Religion & Liberty Online

Advent and Christmas: seasons for the entrepreneur

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Advent is a time of both patience and anticipation for Christmas. As a result, these seasons make an ideal season for entrepreneurs to reflect spiritually. Advent is also a time for thinking about our responsibilities as Christians between the first Advent in the incarnation and the second Advent in the Parousia – in other words, how we my responsibly use our freedoms and liberties.

Joy to the World! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was the minister of an independent church in London during the early years of the eighteenth-century revival. He sought to introduce hymns into the church’s worship but faced an uphill task. The normal form of worship, at least in Protestant churches, was only the singing of metrical Psalms. Watts, though, who became a prolific hymn writer, beautifully conveyed in his poetry of Joy to the World words equally applicable to both the first and second coming of Jesus. The Lord is come, prepare your hearts for him – anticipating the birth of Christ which we celebrate at Christmas, and his return in judgment at the end of time. Many of these early hymn writers like Watts wrote hymnody celebrating the natural world which God had created. Faith in the early eighteenth century has had a reputation of being dull and formalistic. What a joy it must have been in Watt’s chapel in London to sing out these words.

Indeed, these words remind us of both the central place of creation in the Christian dispensation and the dignity of the individual as we prepare to receive Christ into our hearts. We should remember that the liberty we have been given in the creation is a liberty to make good use of the Lord’s resources for the creation of wealth and the promotion of our general well-being.

There are many passages in the New Testament which look forward to Christ’s return. They contain two key themes. First, we do not know when the Lord will return. Hence “about that day or hour no-one knows (Mark 13:32), and “The day of the Lord will come like a thief” (II Peter 3:10). Second, we are to prepare for that return. We are to “be on guard,” “be alert” (Mark 13:33). The parables of the 10 bridesmaids and the parable of the talents/bags of gold in Matthew 25 both immediately precede the parable of the sheep and the goats – a parable of judgment. We are to be ready for the coming of the Lord.

These themes of patience and anticipation apply well to the entrepreneur. An entrepreneur must be patient in the long wait for a return on investment. There is a future anticipation of joy as the entrepreneurship pays dividends, but the timing is unknown. Advent is the season for the entrepreneur. The innovative, creative spirit of the entrepreneur has worked on the principle of wealth creation – combining raw materials, human capital and development, and looks ahead with longing and anticipation. Let us give thanks this Advent and Christmas season for that spiritual gift of entrepreneurship, for those endowed by God with skill, ingenuity, innovation, and creativity. Let us learn those skills of patience and anticipation, looking to Jesus as our guide.

In his discussion of the “day of the Lord,” the Apostle Peter describes the Lord’s return in terms of fire and destruction. In the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, the judgment is one set in eternity; there are only two possible destinations, Heaven or Hell.

How then should we live and behave in the time leading up to the Lord’s return? Peter exhorts us to live “holy and godly lives,” and Matthew 25 talks about our responsibilities towards those in need in advance of the final judgment. We are not called to bask in the hope of future glory, and we are not called to live profligate lives. Rather we are called to the responsible use of our freedoms, to responsible stewardship of our lives and our world in the light of the long-expected return of the Lord. The Lord has given us freedom; we are not to abuse it. The Lord has granted us responsibilities; these cannot be shunted onto government. Pray this Advent and Christmas season for those in need. Pray for our businesses and churches as we respond to those needs and demonstrate our love and care for one another. The fallacy of the all-powerful role of government diminishes the personal responsibility of the individual, which is an essential part of the liberties that the Lord has given us.

Thank God for Christmas, and the forgotten season of preparation known as Advent which precedes it. The Lord loves the entrepreneur, but He loves especially the entrepreneur who knows the source of his creativity and skill. The Lord loves the entrepreneur who recognises his responsibility to use his skills for the good of others, in building a strong economy and in exercising care towards others. God is a God of freedom and liberty. He has ordained an economy built around wealth creation, education, and moral responsibility. The role of government in the divine economy is limited. Give thanks this Advent for the business community. Let us recognize the divine imperative of wealth creation. Let us also recognize the spiritual gifts of patience and anticipation which are encapsulated in Advent and fulfilled only by the incarnation.

Richard Turnbull

Rev. Dr. Richard Turnbull is the director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics and a trustee of the Christian Institute. He holds a degree in Economics and Accounting and spent over eight years as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst and Young and served as the youngest ever member of the Press Council. Richard also holds a first class honours degree in Theology and PhD in Theology from the University of Durham. He was ordained into the ministry of the Church of England in 1994. Richard served in the pastoral ministry for over 10 years. He was also for 7 years the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He has authored several books, is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a visiting Professor at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.