Monday, November 30, 2009

What is Advent?

The season of Advent begins Sunday November 29th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word "adventus" which means "coming". Advent is a season of preparation during which, historically, the Church has focused both on the coming of Jesus Christ at his birth and his second coming at the end of the age.

For many Christians, Advent is a season of repentance, almost like Lent, in which John the Baptist's call to Israel, "repent and prepare for the coming of the Lord" becomes a call for believers to examine our hearts and lives and, with God's grace, to rid ourselves of those things which we've set in the way of Jesus Christ and his purposes and desires for us in preparation for his second Advent at the end of the age.

There is, however, a tinge of joy also. We are waiting for the coming of a new Kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who has already guaranteed the inheritance, resurrection, and eternal life to all who have committed their lives to him.

All this can be somewhat strange feeling...while the rest of the world begins celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving (it seems) with carols and lights and decorations, our worship retains a solemn but hopeful feel right up to Christmas Eve (when the church is decked out in lights and color to celebrate the Lord's birth).

But this "hopeful solemnity", because it stands out so much in this season, might also prove to be an opportunity to share the gospel with non-Christian guests--an opportunity to talk about who Jesus is, the virgin born Son of God, the saving work did for us in his life, death and resurrection, and his second coming as both Judge and Deliverer.

Liturgically, you will notice a few changes. The color of my stole (the long scarf-like thing Anglican pastors wear around their necks to symbolize the fact that we are yoked to Christ, or slaves of Christ) and the chasuble (the pancho-like vestment that symbolizes the righteousness of Christ that he has imputed to believers through faith that makes it possible for us to be in communion with the Father) will go from green which is used during "regular time" (during Pentecost and from Epiphany to Lent) to either blue or purple...Blue is used to point to the coming dawn. It recalls the darkness before the birth of Christ and the dawn of his birth and second coming. Purple is the more traditional color that symbolizes repentance and sorrow for sin.

On the third Sunday of Advent, the liturgical color changes, for one Sunday only, from blue or purple to "rose" because that is the Sunday traditionally set aside to honor the faith and faithfulness of Mary. At Good Shepherd, we do not pray to or through Mary. Scripture teaches and so we believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit and remained a virgin until after Jesus was born when she and Joseph had more children. God gave her amazing faith and courage and we revere her as the mother who bore and raised the very Son of God incarnate but recognize that she also was a sinner saved through faith in her own Son. Her song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 is a beautiful testimony to God's grace and saving power in her own life and in ours.

During Advent you will also notice a tall candle standing in the center of the altar area. Near the top, you will see what looks like a Christmas wreath with four candles. This is an Advent wreath. Each Sunday in Advent (there are four) one candle is lit until Christmas Eve when all the candles are lighted. As each candle is lit, over the course of four Sundays, the increasing light represents the light of Christ steadily defeating the darkness of the fallen world and ultimately overcoming it.

If you have any questions during this season (or any other time) please feel free to email me at or give me a call at 773-4810


Nick said...

Regarding imputed righteousness, here are my thoughts:

In my study on this topic, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular Protestant Lexicon here is what it is defined as:

QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”

The Protestant Lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:

Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
This cannot be right.

So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such.

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

Hi Nick...interesting thoughts. I think your reasoning leaves out quite a bit, but let's just start with 2 Cor 5:21.

There Paul deals with a very important concept.

In some way Jesus "became sin" for us. I hope you would not argue that Jesus actually became inherently a sinner...if so that would mean that the "unblemished" lamb would, in fact, be quite blemished.

No. This text makes it necessary to assume that in some way Jesus took on our sins without himself becoming a sinner.

And then, the second part of the verse, "so that we could become the righteousness of God" parallels the first.

In the same way that Jesus "became sin" we "become the righteousness of God"

In other words, though we are sinners, somehow we take on the righteousness of God.

Regardless of the word used, the concept explicit in this "exchange" is unavoidable.

Jesus is credited or imputed with our sin, though he himself is sinless and we, likewise, are credited with his rightousness, though we are, ourselves, sinners.

Double imputation.

And this text then helps us understand Paul's use of the term logizomai elsewhere.

Nick said...

Sorry for the late response, I was very busy.

I agree that Jesus "in some way 'became sin' for us," for that is precisely the text. And I agree he didn't actually become a sinner. The NIV footnote says it means "a sin offering".

As for the second half being a "parallel" of the first, I don't think that is a given. It could be simply of the form 'Event-A caused Event-B'.

Regarding just the notion of impute, I'd say that is not a given either. For example, consider 2 Cor 8:9,
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."

There is no imputation going on here, yet this passage parallels 2 Cor 5:21.