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What Advent Really Means

When I was a pastor, I agonized over every Christmas and Easter. I always sought to make the holiday messages relevant. It’s never easy you’re when telling such well-known stories.

One year, I remember realizing that advent and adventure came from the same root word. I smiled at this. Before being born again, I thought the Christian life was dull. Afterwards I had no such illusions.

Christianity isn’t some nice innocuous religion. Fox’s Book of Martyrs makes this very clear. Millions have died for their faith. When Apostle Peter’s martyrdom was imminent, he asked to be crucified upside down because he was unworthy of dying a death like His Lord’s. A Bishop once said, “Everywhere the Apostle Paul went there was revolution, everywhere I go they serve tea.” I wanted to be more like Paul.

The Lord must have known that. After my conversion, life became a whole lot more interesting. I worked in a psychiatric hospital where I got fired for helping a thirteen year old kid get healed after seven years of treatment didn’t work. Later I led a discipleship class at the prison where Shawshank Redemption was filmed. Nick the Greek attended my classes. After he was released, he started a prison ministry that converted many thousands of inmates all over the US. Then there was the time a pimp pulled a gun on me when I interrupted his abuse of two hookers in the Akron ghetto. Or the time I locked myself in a room with a heroine addict to help him get off drugs. Or the night when armed cops needed to protect me as I spoke on ‘Gay Agony’ at Ohio State University. Or the time the county threatened to take away my children when we home schooled them. The resulting court hearing and compromise helped to open up the whole state of Ohio for home schooling.

The Christian life has been many things for me but seldom boring. Anything less than following the Spirit would be too dull to contemplate. But how do we communicate the adventure of advent to people whose definition of Christianity amounts to being the nicest person in the neighborhood?

Advent comes from a Latin word meaning ‘coming’. One Christmas, I decided to offer my staid Methodist Church a new take on Christ’s coming. I was tired of pristine manger scenes and nice little songs about gentle Jesus, so one night I took them to a barn to give them a deeper appreciation for what the adventure of the first Advent meant to Jesus and His family.

Parents and children alike waded through deep snow, bundling ourselves up against the December winter. Frigid winds blew as we huddled there savoring the pungent scent of animal dung and urine as curious cows looked on. I had everyone close their eyes and imagine the first Advent as I read aloud the familiar account of that first Noel. Then we discussed what we learned from the experience. I doubt that any of us will ever forget it.

You see, it cost Jesus a lot to come to us. It was also a huge risk for our heavenly Father. Because Jesus is wholly man as well as wholly God, He could have failed in His eternal mission. He could have been snuffed out before He accomplished it, and I don’t just mean being trampled in that famous manger. What if Joseph ignored the dream that prompted him to take the vulnerable babe to Egypt to escape the death sentence put upon by Herod? What if Jesus gave in to Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness? What if He hadn’t said, “Never-the-less, not my will but thine,” in the Garden of Gethsemane?

His coming was the greatest adventure in history. Indeed, it forever changed history. And it will change the personal history of anyone who welcomes him to inhabit the emptiness in their inn within, in their own heart of hearts.

Wise men do still seek Him and wise women too, for to follow Him isn’t boring. Ironically, it’s the only safe investment of our lives. Everything less is unworthy of his coming. Nothing else lets us fulfill our divine destiny.

My friends, I pray for you this Christmas that His advent will mean more to you than it ever has. May His coming continue to change all of our lives.

Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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