Welcome to Advent.
Every year, right around this time of year, you start seeing pictures of candles and seeing me use words like Advent. For those of you who do not come from liturgical backgrounds: Advent is the four weeks before Christmas. To be more precise, it is three full weeks plus whatever fraction of a week is needed to get us to Christmas Day.
Advent is a season of waiting. It is a season in which we remember the Israelites who waited for a Messiah whose coming we will celebrate on Christmas, while at the same time recognizing that we still wait for Him to come again. Basically, my approach to Advent is to pick an idea that kinda relates to Advent and talk about it for four weeks.
Today I would like to start off the Advent season by getting us to think about a simple question: What is a Christian? And what exactly does it take to be a Christian?
To prime our thinking, I shall direct you to a piece by Jeff Dunn that appeared at internetmonk.com earlier this year: What does it take to be a Christian?
In the beginning, the term Christian (Christlike, or little Christs) was attached to followers of the Jesus movement by outsiders because they looked and acted in ways that reminded them of their movement’s founder. But nowadays, the term Christian can mean just about anything you want it to mean. It can be a noun or an adjective, it can describe a person, an environment, a movement, even a nation. So what does all of this mean today? What does one have to do or believe in order to be Christlike, a little Christ?
Church attendance: It is widely accepted that one cannot grow in Christlikeness without regular fellowship with others of like mind. To a certain extent–a very large extent–that is true. But what exactly are we talking about here? If Sarah attends church every week while Jane only goes every other week, is Sarah more Christlike than Jane? How about church involvement? Is it OK to just show up? Or does one have to be involved in every thing the church is doing? Does one have to be there every time the doors are open?
Bible reading: It is widely accepted that regular Bible reading is an essential part of the Christian life. But how regular is needed? Every day? Every week? How about on a need-to-know basis? If Dick reads his Bible fifteen minutes every day while Tom reads his thirty minutes every day, is Tom more of a little Christ than Dick? Most evangelicals believe that spiritual formation begins and ends with Bible study and the personal quiet time. But what if I believe that there are other tools in the toolbox besides the personal quiet time? Am I any more or less Christlike than you?
You can see where this is going. I will stop here because the Jeff Dunn piece explores a whole host of questions pertaining to several facets of the Christian life such as prayer, baptism, witnessing, family, and differing interpretations of difficult Bible passages. I don’t want to just rewrite that post, as that would be bad form. But this should be enough to get us thinking.