Connections 11.27.2022: Counting Down

Romans 13:8-14

When I was growing up in the Olden Days (you know, the 1980s), my family didn’t celebrate the church season of Advent. Once Thanksgiving was over and December 1 came, we went straight into red and green overload, garlands hanging and Bing Crosby crooning, and in church we went straight into Christmas caroling. For the full month before Christmas, we were already O Coming All Ye Faithful and Joying to the World.

In my family we did, however, always have an Advent calendar. I still have my first countdown-to-Christmas helper: a long strip of green felt that holds 24 small candy canes tied on with red yarn. Later, we got Advent calendars with pieces of chocolate behind 24 cardboard doors. In those days, we had to go out of our way to find those calendars. I remember bundling up to drive into downtown Chicago on a sleety night to find Advent calendars at a real German delicatessen, where people huddled in the shop’s warmth and called out in their old-country languages to buy wursts and cheeses that were just like home.

This week we begin both the season of Advent—the church’s season of waiting for Jesus’s arrival—and the counting down to Christmas Eve. These days you can count down with cheap or gourmet chocolates, artisanal tea, fancy toiletries, tiny jam jars, or almost anything else you can imagine. Even your cat and dog can count down with 24 treats just for them.

In Romans 13, Paul reminds the church in Rome that they, too, are counting down. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say they are counting up to that day when God’s purposes will be fulfilled. “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers,” he writes (13:11). A few weeks ago, we read the prophet Joel’s warnings about the coming “day of the Lord” with all its signs and portents (Joel 2:23-32). Paul’s teaching to the Romans may help us know how to live while we count down to that holy day, whenever it may come: “honorably… not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy” (13:13).

We don’t know—or need to know—how many doors, candies, miniature marmalades, or tasty dog treats are left to open before the day of the Lord comes. We only need to know that every door we open and every candy cane we untie brings us one day closer to that day of ultimate salvation when the night will at last be gone. We can open every new day faithfully, growing in anticipation, knowing the day is nearer all the time.


  • How do you observe the “counting down” of Advent and of Christmas? How does counting down the weeks of Advent or the days of December help you pay attention to the season? How does counting down build anticipation for what is to come?
  • How do we balance our yearning for the day of the Lord and faithfully living each day of our lives—for however long it takes?
  • Do you ever get tired of waiting for Christ’s return? How do you keep faith as you wait?
  • Reflect on Paul’s statement that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” With every “door” that we open and every day that we live, salvation comes nearer and nearer—even when we don’t know how many days are left to wait. How might this mindset help you anticipate and stay faithful for that day?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


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