Advent Running Over: Advent III

Introduction:

We have been considering Advent as a time of anticipatory celebration. It is a time of joy, longing, joy, yearning, joy, and preparation. It should not be a time in which you afflict your souls. We do not intend to mark Advent as a penitential season. A penitential season should follow sin, not anticipate deliverance from sin.plant-from-bible

But if we emphasize this fact too much, you might start becoming penitential about that. Advent is positive preparation for a positive season. This is a season of joy. So what are we getting ready for? We say no only to prepare for the yes. What is that yes? How do we get ready for that yes? The answer is found in what it means to give.

The Text:

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

Summary of the Text:

If you look at the verse just prior to this one, you see the grand principle, negatively stated. Don’t judge and you won’t be judged (Luke 6:37). But this street is a two-way street, and the culmination of the principle is found in the giving.

Give and it will be given to you. How will it be given to you? The answer is that it will be given to you in great abundance. Men will pour into your chest, meaning that they will fill up your arms. It will be a good measure, pressed down and shaken together, but overflowing anyway. You will be holding the blessing, and standing in the excess.

We are therefore to give in order to receive. We are to give a lot in order to receive a lot. But we are not trying to game the system, figuring out the right time to leave the casino with all our swag. We want to give in order to receive in order that we might be able to give again. The reason we should want to receive is so that we might be able to continue to fund a life of generosity. We give in order to get in order to be able to give again.

Once a Year . . .

Once a year our shops and malls fill up to overflowing with crowds of people who are all out looking for gifts to give to other people. Now why do we treat this as a problem? What on earth would make us think this is a consumerist hell on earth, instead of treating it for what it is—a good start? They are acting wiser than they know. They need to be told about Jesus, certainly, but let us play the ball where it lays. How did Paul speak of pagan idolaters? Their groping was so that “they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27). If he spoke that way about pagans, why are our hearts so closed up against all the semi-Christian shoppers?

God Is an Ultimate Giver:

As dearly loved children, we are to be imitators of God. The God we are to imitate is a giving and generous God. We can see this glorious truth in one of the most famous verses of Scripture. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

When God urges us to give, He does so in a way that says we should go big or go home. When we give outlandishly, we should be doing it in imitation of Him. When the infinite God gave the sin-darkened world a present, He did it by giving us the present of Himself. God so loved the world that He gave us Himself.

If God had given us ten thousand mines filled with gold, He could have given us more than that. He could have given eleven thousand. If God had given us ten galaxies, He could have given us more than that. He could have given twelve galaxies. If He had given us charge of all the seraphim and cherubim, He could have given us more than that. He could have thrown in the archangels. But instead of all that He gave us Himself. There was no possible gift that could be greater than that. How could God have given us more?

The World is Made of Seed:

If an outlandish gift is given instead of giving yourself, the more extreme it is the more foolish it is. And if a tiny gift is given as a token that represents giving yourself away, then it is received as a universal kind of generosity. This is what was behind the Lord’s praising of the widow who gave away her two small coins. “And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny” (Mark 12:42, ESV). Jesus said that she gave all that she had, all her living (v. 44). This means she was giving her life away. This means that the poorest of the poor can still imitate God. Imitate Him in the percentages, not in the amounts. Copy God in the ratios, and not simply in terms of the amount on the check.

When God gave Himself away, what did God receive back again? He received the cosmos back as His inheritance. Jesus received the nations as a gift because He had given Himself away as a gift. The pattern that God wants us to follow is a pattern that He Himself followed.

The world is made of seed, and the whole earth is fertile. We can give anything away, and if we give it away in the right frame of mind and heart, what we have given is seed. Anything—time, jewelry, electronics, toys, equipment, tools, conversation, or furniture—is seed.

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

So Then, a Brief Theology of Christmas Presents:

So you are doing your shopping during Advent. You are thinking about the presents you are getting for others, and that should fill your mind . . . at least more than the presents you are hoping to get.

  • You are to give in imitation. You are an imitative giver. Your gifts are derivative, which means that you also imitate the verb that brings the gift to you.
  • Your gifts are to represent you, not replace you.
  • Those things which do represent you are to be given away.
  • In order to give properly, you must be eager to receive back again.
  • You give in order to take your rightful place in the process, seedtime and harvest, looking toward the return that is 30, 60, or 100 fold.
  • Do not sneer at the material things surrounding Christmas. Consumer goods are simply instruments for loving other people.

