You may be thinking, “The Bishop’s off his rocker! Why would he be wishing someone a Happy New Year in NOVEMBER???”
It is because there are more calendars than just our regular civil one. The regular civil calendar, of course, begins on January 1. And you may be aware that the Jews celebrate their new year on Rosh Hashanah, which occurs in the August or September timeframe. But the Church also has a calendar. It begins with Advent, the period of preparation for our celebration of Christ’s birth. The season of Advent begins today, and with it the new Church year. So, Happy New Year !!
Today’s devotional will be a bit different from the ones I normally write. I want to share the Advent Letter I wrote to our Communion. It will have more direct scripture references than I typically have in my devotionals, because it was originally written for a bit of a different audience. But I felt like the message — ENGAGE YOUR WORLD – is an important one.
So here is the letter I shared with the CEEC.CHURCH.
As we enter the next year of our Church calendar, our minds are directed once again to Christ’s coming. He came. He is here among us. He will return and establish HIs Kingdom in, among and around us.
Let me draw our attention to three areas.
- The first is the TRAINING to which we are called.
God gives us His word to perfect our training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” As we continue through the process of allowing His word to teach us His ways, He will build a foundation of His righteousness in our lives. He then uses His word to reprove our sins and errors, showing us the path forward and correcting us. Finally, as we receive His reproof and embrace His corrections we are TRAINED in His righteousness. It enables us to “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph 4:24)
This is the psalmist’s cry in Psalm 25:4-5,which is one of our readings today. “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me.”
We are called to become like Him, reflecting His glory, engaging His power, impacting His world and establishing His Kingdom.
As the chosen and anointed representatives of Christ, we teach and encourage one another. More experienced are called to teach less experienced, passing on the grace and discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how His body is equipped.
In the New Testament reading from the First Sunday of Advent, Paul expresses this thought to the church in Thessalonica, saying he wishes he could meet them face to face and supply what is lacking in their faith. The goal of Paul’s training and discipleship remains unchanged. We must continue our training so that the Lord will make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so that Christ may establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
- Our training will make us victorious in our TRIALS.
We, as the hands and feet of Christ in the world, are the outworking of His love.
We, who have been crucified with Christ; no longer live to ourselves. Now Christ lives in us; and the life which we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself up for us. (Gal 2:20) He is living through us, working through us, expressing His love for the lost world through us. We willingly enter into the trials necessary to reach the world for Christ. Paul says that we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
How so? How could ANYTHING be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Not, of course, in their effectiveness; only in their application. Christ will not be in Boston or Bangalore today except as His people walk out their calling. Jesus won’t physically appear in Paris or Pittsburgh today except through His Church. Goiania, Giza, Guatemala City and Guildford will only see Jesus today in our voices and actions. WE are the Body of Christ, we walk among the residents of this planet on His behalf bringing His love, His healing and His hope with us.
This demands sacrifice, and sometimes even suffering. Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, we, like Peter, arm ourselves with the same purpose. (1 Pet 4:1) We embrace a willingness to go against the flow, to be the lights in darkness. We know that if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Pet 4:16) We live our lives in an awareness that we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving an example for us and calling us to follow in His steps. (1 Pet 2:21)
- Our training and our trials will lead to His ultimate TRIUMPH.
He leads us into victory. He could do it without us, yet calls us to participate in His plan. We must engage, not stand idly by and see what happens. We must take hold of the Word of Life and hold fast, so that in the day of Christ we will have reason to glory because we did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Phil 2:16) We must deliberately PRESS ON and TAKE HOLD of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. (Phil 3:12)
Let me encourage each and every one of you – all who claim the Name – do what the Gospel reading from this Sunday calls us to do.
STAND UP and be counted among the followers of Christ.
“Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
How can the 2.175 million believers in our Communion impact a world of 7.9 Billion, you may ask? We can do it by embracing His TRAINING to prepare ourselves for service. We can do it by willingly embracing the TRIALS necessary to share His sufferings and advance His Kingdom. And we can do it by standing up and engaging the world with the power and presence of Jesus Christ as He leads us to TRIUMPH.
Christ never needed a majority. He started with twelve and built it from there.
As we enter this new year, I encourage you to make a renewed commitment.
Straighten up and raise your heads — ENGAGE YOUR WORLD.