One of the reasons this is the “most wonderful time for the year” for me is that we get to participate in all our favorite “family traditions.” Highlights of the past and present Drake traditions include:
- A fondue Christmas Eve dinner before attending a late church service.
- Leaving cookies (elves), carrots (reindeer), and Jack Daniels (to keep Santa warm on cold
Winter nights my dad always said) in front of the fireplace.
- Never being allowed downstairs before 7am.
- Reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 then opening stockings, having a long breakfast with
sticky buns before finally!! opening presents.
- Growing up we had a wonderful Christmas dinner mid afternoon and always went to the
movies Christmas night.
As a Christian who worships the Lord in the Anglican tradition, I have grown to appreciate “traditions”: ways of worshiping Jesus that are familiar, authentic, and meaningful. Our liturgy, in all its Anglican varieties, offers a familiar context to worship each week filled with good theology, scripture, and invitations to engage the Lord in confession, prayer, and praise. As we begin to understand and know the reason for these weekly and yearly “traditions” that make up our worship, we begin to understand and know the Lord better.
This Christmas, as we celebrate family traditions, may the gift of celebrating the yearly remembrance of our Lord’s entrance into human history fill us with anticipation, excitement, wonder and joy as we worship the One from whom all our Christmas and weekly worship traditions find their true meaning.
As we enter the stretch run of Advent, I want to encourage you to take time amidst the busy season to rest in the knowledge that God is near. He is not silent. He speaks. He knows and cares and loves. He is active and faithful, forgiving and sovereign . . . always working for our best interests. He redeems every mistake, every disappointment, every loss, every sin, and every act of injustice in His perfect timing. The incarnation shouts to us that despite what we may feel or see around us, God is more concerned about us than we could have ever hoped or imagined. He has not left us to ourselves; nor will He ever forsake us.
So, this Advent if you are burdened by guilt, weariness, disappointment, failure, the loss of a job or a loved one, receive the good news: Christ has come. He is near. He is Emmanuel, God with us. And He offers Himself to us. As Malachi reminds us, He comes “as the sun of righteousness with healing in His wings.” (Malachi 4: 2) For those humble enough to receive Him, He redeems the past, is enough for the present, and promises to lead us into the future until we see Him face to face.
My experience is that many self identified agnostics or atheists regard followers of Christ as those who espouse religious rules but never live up to them, hold political convictions that place personal piety above people’s real needs, and are judgmental and intolerant of anyone who is not like them. For this reason, John Fischer wrote a critique of Christian culture. In his ironic self critique, Real Christians Don’t Ask Why, he states: “Don’t tell [non Christians] you are a Christian too soon. They may actually like you. And then when you tell them you are a follower of Christ, they will have to reevaluate their whole view of Christianity.” A sad but perhaps honest commentary on the perceived reputation and influence of followers of Christ in our culture.
At the same time, the Bible is pretty clear about what will happen to those who honestly follow Him.
Followers (disciples, learners) of Jesus Christ will
- Know a love, joy , and peace far above anything this world can provide – Galatians 5:22
- Have a supernatural power to love, not just tolerate, those who hate them – Luke 6:27
- Will be patient, kind, forgiving, bearing with one another – Romans 12: 9-13
- Will have a joy and peace that enables them to endure anything with grace – John 15:11
- Like their master, will serve, not judge or alienate, those who have rejected God – Matthew 20:28
- Will seek the blessing and prosperity of the city in which they dwell – Jeremiah 29:7
- Will be instruments of peace and reconciliation in a broken world – 2 Corinthians 5:18
- Will have a purpose in life that they would not otherwise have – Ephesians 2:10
So why is the world’s impression of “disciples” of Jesus so different from what Jesus says His disciples will look like?
I have been trying to learn more about what it means to be a disciple, to make disciples and to be a part of a church that has discipleship as a part of its DNA.
In his book, Real-Life Discipleship, Jim Putman, a pastor and church leader, defines a disciple from Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 4:19 like this:
“Come follow me” – A disciple is someone who has decided to follow Jesus
“And I will make you” – A disciple is someone who is being transformed by Jesus
“Fishers of men” – A disciple is someone who is committed to Jesus’ mission.
He goes on to say that this reflects conversion of the mind (Deciding to follow Christ), conversion of the heart (allowing God to transform our character) and conversion of the hands (Willingly serving and working to build the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and joy).
He sums up his definition of discipleship like this: “Jesus redeems us for a purpose, not just to give us a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Through faith and the power of His Spirit, Jesus desires for His followers to be disciples, to follow Him daily in practical life, to become like Him in His character, and to joyfully participate in the building the Kingdom and investing in people for eternity.”
What do you think? Do you agree with Jim’s definition? Is there a difference between a believer in Jesus and a disciple of Jesus?
About the ResBlog
Members of staff and Vestry will be posting on the ResBlog to help us think through who we are in light of the gospel so that we might “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”