As John Bunyan put it in The Pilgrim’s Progress once:  “a man there was, though some did count him mad, the more he cast away the more he had.”

And this is because Christ cannot be successfully given away. The more you give Him away, the more you have of Him. God gave Christ, and through that giving He did not lose Christ. And we, as we imitate God, cannot lose Christ either. If you let go of ego, selfishness, pettiness, you lose them. This is what true repentance is. But if you have Christ, and you give Christ away, the only possible result is that you have a greater and deeper experience of more Christ.

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ashv
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ashv

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a positive focus during Advent and Christmas. This helps.

Jill Smith
Member

The whole season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s makes me want to hide inside a convent with ten foot walls where I can be sure of not hearing “Santa Baby.” But I emerge for the outdoor Christmas singalong at the downtown music center, where hundreds of people come from all over and sing real carols. Like about the baby Jesus, not elves and reindeer.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
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40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

Did you ever notice that in stores and on the radio, all the songs about Frosty, and chestnuts, and sleigh bells have vocals, but the traditional religious songs about Christmas, the carols, are always instrumental (if they even play them at all anymore)? That’s not by accident. Christmas used to be a Christian holiday about the birth of the Savior. But during the last 100 years, it’s been deliberately and systematically de-Christianized. Now it’s a Jewish holiday about shopping, and Jesus shouldn’t be mentioned, because Jews don’t much care for Jesus: Here’s how prominent Jewish novelist Philip Roth put it:… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

I would agree with you completely that most Jews are more comfortable in a secular environment than in a Christian fundamentalist one. But, I have to say in all honesty, so am I. Both Jews and Catholics can feel like outsiders (but certainly not in L.A.) in a strong Christian fundamentalist culture. My preferred culture is liberal Catholic with a huge amount of tolerance for other groups. But, then, I grew up in a country where Catholics are the dominant Christian group. If I grant the premise that Jewish entertainers undermine Christian culture in order to secularize it, I still… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

If I grant the premise that Jewish entertainers undermine Christian
culture in order to secularize it, I still have to face that this could
not have happened without the enthusiastic cooperation of a lot of
gentiles, some of whom are Christian.

An important point that many people who are aware of Jewish influence and behaviour miss.

As for Jews hating Jesus: it’s not about intensity of emotion, really. It’s that Judaism is a religion and identity specifically created as a reaction to, and rejection of, Jesus.

Jill Smith
Member

So you see Judaism,not as a continuation of the faith of the ancient Israelites, but as something more recent and unconnected to it?

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

Judaism has nothing to do with the faith of the ancient Israelites.

The faith of the ancient Israelites was Christianity.

They followed Christ in the wilderness.

The Bible doesn’t teach two religions.

Jill Smith
Member

Well,I can see we have a problem here, Houston, because my religion teaches otherwise! We are taught that the Israelites were God’s chosen people, a nation set apart, to whom He gave the commandments. As such, they are our older brothers in that they were members of the first covenant. When Jesus came to earth, most Jews rejected Him and continue to wait for the Messiah. In this, they are in error. But we see them as the same people. We will never agree about this. But, are you in general pleased about the high level of Jewish-gentile intermarriage? It… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

In contrast, Reformed theology teaches that the Israelites then and Christians now are members of the second covenant together, the covenant of grace (as contrasted with the original covenant of life that Adam broke). Paul said that in the wilderness the Israelites were baptized by passing through the Red Sea, and ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink that we in the church do today.

Jill Smith
Member

I had no idea.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

But, are you in general pleased about the high level of Jewish-gentile intermarriage?

No.

I also wondered if you have negative feelings towards Jews who convert to Christianity?

I’d certainly be very leery about allowing them into any positions of leadership.

Although unlikely, they could be Marranos Jews. But even if sincere, it’s still best to keep them out of leadership positions.

John
Member

A Jewish man who became a Christian.. I would be hard pressed to want to belong to a church that viewed him as unfit for a leadership role. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wurmbrand.

Jane
Member

It undoubtedly is.

Jill Smith
Member

Sorry, Jane, which does the “undoubtedly” refer to–the first or the second?

