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The Rev. James Ellis III The Rev. James Ellis, III

The Rev. James Ellis III is Chaplain of Discipleship at Hope College in Holland, MI.

Member of:

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Representative of:

Hope College, Holland, MI


To Recalibrate: Jesus as the Reason...for Life

December 16, 2010

Advent is the time of the year in the Christian calendar when we prepare our hearts, minds, and spirits to celebrate the birth of Jesus, though we all go about it differently. There is smoke for some, burnt offerings, and candles lighted to lead the way, so to speak, into Christmas Eve, and the New Year. For others there is fasting to consecrate oneself for the coming of this holy day. And, yet, for others there are nicely arranged mangers and replications of the city of Bethlehem that are crafted to adorn front yards and church parking lots. There is no doubting that we are a diversified body of believers. Amen for that!

Because of the pervasive commercialization of Christmas, surely we all can agree that like none other this season overflows with gift-giving and sentimentality. Supposedly knowing who has been naughty and who has been nice, kids eagerly await their behavior-based (of reformer Martin Luther might say, "work righteous") blessing from a Santa Claus whose ethnicity and gender reflect their own.

Relatives clamor to Target and Wal-Mart or those specialty shops like Papyrus and the Dollar Store/Dollar General/Dollar Tree to swoop up festive cards to lovingly ship off to all they know, only for all they know to politely toss them in the trash (or the recycling bin, we hope) upon receipt. Ah, what a tangled web we weave. We zoom to and fro on planes, trains, and automobiles across these united states, and other assorted countries, in an attempt to be with those who we can't stand (or who can't stand us), but we have learned to tolerate. I know, right? Let the good times roll.

Please take my facetiousness with a grain of salt. I fully recognize that the extreme caricatures that I just described aren't always the norm. I raise them, however, because they are common enough, even if not as presented. You may very well not be caught-up in the drama that often riddles this Advent season, but could be overwhelmed by it just the same, and experience a sense of exhaustion in your life in larger terms.

We say that Jesus is the reason for the season, but Jesus can't be only that. Jesus must be the reason for our life. The reason why we sing, yes, but even more significantly, the very fabric that makes our living not in vain.

Advent is about newness of life and new beginnings. It is both about the immediacy and longsuffering of hope: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."[1] It is about Jesus being the hope of the world, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."[2] Thus, it is my belief that if not you, then I need to recalibrate my faith--my life really--from time to time.

Many things in our lives must likewise endure this process of correction and updating. Torque Wrenches, laptop batteries, x-ray equipment, and radar guns--if you happen to have those lying around the house--all must be calibrated, and then recalibrated every so often in order to keep them accurate. Similarly we must intentionally seek God to recalibrate our heart to better reflect Jesus. In a reflective piece titled "How Good to Center Down!, mystic theologian and pastor, Howard Thurman pondered thusly:


The questions persist: what are we doing with our lives? What are the motives that order our days?
What is the end of our doings? Where are we trying to go?
Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?
For what end do we make sacrifices? Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?
What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?[3]


Therefore, in light of whom God is, during this Advent season I plan to recalibrate my perspective and worship my Creator. Particularly over the winter break that I will have from work for a few weeks, I unapologetically declare that I plan to do absolutely nothing. That is, other than spend time in a loving and supportive environment with my family of origin and hangout with my almost 7-month-old nephew.

I plan to snuggle with my wife and spend more time enjoying one another's company. I know that sounds old-school, but so be it. No sermon construction. No heavy reading. No foolishness. Just rest in the Lord.

During this precious season I wish you Godspeed in your endeavors likewise to recalibrate. Keep the faith, indeed even as Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, keeps you.


[1] Hebrews 11:1.
[2] John 3:17.
[3] Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1999), 28-29.


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