By Pastor Gary Peterson
“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 1:1). I hear those words, and I am instantly transported to Christmas Eve at our church, the warmth of worshipers as we gather together, and the lights are turned down low for our Candlelight service. The music is mellow and comforting and familiar notes of, “What Child Is This” drift from our sanctuary. We sit in our pews and all our worship focuses around the proclamation: “Jesus Christ is born today.”
Christmas is about a small child in a manger. We sing Christmas carols during Advent and our weekly readings as we light the Advent Candles that connect us to the Advent themes of hope, joy, love and peace. As we go through the Advent season we are to, “prepare” for Christmas when we celebrate the birth of our Savior as Christians have done for over 2000 years. Advent is to help us prepare for the story of an angel coming to Mary, for Jesus family to journey to Bethlehem, the search for an inn, the shepherds on the hillside who would witness the birth of the Savior Child and the angelic choir singing “Hosanna in the highest”.
At times it can be difficult for us to focus in on the fact that it is about a baby. For we get caught up in the commercial part of Christmas, Santa Claus and the busyness of the season and our heart finds it difficult to focus on this small child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
The purpose of Advent is to help us begin to focus and prepare for the true meaning of Christmas. We begin four weeks before Christmas during our worship time by lighting candles of the Advent wreath and allowing the liturgy as we light those candles to warm and prepare our hearts for the Savior’s birth. To move us even closer our young people are now preparing a holiday pageant for us on Sunday December 16th that will bring us prepared for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and helping us recognize the reason for the season.
The reason for Advent is for us to bring ourselves close to our Savior and to connect God’s people back to God’s story given to us from generation to generation and across the ages. It is taking the traditional Christmas stories that many people know and love and weaving them into a big picture of God’s salvation plan. It is my goal during this Advent season that we would come to feel the themes of hope, love, joy, peace, light, and eternal life as we share the good news of a miracle birth. We have opportunities during our Advent worship services, educational opportunities in Sunday school, caroling at the senior home, Blue Christmas and our candlelight service on Christmas Eve to bring us to the blessing of Luke 2:15 – 14, “Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth, good will toward all people.”
My prayer for you is that Advent will be for you a journey that takes you to Bethlehem and the celebration of God’s greatest gift given for you and for me in the birth of his son Jesus the Christ.