The TXAB Advent Calendar.

The word advent comes from the Latin advenire/“come to [someplace].” Who’s coming to someplace? Jesus. Coming to earth. Either the first time around, around the year 7 BC, which is what we celebrate with Christmas; or the second time around, in the future, to take possession of his kingdom.Four Sundays before Christmas is Advent Sunday—the start of the advent season, the Christmas season, and the Christian year. And if you’re counting down from today, the text below will update automatically, through the power of Javascript. Here are the number of days till (or of) Christmas:Javascript isn’t working this Christmas!Many Evangelicals only know about advent from commercial advent calendars, which count down from 1 December instead of the ever-changing date of Advent Sunday. Each “day” on these calendars usually contain a treat; I prefer chocolate, and I know a growing number of alcoholics others who prefer wine. Manufacturers don’t wanna keep changing the product every year, so you’re ki…

Worshiping Mammon instead of Jesus.

Matthew 6.24, Luke 16.13.In the United States today is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and the second-biggest shopping day of the year. Used to be the biggest, but that’s now Monday. In order to get customers to shop on their day off, stores offer outrageous sale prices, and many shoppers are so greedy and impatient they’ll do horrible things to one another.I’ve read how American merchants have exported the shopping day to other countries, in the hope of kick-starting their Christmas shopping as well. Strikes the United Kingdom’s pundits as odd; why are they suddenly participating in an American phenomenon? And if so, why don’t they get our Thanksgiving too? Although as American merchants have proven, they really don’t care so much about Thanksgiving: They’d have us interrupt our holiday and start shopping Thursday if they can. And they do try.The myth is it’s called black because merchants do so well, their ledgers are now “in the black” instead of “in the red”—they’re fina…

Thanksgiving Day.

In the United States, we have a national day of thanksgiving on November’s fourth Thursday.Whom are we giving thanks to? Well, the act which establishes Thanksgiving Day as one of our national holidays, provides no instructions whatsoever on how we’re to observe it. Or whom we’re to thank.Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the last Thursday in November in each year after the year 1941 be known as Thanksgiving Day, and is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22d day of February, the 30th day of May, the 4th day of July, the first Monday of September, the 11th day of November, and Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays.—77th Congress, 6 October 1941
House Joint Resolution 41The Senate amended it to read “fourth Thursday in November,” and President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law. So it’s a holiday. But left undefine…

“Prevenient grace”: Already there, without limit.

PREVENEpri'vinverb. Arrive first, come before, pre-exist.[Prevenient pri'vin.jəntadjective, prevenience pri'vin.jənsnoun.]Time for an old-timey word, prevenient. One you’ll really only find theologians use anymore. But I gotta inflict it on you—sorry—because so many Christians use it to describe how God’s grace works.Y’might already know humans are selfish, and this self-interest distorts everything we do. Including everything good we try to do: There’s gotta be something in it for us. Even if it looks and feels like there’s nothing in it for us—if it’s an absolute act of sacrifice, one which harms us instead of benefits us, one which makes us feel awful instead of noble—there’s still something way deep down, embedded in the core of our being, which gets some satisfaction from it. Otherwise we we’d never voluntarily do it. That’s just how messed up we are. “Totally depraved,” as the theologians put it.But people usually pretend this messed-up core doesn’t exist, and claim …

Thanksgiving. The prayer, not the day.

In the United States, on November’s fourth Thursday, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving.Who’re we thanking? If you’re Christian, that’d be God. If you’re pagan, you don’t specifically thank anyone. You realize you’re expected to conjure up some feeling of thankfulness—you have a nice life, a decent job, good health, some loved ones, and got that [insert coveted bling] you’ve always wanted, so you’re thankful. Thankful to whom? There’s the question pagans don’t ask themselves. I know of one family who thanks one other. But pagans generally suppress this question by drowning it with food: After watching parades and football, we eat the equivalent of three dinners in one sitting. (That, or you’re the one who prepared and cooked 10 different entrées, and ironically nobody remembered to thank you. Been there; do that.)But even among the Christians who remember, “Oh yeah, we’re thanking God,” a lot of the thanking is limited to saying grace before the meal. “Good bread, good meat, …