Seasons of longing: Advent and God at work

Advent is a busy and special season for our local churches. We feel excitement as we celebrate God’s incarnate love in Jesus Christ and see so many congregants engaged in outreaches, special presentations, and fresh expressions of generosity.

Advent is also a moment of intensity as we fashion our services and projects for an increase in guests and remind our members of the divine humility and love we see in the nativity. It is an opportunity for discipleship as we equip our congregations for an integrated life, connecting Sunday faith and Monday work. Advent unveils God the worker in new ways. Connecting the profound theology of Immanuel (God with us) with everyday work will help us mature in our faith and grow in our capacity to love and serve others.

As Christians, we celebrate the good works of the creator, from the macro and microcosmos to the intricacies of the human person being shaped in their mother’s womb (Psalms 19 and139). Prophets and leaders reminded Israel to remember the works of the Lord (Isaiah 40-43). Christians focus on the central work of Jesus: his death on the cross and victorious resurrection (1 Cor 15).

Three ways Advent shows us God’s work

The Advent story reveals three further attributes of God’s work that can help us in ours.

The first is God’s motivation for the incarnation: love. This agape disposition of desiring the highest good for others and sacrificially laboring for their welfare is the foundation for all of God’s works (John 3:16). As we work, whether at home, the office, or with our hands, do we love our colleagues and customers, even the nasty ones? God does. Do we offer our labor as worship, or are we merely getting by until the weekend (Col 3:17-24)?

The second attribute is humility. As Justin Buzzard said, humility is the one thing God honors. In contrast, pride brings divine resistance! As we go about our work, are we celebrating others, helping advance the mission apart from our position, and seeking God’s glory and the good of others? Humility is not self-hatred; it is sober reflection on ourselves and warm affection for others (Rom 12:3-8).

God’s Advent work teaches us a third lesson for our daily duties: The Lord loves using all kinds of beautiful and broken people to accomplish his work in the world. Matthew and Luke’s nativity narratives display humble women, poor shepherds, aged prayer warriors, and an overwhelmed couple willing to accept the Lord’s word in the midst of familial and social misunderstanding (Matt 1-2; Luke 1-2). Can we see past cultural, economic, and social status and learn from anyone, even helping others realize their potential? It takes many affirmations for friends to overcome the rejections they often experience. Expressing hope and finding the good in others is a gift to the workplace.

Love, humility, and a willingness to learn from anyone and help everyone will infuse our work with adventure and meaning, even as we wrestle with boredom, repetition, imperfect systems, and selfish people. God is the first worker (Gen 1-2; Ps 33) and he models actions and attitudes worthy of our aspirations. Practically, we can live out these principles as we pray for others, model good teamwork, and encourage all around us.

Topics: Christian Life, Church and Ministry, Theology of Work

About the Author

Charlie Self serves as director of learning communities at Made to Flourish. Charlie is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. He has served as an associate and senior pastor in several congregations in California, Oregon and Washington, D.C., and has served as an interim pastor six times. He currently also serves as professor of church history at The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, where he teaches courses in apologetics, church history, mission history, leadership development, and discipleship. He is also co-developer of discipleship dynamics, a new research-based tool for churches and individuals to assess the effectiveness of their discipleship programs. Charlie is the author of three books: The Divine Dance, The Power of Faithful Focus (with co-author Les Hewitt) and his most recent work with The Acton Institute, Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer on Faith, Work and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship. He has an M.A. in history on the church and social change in Latin America (1992) and Ph.D. in modern european history, with foci on Belgian Protestantism and studies in virtue ethics and the holocaust (1995), from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He also has an M.A. in philosophical and systematic theology from The Graduate Theological Union and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. Charlie is married to Kathleen, a professional artist, and they have been married and on mission for 36 years. They have three adult children.