Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Education Not Entertainment

Education Not Entertainment

This Sunday I was preaching on 2 Peter 1:2

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

Peter, writing to Christians troubled by persecution from without and heresy within, begins his epistle with this wish-prayer that speaks to their needs.  God’s grace will sustain and sanctify them and his peace will support them through troubled times.  The measure of God’s blessing is that he will give it in abundance. We accept dribbles; God wishes to give a deluge!  Referring to the Christmas season I said that God was not Scrooge, and he does not ration his blessings of grace and peace.  You only ration what is in short supply and God has an infinite supply of grace and peace to give.

But also with reference to the Christmas season I noted that the means through which these blessings are enjoyed is a deep, personal, experiential knowledge of God the Father and the Lord Jesus.  Men want experiences; God wants education.  The knowledge spoken of is not a dry cerebral, intellectual knowledge but a deeply personal knowledge that comes through the Word.

This, in part, is why I support the Continental Reformed attitude to Advent rather than the more severe Scottish Reformed attitude.  The Continentals accepted the celebration of the Nativity, but the Scots originally banned it. Advent season gives us an opportunity to focus in depth and in detail on the messianic prophecies and the meaning of Christ’s incarnation.

However, the sad reality is that for many churches Advent is more about entertainment than education.  It is the silly season, when we can do silly things in church, wear silly hats in “worldship”, and focus on getting everyone to feel good.  Sadly, I have enough experience to realise that many churches that “keep Advent” do not use it to preach the Gospel.  On the very Sunday when they have larger attendance they have less of a message – the focus is on entertainment not education.

For those who do not keep Christmas, and I respect their convictions, are they doing enough throughout the year to match the christological focus that Advent can provide? For those who keep Advent, are they making it an opportunity to encourage their members to a deeper knowledge of God our Father and Jesus our Lord, and thus a deeper experience and enjoyment of both his grace and his peace?