The Mission of the Body of Christ by Russ Ramsey, Free for CAPC Members
The way Ramsey sets up each of Paul’s letters—with characters, place, time, and social conditions—offers a new and captivating way to understand Scripture.
Many believers around the world began a new cycle of the Christian calendar this last Sunday. A new season marks our days, winter begins to move in. The light is disappearing, and the darkness seems to be overtaking even our brightest days. The season of Advent is upon us.
As a Christian that was raised in a more contemporary, “free church” background the idea of liturgy, Christian calendars, and seasonal patterns was foreign to my upbringing. Christmas day was the big win, the month of December was a hot pursuit of that one day. Granted there were Christmas carols, tree-lighting, cookies, and the accoutrements of a season were there. The church would produce a Christmas series in some sort or another that would last a couple of weeks. However, the tradition and connection of the season with the larger, global church was missing. That is until I was introduced to Advent.The reindeers, frosty snowmen, big white beards, elves on shelves, and “ho-ho-ho’s” can cloud out what we are truly anticipating and desiring this season.
For the four Sunday’s preceding Christmas Day our churches are pondering and considering our need, and the promised coming of our Savior. Within the scope of this four week season there is much to cause us anxiety — we have shopping lists to complete, parties to attend, cookies to make, and general cultural revelries to participate in. The drive of this season can overwhelm and kill the heart of contemplation and meditation. Furthermore, the reindeers, frosty snowmen, big white beards, elves on shelves, and “ho-ho-ho’s” can cloud out what we are truly anticipating and desiring. Advent should be a season of meditation and contemplation. It should be a movement for us from the depth of our darkness into the brightest light of Christ.
If we’re going to allow that to happen in our lives this Advent season, we need a few things. For one, we need to set aside time for meditation and contemplation. We can’t be deep, nourished, thriving people without the discipline of meditating on the words of God. So we must find time to pause and consider. But we also need God’s Word itself. We cannot just conjure up a feeling or sentiment about Christ within ourselves. Meditation must have content to feed upon. We must grow upon God’s word.
As we contemplate the gift of Christ this season we want to encourage you to slow down and make time for meditation on God’s grace in Christ. For me, it’s always helpful to have resources to supply and fuel my worship and practice of slowing down and knowing Christ. This month, thanks to Crossway Books, Christ and Pop Culture members receive such a resource: Andreas J Köstenberger & Alexander E. Stewart’s new book The First Days of Jesus. Serving as somewhat of a “harmony” of the four Gospel writers account of the birth of Christ, this book walks us through the events leading up to the birth of Christ and the importance of them. Written from a theological and historical perspective, The First Days of Jesus gives us meditative content to stir our hearts in worship and anticipation of Christ.
This season often finds Christians in conversations with others who are not Christians, and many who have doubts and questions about the Bible. They hear the story of baby Jesus each year, yet they wonder and question the plausibility of a virgin birth, fulfilled prophecy, and a Savior born to rescue a dying world. The First Days of Jesus shows the story of Scripture, and without removing the mystery of how God works, gives help and clarity to those who are asking good questions. This book will be a welcome support to those who are trying to encourage and bless their friends and family with the good news of Christ.
If anything, the Advent season is a time for us to linger, to sit and contemplate our own need and condition. It is a season to light candles and remember the coming of our Savior. It is a season to slow the roll and ponder a broken world, ancient prophecy, a virgin birth, and the coming of the Savior of the World. We hope and pray that this Advent is a season of worship and delight in Christ for you.
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