Christmas Caroling, 6pm
In the larger Christian church the beginning of a New Year is marked by a season of anticipation. This anticipation is of the birth of Christ and is known as Advent. The word advent comes from Latin, adventus which means coming.
There are slight variations of when this time starts within the Christian church. These variations do not change the meaning. The season is understood as a solemn time for preparation for the mystery of the incarnation. The liturgical color of the season is purple, except on the third Sunday, when it is rose. You will often find these colors represented vestments, stoles, paraments, and flags, but most often in an Advent Wreath.
The wreath itself is represented by evergreen branches symbolize the everlasting life in God. The circle is representative of the unending and eternal nature of God. Each candle marks a time in life all leading to the anticipation of the coming of Christ at Christmas. For the believer today we do celebrate and acknowledge the birth of Christ, but also it takes on new meaning as well as the faithful await the return of Christ.
What is it that we are anticipating this December? Does our excitement come in anticipating sales at retail stores, or a deeply desired gift? It seems as if each year the retail world is trying to tell us that Christmas is all about us, our greed, our desires, our families, our…that is not what it is all about.
Christmas is Jesus Christ. Advent is a prolonged season of anticipation to remind us that Christmas most certainly is not about us but about Jesus. It is about reminding us to celebrate even that which we can’t completely understand. It is tempting to think that we “understand” Christmas. We are to take this time to prepare of the mystery of the incarnation. The incarnation is truly a mystery in many ways. The fullness of God is present in human flesh, born to a virgin, sinless, helpless babe, to live life as a man, tempted in every way, showing us how to live, and then giving his so that we can live abundantly here, and also giving us something to look forward to anticipating our reunion with him.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable (unspeakable) gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
It is truly indescribable the great gift we have in this mysterious incarnation. I may never be able to find the right words to describe what is beyond my ability to complete understand. What I do understand is the result of this incarnation allowed me experience the God in a personal and loving way. I also understand that it is because of Christ’s sinless sacrifice that I am given the opportunity to live in relationship with God in this life and beyond. It is truly mysterious, beautiful, marvelous, gracious, and loving.
While we celebrate many things let us be reminded that God made himself personally known in Jesus Christ and that was the greatest gift given to the world.
“The Good News…Love is Alive.”
I was reading the other day when the author mentioned how often 1 Corinthians 13 is mentioned as part of a wedding ceremony. It is used so often in this context because the chapter speaks of love that sometimes we lose the larger context of what the passage of scripture is about.
Who then are these words written for and what do they mean for us today? The Church at Corinth was the original recipients of this letter. They were a gifted church but were immature and unspiritual. Factions had begun form in the church, lack of spiritual maturity lead to moral lapses, false teachings, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, and neglect of the community around them. It seems that this church had its own fair share of struggles. In the middle of that we find this chapter about love.
Why is that significant?
I think today we also have churches that are gifted, have so much skill and talent but often forget love for God and love for others. In times where the latest news is some scandal or church split what good news would it be not to hear of a split but a church reconciliation. This radical letter reminds the members of this church that to be a church they must be in Christ and that their love must be for Christ. It is what trumps all the giftedness in the world. We can do all the “right things” for all the wrong reasons and if we do not love…what good are those gifts? The gifts we have are not for our glory but from God to give God the glory by loving and serving one another in the same manner Christ also served us. That manner is one of sacrifice and love. In the last hours of Christ’s life his prayer for his disciples is that they would be one as he and the Father are one. His prayer was for unity, which doesn’t mean uniformity, we all have different gifts used for the same purpose to honor God, serve each other and reach the world.
Into our self-centered, divisive world comes this “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails…And now these remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13
I think it is great that we use this at weddings because Paul also refers to the Church as the Bride of Christ and Jesus as the Bridegroom. This sounds simple but is very hard to live out either in marriages and families or in our church families we know that this will require us to seek Christ first, and in learning to put Christ first we can begin to also learn to model that in how we relate to one another, work together as the body, and bring hope to the world today. This scripture challenges the church not to look to themselves but God’s love as the motivating and binding factor. Then we would become truly the body of Christ (incarnation in the world today) and that the next headlines could be, “A Church reconciled to God and each other,” “Alive! Well! Loving!” This truly is good news for a broken world. We are blessed and gifted to be a blessing, what good news.