you find yourself in good times or bad.
Yet, when our focus is on Jesus as the supreme ruler over all, a thankful heart can be the norm for us as we recognize that what we might experience at any given time is all incidental to knowing and walking with Him.
The Apostle Paul has more to say about being thankful than anyone in the Bible. This is remarkable because he spent so much of His life facing persecution and hardship. So, how was it that thankfulness became such a big theme in his life and ministry? Because the supremacy of Christ was preeminent in his thinking. Read more…
We live in a secular age. One of the beliefs that distinguishes our age is that we don’t need God to remedy our problems. We believe that we can set things aright without Him.
The Bible teaches us the exact opposite. It tells us that in order for humanity to thrive it must look to the Lord, because it is His Spirit who not only creates all that exists, but also maintains the bonds necessary for civilization to be secure and prosper.
When men depend on anything besides the Lord, their efforts ultimately prove to be in vain. But when men depend on God, His Spirit gives the ability to overcome obstacles and fulfill the callings that He gives.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD of hosts” (Zech.4:6).
The first man, Adam, learned this the hard way when he failed to trust the Lord and and decided to depend on His own understanding. And every man since him must decide how he will live – will he depend on is own carnal reasoning or trust the word of the Lord.
Joseph engaged the world and all its temptations with a heart turned to the Lord. As a consequence, he was regarded as one who possessed “the Spirit of God” and was empowered to lead all of Egypt. Saul, on the other hand, hardened his heart, and because of it the Spirit of the Lord departed from him and an evil spirit tormented him instead.
All of this has relevance to our own time.
Almighty God and Merciful Father, you have established your throne in the heavens and your sovereignty rules over all. You are the one who changes the times and the epochs, and it is you who remove some from authority and raise others up.
Knowing that you are God, we bring these petitions on behalf of those who will be elected to office, as well as the people of this land.
Lord, give us rulers who are better than we deserve. Having forsaken you as a nation, you would be just to discipline us with tyrants. But show us mercy in giving us rulers who will learn to love righteousness and the wisdom of your ways.
Lord, grant us rulers who recognize your authority over them. May this lead them to govern with humility and justice. Cause our rulers to see that you have not ordained them to be saviors, but servants. Help them to be be good ministers of justice, who will judge without partiality and know the limits of their power.
Lord, send us rulers of good character who despise corruption. Do not send us those who would come to steal, kill, and destroy. Protect us from deceivers who would use their office for their own gain. Preserve us from the wicked who would cause us to groan. Rather, increase the righteous that we may rejoice.
Lord, bring woe upon those rulers who call evil good and good evil. And bring us those who are able to discern between good and evil that they would fulfill their calling in keeping with your Word. May your law be the foundation of our laws so that we would have liberty and peace.
Lord, keep us prayerful for those in authority, so that we would lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. Keep us from covetous hearts so that we would not look to our rulers to steal for us. May your Spirit empower us to govern ourselves, since it is only by good self-government that we can ever expect to have good civil government.
Lord, help us to see always that our hope is not in the servants of the state, but in you. Cause us to know that it is righteousness that exalts a nation and nothing else. May this lead us to have repentant hearts and a new desire to honor you.
Comfort us concerning all our cares as we remember that you have already installed Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
In His Name, Amen.