SUMMER PODCAST REBOOT – this episode was originally published in Advent 2019.
Hi, my name is Helen and it’s great to welcome you to the Foundations Daily Podcast from STC Sheffield. Our Bible passage today is Ephesians Chapter 5 vs 11-20.
The last time I was on the podcast rota it was Brexit Deadline Day, and this time around, my week coincides with the General Election. It’s fair to say the season we are in is one of great uncertainty. It’s hard to think of a time when politics has been so unsettled and so unpredictable.
Alongside this we then have something that is the complete opposite….something much more positive…..Christmas time! We watch films and listen to songs that say this is “the most wonderful time of the year.” We spend a lot of time decorating our homes, buying presents and eating mince pies. We love the quality time spent with friends and family.
Whether we think that this is a ‘magical’ time of the year, or whether we are drawn more to the challenging times we face as a nation; through our Bible passage today we are going to reflect on what God has to say about how we spend our time, and what the real focus of this season should be.
Let’s look at verses 11 and 13 from the Message and verse 16 from the Passion translation:
“Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness…..rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ…….Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.”
So, firstly, what is this season actually all about?
Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time when we prepare for the coming of God’s light into the world. Jesus is this light, and so we excitedly get ready for his birth.
The light of Christ brings hope, the promise of new life and new possibilities. We definitely need to prepare to celebrate this!
However, preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus does not mean we have to jam our calendar with festive activities, and fill the fridge until it is bursting. As verse 11 says, “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork.”
If we are honest, for many of us, Advent is a full-on season of busyness and working hard to get everything done in time. We can reach Christmas day feeling pretty barren.
But this is not what God intended for us. So what can we do this Advent to change our rhythms and routines, in order that life becomes less busy, and times of work are punctuated by times of rest and reflection?
In our home we do this by eating our evening meal by candlelight and reading a Bible passage together, that leads us through the Christmas story bit by bit. It brings a change of rhythm to the busyness of our house, and helps us to take time to focus on Jesus, rather than Father Christmas.
Whatever you choose to do, rather than this season being a barren time of traipsing to Tesco and scrolling through Amazon; let’s make Advent a fruitful time in our relationship with God.
As presents begin to appear beneath the tree, we conjure up images of children excitedly ripping off the paper on Christmas morning.
I will always remember the year Jacob and Max were given a Wii games console for Christmas. They had wanted one for years, but we couldn’t afford it, so in the end they stopped asking. Then one year we pooled all the money from their grandparents and ourselves…..and prayed for an Ebay bargain! God answers prayers, and we put the Wii in a big cardboard box with baby wipe advertising printed all over it, and then wrapped it in paper. When they first ripped the paper off, they looked utterly disappointed by what was underneath. But then, when they tore open the box, the joy on their faces was overwhelming. One of them burst into tears and the other just collapsed on the floor!
Verse 13 says “rip the cover off those frauds, and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.”
If our boys had ripped open that present to discover that it was just a box of baby wipes, they would have felt cheated; as if their parents had defrauded them.
Another analogy might be ripping a plaster off a wound before it is healed. Doing this exposes a rather messy, ugly sight. There is nothing attractive about it.
During Advent we prepare for the birth of Jesus – the light of the world. But when the light of Christ comes into our lives, it exposes areas of darkness that may have taken hold of our minds, it highlights the unattractive attitudes of our heart, and it reveals the fraudulent, useless things of the world that we may be pursuing.
And therefore Advent is not just a time to prepare our houses, prepare food and prepare gifts; it is also a time when we need to prepare our hearts, and ask God to rip the cover off any areas of our lives that need to have the light of Christ shone on them.
Only when we take this time to prepare our hearts, will we then be able to respond to the final part of today’s Bible reading in verse 16, and that is to “take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.”
Because as Christians our purpose is to be Advent people every day of the year; shining the light of Christ for everyone around us to see. This is how we are meant to spend our time – taking full advantage of the opportunities given to us to share the promise of hope that is found in Jesus.
This Advent let’s take the time to invite someone we know to church at Christmas, or to Alpha in the New Year, so that they have the opportunity to embrace the light of Christ in their own lives.
And, as we approach the end of 2019, let’s ask ourselves this question: How can I use my time to shine more brightly for Christ in the year ahead?
Heavenly Father, help us to use this Advent season to pursue time with you, to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, and to take every opportunity to shine the light of Christ into the lives of those around us. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 5:11-20 (MSG)
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.