On Christmas Day, Advent ends and we begin the 12 days of the Christmas Season, which ends with the season of Epiphany which begins on January 6. As mentioned in this e-letter, Advent is a 4 week period in which we are invited to prepare to celebrate Jesus’ first coming into the world at his birth. Advent is also the time in which we anticipate Jesus’ second coming.
A few weeks ago, I suggested Advent is a great time of year to pay attention to three words. Those words are anticipate, celebrate, and elevate. In our day-to-day lives, we can live with a sense of anticipation, celebration, and elevation. To help us remember the three words, I introduced the acronym ACE. A – Anticipate, C – Celebrate, E – Elevate. In Part 1 of this series, I focused on the A of ACE or anticipate. You can go to that blog here. Last week I explored the C of ACE or celebrate, and that eletter can be found here. To wrap things up, this week I will focus on the E of ACE, or Elevate.
The E of ACE living is elevating. This is an invitation to each of us to intentionally elevate ways of living that reflect a life that is focused on Jesus. In every moment, we can choose to live in response to Jesus instead of living in reaction to what is around us. We can choose to live responsively instead of reactively. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, each moment we can clothe ourselves in the presence of Jesus. We can elevate Jesus’ ways of being.
In the New Testament, we have two letters written by Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers. In his first letter, we find a lot about what an elevated life looks like. Here are some excerpts from the Message version of the Bible, with some of my comments.
Peter writes, “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him… Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.”
Here Peter reinforces the idea that we are living in in-between times. Jesus was born and Jesus will come again. When Jesus comes again, Peter writes, we will have it all, life healed and whole. A good reminder to live with anticipation for that day. A good reminder to celebrate all that is right in the meantime, including that we have God and God has us.
Peter then writes, “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing…Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God…love one another as if your lives depended on it.”
Peter again reminds us to live with a sense of anticipation. He then encourages us not to live for ourselves, but for God and that when we live for God we need to love each other as if our lives depended on it. In other words with everything we have. And we live by loving because of God.
Peter continues. “So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people… you are God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you… Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul… Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God.”
Peter writes that our lives are no accident. Our lives come from God and we are made by God for God. As such, Peter states in essence, we need to get over ourselves, dispense with our egos, treat people with dignity and love, and work to rid ourselves of hard heartedness.
Peter finally writes, again in excerpts, “Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth…Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master.”
These words in Peter’s first letter certainly illustrate what Elevate means in the acronym of ACE. I am convinced that the more we strive to live like Jesus and the more we take on Jesus’ behaviors, views, and expectations, the more our lives will be transformed. When we do this, not only will we discover purpose, but we will also discover God’s peace that passes understanding.
The more we work to elevate Jesus’ way of being, the more and more love will become the focus of who we are and how we show up in the world. While this may cause us to feel, at times, out of step with others and their actions, we will feel much more in alignment with God and joy will come to define us.
In these waning days of Advent, I invite us all to ponder Jesus’ birth and second coming with a sense of anticipation. To celebrate all that is right and good and whole. And to elevate Jesus’ ways of being in our own lives. I look forward to seeing many of you at our Christmas Eve services at 5, 7 and 9. Blessings and love and prayers. Robert +