Happy New Year! The Christian year begins with the season of Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. It is a season of waiting, watching and preparing, which will be our focus on Sunday December 2, the first Sunday of Advent.
Advent can be a challenging season first, because everywhere we turn the focus is already on the season that is coming, Christmas. In our families, preparations are long underway with presents to buy and family gatherings to plan for, with Christmas parties and decorating. In the church we too are planning, decorating and hosting Christmas focused events. It is hard sometimes to give Advent the attention that it deserves because preparing for Christmas celebrations becomes our focus.
Secondly, Advent is challenging because of the dual focus of the season on Jesus’ Second Coming for the first three weeks before our focus shifts to Jesus’ First Coming. Many of us struggle with the ideas and images of Jesus’ second coming, because there is so much that is unknown about it, so it can be a little frightening. In Jesus’ first coming, he came to begin restoration, setting all things right that God wanted for his people, and His return will be the culmination, the completion of that restoration. The Book of Revelation describes that day wonderfully. Some of my favourite images are the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, the river of the water of life, and the tree of life (Revelation 21 and 22). With these images in mind it is much easier to see the connection between Jesus’ First and Second Coming and to anticipate the latter with hope rather than fear.
As I said the world around us is already focused on Christmas. This is probably the one time of year when what we do as a Church most closely connects with the world around us, creating natural connection points for us. I am excited that we are hosting our first family Christmas event, Merry Little Christmas. This will be an afternoon of crafts, carols and cookies with hot chocolate. It is an excellent opportunity to invite neighbours and friends with children, or to bring your children or grandchildren.
There are also a number of different services over the Christmas season, to which we can invite others to join us. We have a lessons and carols service on Sunday December 23 as our worship that morning with a focus on the all the wonders and joy of that first Christmas and singing familiar Christmas carols. Christmas Eve, we have a family service or “organized fun and chaos” as I like to call it at 7 pm and then at 11 pm our quieter, more traditional service that ends with Silent Night sung by candlelight. There is also a small, more intimate Christmas Day service held in the choir area at the front of the church.
May you anticipate Christ’s return, and experience the joy and hope of Christ being born in you and for you this Christmas season, and may it overflow in your life blessing others through you.