Luke 1:26-38-“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.”
It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I made the announcement (in July), “Christmas will be here in about 3 weeks.” Well, guess what, we are now just 4 weeks away. It is hard to believe that 2018 has gone by so fast, but once again another Advent season is upon us. Outside the walls of churches, Advent is almost forgotten. Christmas songs and carols are everywhere. Christmas specials are all over the TV, and Christmas merchandise has already been in the stores for weeks. We may sometimes wonder why the church even bothers with Advent. Why don’t we just celebrate four, or six, or even twelve weeks of Christmas instead of twelve days? What would we lose if we gave up Advent?
If we simply give into the commercialism of Christmas, we then lose the opportunity to prepare spiritually, to celebrate Jesus’ birth, to reflect on what His birth would mean for the world. To hear again, not only the very familiar story of the journey to Bethlehem in Luke 2, but also the stories like the one above, the story of Mary’s encounters with the angel and with Elizabeth. We need to hear again the stories of John the Baptist, reflecting on what Jesus’ birth and life mean to a broken world. Many churches, including All Saints, mark the Sundays of Advent with an Advent wreath, and anticipation builds each week as we think of how close we are to Jesus’ birth.
So, this year, enjoy the Christmas specials and the Christmas shopping, but don’t forget Advent and the gift that this time in the church year is for you. Take time to reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ birth and His life. Perhaps, if more of our community or world would take the time to prepare in this time of Advent – maybe we would all be a little more joyful and a little less stressed out by the holidays. May you have a peaceful time of reflection during this time of Advent; and may this time of preparation lead you to a blessed Christmas as we remember God’s greatest gift for all humankind.
Pr. Paul <><
p.s. Did you know???. . . Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.