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Bishop’s Advent Message

posted 28.11.2013

December 2013

ADVENT: A Time to Re-Focus on the Lord’s Coming

The Church year, unlike the calendar New Year, does not start with a big bang. Rather it starts with preparation and expectation. We begin the Christian calendar not with Christmas but with the First Sunday in Advent. Advent means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. The intent of setting aside a specific period spanning four Sundays before Christmas is to enable us to prepare our hearts and put our lives into gear as we reflect on the Coming of Jesus Christ into human history.

Christ has come … Christ will come again

During the season of Advent, the Church remembers Christ’s First Coming and anticipates His Second Coming. When we remember the incarnation of the Son of God as a baby in Bethlehem, we cannot help but also think of His going to the Cross on our behalf and His rising from the dead to seal the victory of God over man’s condition. Jesus died for our sins. He will return in glory in His resurrected body to execute God’s final judgment, to consummate the victory He won on the Cross and to usher in the new heaven and the new earth.

Therefore, our posture in Advent is primarily one of repentance (aided by our use of purple as the liturgical colour). We remember that Christ came the first time to redeem us from the consequences of our sin - therefore we should not return to or continue in sinful ways. The need to turn away from sin and return to God is heightened by the knowledge that when Christ returns, it will be to put all things right and to judge all unrepentant sin.

The First and Second Coming of Christ are unique, non-repeatable events in salvation history and they form part of our creedal faith. Our hope lies in the reality and doctrine of these events.

Let me now turn to another aspect in which we can speak of Christ coming to us.

Christ coming to us with revival power

I believe that the witness of Scripture and the testimony of church history allow us to speak of times, between the First and Second Coming, when the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ comes to His church and His world in revival power. In such times, the Lord graciously and compellingly makes His rule and His presence known. He does so through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who renews the Church and turns the world toward the living God. In thinking along these lines, I am particularly inspired by the prophetic visions in Scripture of the revival of the dry bones (Ezek 37) and the river of life that transforms everything in its flow (Ezek 47). This is what I believe the Lord has purposed to do in these days. Hence, I called all of us on the Diocesan Day of Prayer and Fasting (2 November) to pray for the Revival Rain of the Holy Spirit, in the same vein as Elijah on Mt Carmel (1 Ki 18).  Beloved, let expectant prayer from pleading, adoring hearts rise up with increasing vigour during this period of Advent.

The revival we are seeking is not a personal experience of spiritual euphoria. Yes, there will be a bursting forth of inexpressible joy in our hearts, our homes and our church communities. But there will be much more. There will be a striking holiness in our lives. There will be bold and winsome effectiveness in our witness and evangelism. And Christ’s coming to us in revival power, sometimes called God’s visitation, will lead to His salvation reaching the nations. That brings me to …

Something special about this Advent

For the year 2013, Advent begins on 1 December and that is the same day we have set aside as Diocesan Missions Sunday. How significant! – the coinciding of the two events captures the heart of God that revival and world missions must go hand-in-hand. I trust that the majority of you are aware that our theme for this year’s Diocesan Missions Sunday is “Give Him a Hundred”.  From the total amount collected, a tithe will be given to other agencies for mission needs beyond the fields of our Diocese while the bulk of the offering will be given to furthering the mission in our six Deaneries. As Advent stirs up our longing for the Lord’s return, let us give generously to complete the task of world evangelization (Mt 24:14).

Within the Archdeaconry of Singapore, our St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SAMH) will celebrate its centenary this Advent on 19 December. What an opportune moment, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Singapore as our Guest of Honour, to remind ourselves of the heritage we must continue until the Lord’s return of “doing good works, pursuing love, mercy and justice” (Is 56:1; Jer 29:7; Mic 6:8; Mt 5:13-16; 1 Pet 2:12). I hope as many of you as possible, representing the whole Diocese can be part of the milestone celebration. 

Remember His faithfulness, Expect His fulfilment

Advent is a time to recall God’s faithfulness and to expect the fulfilment of His promises. Before the first Christmas, the holy remnant of God’s people, represented by Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna (Lk 1-2), were living with a longing for the Christ to come. To strengthen their hope, they remembered God’s faithfulness to His people over their long history. We too will do well to do the same.

This Advent marks my first year as Diocesan Bishop. As I write this letter, I am remembering specific ways in which God has shown His faithfulness to our Diocese and to me His child and servant. For example, having just returned from confirming about 260 new members in Nepal, I am thinking about stirring experiences of kingdom advance in our Deaneries. And how could I not remember the packed-out Diocesan Day of Prayer and Fasting or several glowing reports of God’s favour coming from our parishes, our schools and our community services. On the personal and family front, I know specifically too the Lord’s faithful providence and deliverance.

Truly, the Lord is faithful in all He does, and His word in Holy Scripture is always right and true (Ps 33: 4). Little wonder that when people long for His coming and hold on to His promise, then like Zechariah the father of John the Baptist they too will hear the words: “Your prayer has been heard” (Lk 1: 13).

May our prayers this Advent both for the Lord’s coming to us in revival power as well as His coming at the end of history to establish the complete reign of God be answered. A new Day awaits us on this side of eternity, and then one day a cloudless, timeless dawn upon His return. Even so, come Lord Jesus, come!

Your Shepherd-Leader in Christ,
Bishop Rennis