For twelve years now I have been married to the most amazing woman I have ever met and it has been an absolute blast! However, I remember the engagement less fondly. Whilst we were close and very much in love, it was agony waiting. But what made things bearable was the knowledge that each day was a day nearer to the ‘big day’ and to spending the rest of our lives together. The engagement was waiting for the arrival of something promised, something guaranteed to happen.
Advent is a season which focuses on waiting for the return of Jesus Christ as Lord and King to restore all things, and to usher in the fullness of God’s rule and reign. Jesus spoke about this whilst on earth and the church has been waiting ever since. Let’s be honest, two thousand years is a long time to wait. Sometimes we may be guilty of thinking it will never happen, but Jesus uses the imagery of engagement to reassure us that he is returning!
Two thousand years ago engagement was a far more serious commitment than it is today. The groom would not only declare his intention to marry his bride, he would literally build an extra room for himself and his bride on his parental home. Jesus uses this imagery when he says he is going to his Father’s house, where there are many rooms, to prepare a place for all those who belong to him. When this work is completed, then he will return and take back with him those who are his.
I think this knowledge makes the waiting all the more bearable and helps us to remain in anticipation and excitement. Each day is a day nearer to his return and as we wait, God himself by his Holy Spirit waits with us. We wait not for something uncertain, but for what is truly guaranteed.
Moreover, advent is also a season that focuses on the birth of Jesus and reminds us that God freely gives of himself, to a world he loves. Jesus himself reminds us to be a people who give away also; ‘freely you have received, so freely give’. This is the culture of God’s kingdom and therefore advent is a good time to reassess how we give.
Recently we had giving Sunday to do exactly this, to consider our giving as a church. We considered three ways to give:
The first two are great and are so important, but the last one is the real challenge isn’t it?
Regular giving comes in many ways – cash on the plate or monthly standing order where some of us tithe. Tithe is an old word for a tenth and involves giving away one tenth of your income. Many in the church practice tithing which can be a helpful guideline for giving. But we must remember that tithing is an Old Testament principle and therefore not something you have to do.
The New Testament principle is most fully demonstrated on the cross where Jesus gives all his blood, his whole life. Doesn’t tithe it, he sacrificially gives his all.
The challenge for us all is to think and pray about what we can give that is sacrificial. What amount could we give to the ministry and mission of St Marks which would challenge us? Everything is God’s anyway; we are simply giving back to him what is already his.
For some of us 10% is the amount, for others that is too much, but there may be one or two who can go above and beyond 10%. Perhaps God is asking us to.
This Advent lets pray about our giving:
If we currently give is it time to increase?
If we don’t give is it time to start?
If we give sporadically could we give regularly?
If we give cash on a Sunday could we set up a standing order?
It’s a conversation between you and God and no one else. Let’s all be honest with God and with ourselves and as we journey to the manger and celebrate Christmas, let’s respond to the self giving God, and commit afresh to joining him in transforming this community for his glory.