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2020年11月28日 至 11月29日
沒有假期的「將臨期」
周曉暉牧師

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市面上有關將臨期的產品,通常是小禮物包或報信天使的圖案,不要以為這就是將臨期的意思,正如你不要誤會聖誕節是關於聖誕老人或聖誕樹一樣。將臨期不折不扣是與耶穌基督的降生與再臨有關的,你可能會問,既然已經有慶祝主耶穌降生的聖誕節,為甚麼還要有將臨期呢?而且這個節期又沒有假期的。

有學者說得好,基督教節期的設立,本不是為了給你數天的公眾假期作休息,雖然這是個很好的副產品,我們也樂得從忙碌中停下來稍作休息,但基督教節期的目的,是要讓信徒重述、記念天父藉祂愛子所成就的救贖計劃,並為此感恩;簡單來說,節期的中心點是基督耶穌。

但要將人的心思和眼目,一下子從假日文化中拉回基督身上,並不容易,因為聖誕節在社會上已變成消費、派對或旅行的假期。坦白說,要過一個以基督為中心的聖誕節,只怕頭腦縱使知道,身心也未必會情願配合。古代教會定出將臨期的原意,並不是要製造一些禮儀,而是要信徒省察悔罪,預備自己迎接歡慶基督降生的日子,也迎接祂再來的那日。今天看來,這更是信徒要操練的了。

將臨期是從最接近 11 月 30 日的那個主日開始計算,持續四個星期,雖然排在慶祝耶穌基督降生的聖誕節之前,但計算上卻不包括聖誕節的。在這段較長的時期,我們可以在禱告和靈修中主動地回想,主耶穌降世為人與自己有甚麼關係。

將臨期的四個主題信息:盼望、平安、喜樂、仁愛,均是環繞主基督帶給世人的恩典。相較於復活節前的預苦期,這些主題更帶出基督是世界的真光,故此,正歷經世情苦困的群體,當然會更期盼祂再來,驅走一切的黑暗。

作為宣道人,我們從來沒有忘記,自己是活在耶穌基督第一次降臨和第二次降臨之間,因為我們一直宣認基督是我們的救主,也是再來之王。在這個將臨期裡,我鼓勵你除了思想與主的關係外,也省思自己是否主良善忠心的僕人,又是否像聰明的童女那樣,預備好主的歸來。

怎樣預備?答案就在宣信博士以下幾句詩句,看看你是否懂其意義:
主來時漸近,人子旦夕行,
國度榮耀日,將臨復未臨,
欲得歸期至,天下傳福音。








Pastor's Sharing
Advent —— A Holy Season without Holiday
Rev Arnold Chow

      There are many products on the market about the Advent season – small gift items, herald angel designs… But make no mistake. They are not what the Advent is about, just like Christmas is not about Santa Claus and Christmas trees. Advent is all about the birth of Jesus Christ and His second coming. You may ask: Why do we need Advent when we already have Christmas to celebrate Christ's birth? Moreover, this one comes with no holiday.

      A scholar has aptly said that the liturgical calendar is established not for bringing a few rest days, although public holidays are a welcome by-product, and we do not mind a break from our tight schedules. The purpose of the liturgical calendar is to let believers recount, commemorate and give thanks to God's redemption through Jesus Christ. Simply, the holy season is all about Jesus.

      It is not easy to direct people's thoughts and attention from a holiday culture to Christ. Christmas in popular culture has always been about consumption, parties and travel. Frankly, much though that we know in our mind that Christmas should be Christ-centered, our heart and body may not be willing to follow. The ancient church set up Advent not for ceremonial reasons, but for reflection and repentance of sins to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, in eager expectation of the day of His return. This is what today's Christians need to practice more.

      Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30. It lasts for four weeks before Christmas, not including Christmas Day. Advent gives us sufficient time to reflect through prayer and devotional on what the birth of Christ means to each one of us.

      The four thematic messages of Advent are: hope, peace, joy and love. These are all centered on the grace brought by the Lord Jesus. Compared to Lent which comes before Easter, these themes can more explicitly bring out the message that Christ is the true light of the world. Suffering communities will, more than ever, look forward to His second coming to drive away the darkness.

      As members of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, we never forget that we live in between the first and second coming of our Lord Jesus. We proclaim Christ as our Savior and the coming King. In this Advent season, I encourage you to ponder on your relationship with Christ. Reflect also on whether you are His good and faithful servant, and whether you are like the 10 wise virgins who are ready for His coming.

      How do we prepare? The answer is in the following lines from a hymn by Dr. A. B. Simpson. See if you can get its meaning:
      The Master's coming draweth near;
      The Son of Man will soon appear;
      His Kingdom is at hand.
      But ere that glorious day can be,
      This gospel of the kingdom we
      Must preach in every land,
      Must preach in every land.















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