Early this past Monday morning, before anyone else was in the building, I took my latte into the sanctuary, lit the first candle on the advent wreath and began reading the gospel of Luke. Reading through the familiar story of my favorite gospel once again, I found myself drawn into the story with eager anticipation. It is a reminder that Christ’s birth doesn’t come at the end of the story. As I keep preaching, “God isn’t done with us or our world.” Reading through Luke’s gospel in preparation for Christmas reminds me of that truth.
In the midst of this busy time of year, I invite you to join me in the Advent discipline of preparing for Christ’s birth by reading through the entire Gospel of Luke between now and Christmas morning. At 24 chapters, it makes for an easy one-chapter-a-day kind of a read. If you’re starting now, there is plenty of time to catch up in the one-a-day reading. You can also just take an hour sometime and sit down and read the whole thing from beginning to end. If you would like to bring your latte over, you can light the advent wreath and read in our beautiful sanctuary. (You’ll find a candle lighter tucked inside of the pulpit. Just be sure to blow the candle out when you are done, please.) It doesn’t matter where, how or when you do it, just make a commitment to do so sometime between now and Christmas morning.
As people of faith, this is a time of actively waiting, watching and preparing for Christ to come again. Reading through the Gospel of Luke is one way to engage in it this Advent season. See what surprises you as you read through the gospel story. Listen to what God is speaking into your life right now.
I love Advent! It is my favorite season of the entire church year. It is a time of watching and waiting, preparing and hoping. Together, we cling to God’s promise that Christ will come again. Advent is the season in which we recognize that God will have the last word over the mess of creation and the muck of our lives. These four weeks before Christmas are filled with promise and hope for our futures. Advent is my most wonderful time of the year!
During my pre-pastor and early-pastor days, I was an advent purest. I thought Christmas carols shouldn’t be sung until the Christmas Eve service, decorations should wait until as long as possible to be put up and that there should be a clear distinction between between the four weeks of Advent and the 12 days of Christmas.
But then, something happened. I started looking around and realizing that we (the church) were missing out on a huge opportunity! Our culture was spending the whole month of December (and November and most of October, too) teaching people the meaning of Christmas - bargain shopping, snowmen, decorations, cookies, songs about jingle bells - and the church was relatively silent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good cyber Monday sale like everyone else. Christmas cookies, jingle bells and Santa Clause are all part of my family’s celebrations, but they aren’t the meaning of Christmas. They aren’t why we celebrate.
I’ll confess that this year I started listening to Christmas music in mid-November. I still love Advent. I continue to cling to this season of promise and hope that assures us that God is not yet done with us or our world. Christ is coming…again! Thank goodness! It is abundantly clear that the world as it is today is not the world God would have it to be.
BUT, I also believe the church needs to reclaim it’s role of teaching about the meaning of Christmas. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This is a powerful and important message that the world needs to hear…now!
So, starting this week we’ll slip a Christmas carol or two into our worship. We’ll begin looking at not only the promises of Advent, but the promises of Christmas, too, through the eyes of people like Zachary, Elizabeth and Mary.
Indeed, Christ is coming…again! The babe born in Bethlehem was the beginning, not the end, of God’s kingdom coming near. As people of faith, we live in the tension of this in-between time when Christ has come and when Christ will come again. We are Advent people. We are Christmas people. We are God’s people who trust that God has come, God is here and God is not yet done.
Join us for a special Advent Jazz Vespers service featuring the arrangements of veteran arranger/trumpeter Craig Fraedrich. Before and after the service, make a positive impact in the world by starting your Christmas shopping at the Fair Trade Christmas Market in the Narthex (provided by our local Lutheran-owned Fair Trade Winds store). There will be a dessert reception following the service.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa is coming! Join us in Bailey Hall for a bagel breakfast. Santa will be making an appearance, and provide an opportunity for children to have their picture taken with him with a photographer onsite (FREE!). There will also be crafts for the children to work on. Don't miss this exciting event! Advanced sign up is requested.
We will also be holding a coat drive raffle! For EVERY new or gently-used coat you donate, you'll receive a raffle entry ticket to win some fun prizes! Coats will be donated to ECHO to help those in need this winter.
Advent is the season of promise and hope. It is not only a season of preparing for Christmas, but also a time of actively watching and waiting for Christ to come again. Throughout Advent we have special opportunities for worship as we pray, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”