Christopher
Member

I wouldn’t say unconnected but definitely not a continuation.

ashv
Guest
ashv

Connected, sure. But rabbinic Judaism was explicitly formed as a rejection of Jesus as Messiah. So connected like Mormonism or Islam is connected to the church.

bethyada
Member

Once a year our shops and malls fill up to overflowing with crowds of people who are all out looking for gifts to give to other people. Now why do we treat this as a problem? What on earth would make us think this is a consumerist hell on earth, instead of treating it for what it is—a good start? I would like this worked through further. Perhaps some pagans are more generous. But are some generous in order to get? Do some give because there is an expectation? And when the receivers start telling us what they want to… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

I would like to understand this better. It is my experience that poor people are overwhelmingly more generous gift givers than others. I think this shows beauty of spirit, but I don’t think it is always something to encourage. Nobody should be going short on groceries so they can give lavish presents to people who don’t need them. On the other hand, it requires enormous tact to get them not to. Buying for rich friends is also one of the things that makes the whole Christmas shopping issue miserable when it should be a joy. How many sets of Tiffany… Read more »

bethyada
Member

I think that the self earning poor are often more generous, not so certain about the welfare poor (as a class, individuals may differ). I also think that generous to others in need is not the same as debt-spending on unnecessary luxuries. But there is some evidence that working poor give out of what they scarce can afford to others in need more than those well off (generalities, some wealthy are very generous).

Jill Smith
Member

Where I noticed it was in volunteering among minority families, especially newcomers. I had to be very careful never to indicate that I needed or wanted something that might be expensive, while at the same time never letting on that expense ever crossed my mind. They are very generous to one another as well.

bethyada
Member

Jill, you may be surprised what your friends delight in. I have no need for anything. Granted gifts is not my love language, but I am happy with a gift that says I was thinking of you. The gifts that have meant the most to me have not been birthday or Christmas presents but cards from people who have thanked me for something I have done that has meant a lot to them: helped them in completing their training, helped them through a difficult time, taken notice of them in a way that was important. These may have not even… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

Thank you cards are great, and they give you a lot of pleasure to look back on. Not that I would say no to chocolates (except during Advent and Lent).

bethyada
Member

Why would one not eat chocolate during advent?

Jill Smith
Member

It is not as heavy duty penitential as Lent, but we’re still encouraged to practice minor penances to get into the right frame of mind. These don’t have to be food-related; you might do extra spiritual reading. The object is to help you focus on God at a time when there are a lot of secular distractions.

bethyada
Member

?!

The Magi brought gifts. Wouldn’t the right response be to celebrate?

He was foretold by Daniel 4 centuries earlier. Simeon and Anna had been anticipating God’s work. A mother looks expectingly to her child’s birth. Doesn’t seem like at time to be getting all penitential?

It reminds me of my grandad’s comment to the teetotalers, “What are you going answer Jesus when he asks to have a drink of wine with you?”

Jill Smith
Member

No, but as with a mother expecting her child, it is a time to be serious. Penance and joy go together. And, certainly once Christmas Eve is here, we celebrate. And on the Sundays during Advent as we light the candles.

No Catholic is likely to be much of a teetotaler except from medical necessity or some other very good reason! I am because I can’t drink on top of migraine medication, but I happily watch everyone else.

bethyada
Member

Serious and joy yes. Penance and joy? Only indirectly. If you are sinning abandon your sin, but don’t put a dampener on Christmas.

The point of the teetotaler wasn’t about Catholics, it was a rejoiner to someone who was unnecessarily restrictive, kind of like my point about penance and celebration.

Jill Smith
Member

No, I don’t think it does, actually. It’s ideally a kind of stripping down of self to see your defects more clearly and to appreciate your need for our Lord that much more. Penance is merely one of many ways to focus your mind. As long as it doesn’t become morbid introspection which is definitely not a good thing! I tend to be a bit on the ascetic side but I definitely don’t impose it on other people, and I don’t think it is a virtue, at least not for me.

Jane
Member

Christmas BEGINS on December 25 and lasts until Epiphany. Christmastide itself is the traditionally appropriate time for imitating the the Magi and doing the festive stuff, not Advent.

bethyada
Member

So advent is for penance? Happy for you to correct me Jane but I don’t associate Christmastime with introspection or self denial at all. (Over and above my usual self which is highly introspective :) )

Jane
Member

Advent is to reflect on the coming of Christ — which is obviously incredibly celebratory, but is made necessary because of our sinfulness, so the balance ought to be there. But it also includes the anticipation of His coming again. I would think that reflecting on either of His comings automatically results in a blend of joyful anticipation and solemn reflection. At any rate, I’m not from a super-liturgical tradition myself (I’m a liturgical-leaning Presbyterian), but that’s how I understand Advent from others more steeped in it. Me, I don’t major on it but I make some effort to make… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Perhaps some more thought by me here seeing as I am opposed by Catholics and Protestants. Too much Baptist and Charismatic background perhaps?

Jill Smith
Member

You can always tell a Catholic because they won’t put the baby Jesus into the manger in the Nativity scene until after midnight on Christmas Day. This causes some consternation in interfaith families.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

And when the receivers start telling us what they want to get, is that a problem? DALLAS (CBS11) – Some Christmas tree angel requests are raising eyebrows among folks who feel the request are getting too expensive and too extravagant. A few tags from children in need include iPhone 7s, Apple watches, TVs and video game systems. “That’s nuts. This is off of a giving tree?” questioned Jordan Chester. Chester and others said they do not even have any of the items listed on some of the wish lists. “I mean you want some nicer things, some toys and things.… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member

That is pitiful. Children are naturally acquisitive, so I don’t blame them. But who are the adults who aren’t saying, “No, darling, we are not asking Santa for a smart phone. How about a portable CD player with headphones?” Or, even better, “Let Santa surprise you.”

But it isn’t just the poor. I think a whole blizzard of special snowflakes out there have grown up without ever hearing statements like: We can’t afford that, and even if we could, we are not spending good money on something so extravagant and unnecessary.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

iPhone 7’s start at $649.

It’s disgusting.

Jill Smith
Member

My daughter has one, but at least it was her own earnings! I have a burner that I fill up with minutes from time to time. Only the drug dealers and I still use burner phones! But I actually like not having a phone most of the time because, when I go out, I like to be inaccessible. Otherwise I might just as well have stayed home and answered the phone. I am extremely excited because she has just won a really good theatre award. If I could afford to hire a plane with a banner, no doubt I would!… Read more »

Jane
Member

I have never heard the expression burner phone. Does that mean pay as you go? If so, my family still uses those, too. ;-)

Jill Smith
Member

It is a cell phone you can buy at a convenience store for around ten dollars, and you load it up with minutes. They’re called burner phones because drug dealers and terrorists use them only once then toss them away so that the police can’t trace them.

They are actually talking about legislation to require the buyer to provide ID.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

I know all about burner phones, because I’ve seen every episode of The Wire.

Jill Smith
Member

I learned from reading every one of Michael Connolly’s Lincoln Lawyer series. Although I have to wonder why, every single time, defense lawyer Mickey Haller thinks his client is innocent. The first time, maybe, although it seems to be against the odds. But in books 2 and 3 as well? When I question my defense attorney pal about the absolute innocence of her clients, she rolls her eyes and says don’t ask. And she’s not even a public defender. But I crack up over Haller’s bus bench ad: A Reasonable Doubt for a Reasonable Price.

Jane
Member

I have a friend whose oldest daughter is adopted, so when said daughter wins some kind of honor or does well at something, the mom grins and says, “Thanks, it’s all nurture!” (She’s kidding of course and is in fact a humble person.)

Jill Smith
Member

Humble is good, not that I would know personally but I do try. In the convent where I spent my trial visit (trial was probably the operative word), the novitiate for would-be nuns was housed in Humiliata House. The novices, of course, referred to it as Humble Hut!

Jill Smith
Member

No one could think that the Snowflake’s histrionic talents came from her phlegmatic, don’t-make-a-scene mother (except on paper or keyboard, and then I can be as histrionic as the best of them). But living with a diva, even a very nice diva, is not always peaceful. I must grab the moments when all the drama pays off!

Dave
Guest
Dave

You’re right! They should be about 8 bucks.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

And Caitlyn’s your uncle.

40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN
Guest
40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

No, it isn’t just the poor that want these things.

But it’s only poor people asking strangers to buy these things for their kids.

Like you said, where are the parents? And where are the adults at the charity to say, “No, you are NOT going to ask a stranger to buy your kid a 65 in” TV or a $700 phone. Now beat it!”

Jill Smith
Member

I think that “poor but proud” might be a lost ideal. My mother, who is very intelligent, grew up in a poor English family and was offered a scholarship to a good girls’ school. Her parents turned it down rather than ask for help with the cost of uniforms and transportation. There were things you just didn’t do, and asking for help other than to feed your starving children was one of them.

insanitybytes22
Member

Personally, I just scratched the whole, give, give, give thing. In truth we are to receive, to receive a savior, to receive salvation, to receive the renewing of our minds. It is actually not giving that causes people trouble, it is receiving. Giving puts us in control, receiving makes us vulnerable.