This Advent is the 33rd John Piper has spent among the people of Bethlehem Baptist Church. And it is his last Advent as senior pastor.
God willing, Pastor John will serve as an associate in the first quarter of 2013 and officially finish his course as a local-church pastor on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013.
Here’s an except from his final Advent letter to the church. We thought this section in particular might be of interest beyond the local congregation.
Memory has a way of simplifying things. It strips away a few million details that at the time seemed major, and it leaves only the big outlines. Of course, God was in those details. It was he and not I who wove them into the tapestry that I now look back on with wonder. I can’t see the threads any more. A few thousand of them are recorded in my journal, if I choose to look at them. But mainly I simply marvel at the tapestry God has woven.
You are that tapestry. Not the buildings. Not the programs. Not the budget. But you. The ones who worship. The ones who pray. The ones who witness to the world. The ones who have gone to the nations. The ones who love and serve and give and wait for the Lord Jesus. You are the tapestry. “What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20).
We have been together long enough for you to know what Paul and I don’t mean by that. We don’t mean that the tapestry is more precious than the One who wove it. We mean this: If we delight in a generous King, we delight in the fruit of such kingliness—happy subjects. If we delight in a strong Savior, we delight in his saved subjects. If we delight in a boundless Treasure, we delight in those who prove it to be inexhaustible. If we delight in a Feast of truth and goodness and beauty, we delight in those who share our tastes and savor the banquet with us. If we hope to see the Christ whose glory is to save sinners, it will be our hope, our joy, to see him—not alone—but with the trophies of his mighty grace. And that you are.
And if he has made us, in any way, the means of your everlasting joy—planting and watering—then this will be our crown, our glory. But the root and the radiance will all be his. For “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). I have worked in this garden for almost 33 years, but, as Paul said, “it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Where that is not true, there is only chaff. (“A Hungry People Make a Happy Pastor: Reflections on 33 Advents Together”)
Newly available from John Piper and Desiring God: free ebook Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent