It's easy to approach parenting in our own strength. But, as Christians, we are told, "Be filled with the Spirit." My friend and colleague, Jeremy Linneman, the Pastor of Community Life at Sojourn Community Church, preached a sermon at the beginning of Advent season entitled "Spirit-Filled Parenting." Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting portions of that sermon here. The first installment focuses on hope that the message of Advent gives us for our parenting.
The Hope of Advent for Parents
Each Christmas season is an opportunity to apply the message of Advent to the everyday aspects of our lives. What is the message of Advent?
Jesus is coming. He’s coming and so there is Hope. The First Advent meant Hope for Israel; the Second Advent means Hope for the Church. The First Advent was to give us a taste of eternity; the Second Advent is to usher in eternity. The First Advent brought a Messiah to show us the way; the Second Advent brings a Messiah to take us home.
You can think of Advent like an appetizer. It’s just a little taste to give us an appetite for what’s coming: the real Entree. The point of an appetizer isn’t to satisfy your hunger; it’s to increase it. It’s to say to the customer: “Ok, I know you’re hungry and can’t wait 25 minutes for everything we’ve got for you, but don’t worry, here’s a little taste of what you have to look forward to. You think this is good… This is nothing! It’s just a foretaste of the real thing!!”
In the first Advent, Jesus came and he turned our world upside down. Or rather: he turned it, for little moments at a time, right side up. There wasn’t supposed to be sickness, so he healed the sick. There wasn’t supposed to be death, so he called Lazarus out from the grave. There wasn’t supposed to be shame, so he told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.” For a few blessed individuals—not everyone and not all the time—Jesus pulled back the curtain to let in the light of eternity.
In between the first and second Advents, the best things of this world are just appetizers of the true Meal. Yes, there is good food here on earth, but not like there will be in the New Heavens and Earth. Yes, there are great relationships here, but not like we’ll enjoy for all Eternity. Yes, there are strands of restoration and reconciliation here, but it’s just a little taste of what God has in store for later.
Advent reminds us of two things. First, every bit of suffering here on earth (as we live in a fundamentally broken, fractured world) should cause us to long even more for eternity and say, “Come Lord Jesus.” The message of Advent makes the frustrations of parenting more manageable, because there’s hope beyond broken families and crying kids.
But second, every bit of blessing here on earth (in good food, in family and friends, in worship with the church) should also cause us to long even more for eternity and say, “Come Lord Jesus.” Why? Because even the best moments are just appetizers. These moments of joy, the stress-free relationships, the beautiful weather: these are subtle reminders that all will soon be well. Winter is ending and Spring is coming. So in the darkest nights of the soul and in the heights of joy: “Come Lord Jesus.”
Sometimes the glories of family and parenting can make me subconsciously think I can do life apart from God. There is nothing more wonderful on earth than a loving family with growing children. Add to that I have a beautiful wife, close friends, a job I love, plus I get to be a member of an amazing church—and all my sports teams are having a great year… Life is good!!
When we were putting up our Christmas tree last week—well, my wife and boys were putting it up, I was on the couch icing my broken collarbone—it was a moment of glory. My five year old was cutting out a paper Morning Star for the top of the tree. My three year old was climbing on the window sill to straighten out the lights. My six-month old, who just started crawling, was scooting around trying to put everything shiny in his mouth. And my happy wife was wearing her cute pants. Yes, life is very good.
But if there’s one thing I know about raising small children, it’s that the moments of “glory” are short lived. About 30 seconds later, the boys were fighting, the tree was tipping over on the baby, and I was barking commands at the children while remaining on the couch. Nothing good lasts! Not here anyways.
The blessings of life should make us say, “Yes, this is great; thank you, Father. But even better: still this is only just the appetizer. Imagine just how good the real thing will be! Come Lord Jesus!”