Advent And Celibacy

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Most people think of Advent as waiting for the Christmas tree to go up and presents to be opened. Do you see Rudolph on radar yet? Many in the family idolatry church today think it symbolizes waiting on Christ’s birth, being fruitful and multiplying, and everything good about family life. Breaking news: Avent has nothing to do with family life. Jesus was the first baby born and the last baby born. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. For those who choose celibacy, Advent not only recognizes those who waited on Christ’s birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but also those who wait on his second coming today. Preparation for this second Advent is one of the “affairs of the Lord” that Apostle Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 7:34. I’m not saying that married people can’t understand waiting on the rapture. But I am saying they can’t understand its full reality and immediacy. Their fire and longing has been extinguished. Their need for comfort and pleasure has been answered. Their time goes no further than the clock hanging on the wall. No matter how heavy their spiritual concerns may be, they are easily trumped by a wet diaper, a hungry spouse, a bigger house, and a bigger inheritance for their children. That’s why Protestant churches are plagued with weak pastors. They can’t preach the truth because they’ll lose their job and starve their children.

But for those of us who have foregone marriage and wait on the Lord in all things, Advent has a much deeper meaning. We are able to testify with our lives that this world is passing away and point towards a new heaven and a new earth where no one is given in marriage and no diapers need to be changed. We are able to renounce earthly inheritance for life everlasting. We can hang a shingle on our souls that reads: “There’s something better to come.” In a real sense, our whole lives are an advent – not just the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It is our responsibility to make sure everybody knows the baby is coming back with full unbridled Godly authority, not as a sacrificial lamb. His vengeance will be swift and final. For a lot of people, that means they are waiting to die. I’m waiting to live.

Our pessimistic world knows only how to live in a moment of pleasure, where men have to get it up and women have to put it out – a dumbed down society. Consider the paradox of Christ’s poverty – a man who had everything but owned nothing in this world. As Jesus told the scribe in Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” How do you think Jesus would fair in the business world today? Imagine if the American dream was to be homeless. Could you get on board with that? Would you be willing to bet that God’s plan is bigger than our individual lives? He was a homeless man. Yet he was the wealthiest man who ever lived. He was an unmarried man who never had sex or children. Yet he passed everything to his children. He was a man who lived a short while on earth. Yet he defined time out of time. He was a radical man.

Celibacy is just as radical today. There are still Pharisees among us who scoff and worship the idols of marriage and children. Instead of conforming their lives to Christ, they cling to Old Testament and Mosaic law and throw the New Testament out the window. The only thing they know how to wait for is the next fruitful romp in the hay, the next moment of pleasure. As someone who has chosen the Lord’s affairs, I see Advent as anticipation and preparation rather than waiting. For the lost world, waiting is a passive thing. We wait in line at Walmart. It’s a waste of time. Instead, we who are celibate actively anticipate and prepare for the new world. By renouncing marriage, we are actively affirming the expectant arrival of our King Jesus. We point not just to the next generation or next millennium, but to a time beyond this time. Celibacy is like the Hubble telescope on steroids. It peers as deep into space as man can see, but still can’t see all of eternity. It can’t see all the preparations that are underway in heaven.

So how do we actively anticipate? One way is by making sure all the grain is brought in from the fields. Do you know lost souls who don’t even know the true meaning of Christmas? This is the time to remind them that . . . time is short. The tablecloths are being spread on heavenly tables. The candles are being lit. Make sure all of your friends have their names in the Lamb’s book of life. It’s also a good time to affirm the consistency of God, the fulfillment of his promises, and how the Christ returning is the same Christ that Simeon and Anna met in the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2). Serve as a reminder of their patience and faith. And realize that the more things we don’t have, the more room we have for Christ’s concerns. Light a candle so that the world will see you are here.

Simeon – A Lesson In Waiting

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In Luke’s account of the birth of Christ, the stories of Simeon and Anna have disappeared behind manger scenes and Christmas trees.  But when you think about what Advent really means, the significance of their role in the story takes on new meaning.  They are only mentioned once, but this brief walk across the nativity stage can serve as a standard for an Advent frame of mind- in essence, a lesson on how to wait for the return of Christ.  Mary and Joseph had taken the Christ child to the temple to present him to the Lord, which was in keeping with Jewish law for all first born sons, and Simeon and Anna happened to be at the temple that day.  The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would see Christ before he died.  But the Holy Spirit didn’t reveal two key facts – when and where.  His faith was sufficient enough though that he didn’t need other details. Is our faith ever that sufficient?  The knowledge that he would see him was enough.  But this day in the temple brought the answer to when and where.  One may be tempted to think that Simeon just happened to be at the right place at the right time, on the right stage, and in the right city.  But no, there was more going on here.  Simeon was a devout man of God, faithful to the very end of his life, and arrived at the temple with the “Holy Spirit upon him.”  He was a common man, a poor man by social standards.  At first glance, he may not have appeared to the kind of man who would be called on for this performance of biblical proportion, part of a story that would be told for eternity.  There are several key points in this story that are often overlooked.  First, Simeon was a man in mourning who was also “looking for the consolation of Israel,” for the arrival of the messiah, waiting for that appointed time when God’s son would be revealed to him.  So he was not waiting Idly.  He was preparing his heart and the hearts of Israel for that consolation.  I’m sure he had expectations of what form that comfort would take, what kind of man would be needed to alleviate the pain of a grief-stricken nation, and had carefully studied all of the Old Testament prophets and their descriptions of the messiah.  Leading a life of devotion, faithfulness, and constant watching prepared him to be sensitive to the presence of the Lord, to recognize Jesus’ face when he saw it, and boldly proclaim his presence to the world.  He arrived at the temple filled with the Holy Spirit.  Are we filled with the Holy Spirit while we wait?   Yes, Simeon was chosen by God for this unique role in the nativity story.  As in Mary’s case, you could say he was “favored.”  But his role of waiting and preparation didn’t have the longest script and certainly wouldn’t have won him an Oscar.  So it is today with Advent, expectantly awaiting the return of Christ for his people.  Not just passively waiting, but expectantly waiting with study and preparation.  Instead of Simeon and Anna, one group today uniquely qualified to wait on the Lord are the never married singles.  In this sense, they take waiting to a whole new level – one which a married couple could never reach with divided concerns.  So during this Advent season, remember there are preparations being made behind the scenes and far away from sleigh bells and snowmen.