Pastor's Corner: The Advent of Christ
Last updated 11/27/2020 at 8:43am
It's Christmas, the most wonderful time of year - right? Well, not quite, at least not liturgically. Advent is a time of preparation. In the secular world during a typical year, that preparation involves filling our calendars with going to all the obligatory Christmas parties and concerts, dragging out the baking pans and decorations, and hunting through the closets for a Christmas-themed sweater to wear. But in this year of social distancing, I wonder if it is an invitation to slow down as we prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, our Lord and Savior, Emmanuel.
Often times, churches light Advent candles in the weeks before Christmas as a ritual of preparing our hearts. The four candles focus our attention on the blessings that precede Christ's birth. By definition, Advent is "the arrival of a notable person, thing or event." Advent isn't just a countdown until Christmas - think of the anticipation as you prepare for a big event or await the visit from a loved one. This is how we, too, prepare for the advent of Christ.
The first candle is hope. It reminds us that the hope we have today exists because God came to us in human form 2,000 years ago. That God-in-human-form died on a cross to free our sins and restore us to a loving relationship. In this year of canceled plans and deferred dreams, we hope even when it seems that all is lost. The candle of hope we light proclaims that the Lord is coming, we wait for a future when Christ will make all things new. In the meantime, we are sustained by God's spirit.
The second candle is peace. We can have peace when we live a Christ-centered life. Peace results when we resist acting on what we think should be done, and instead, listen for and act on God's will. In this year of unprecedented loss of life, we are at peace even as we mourn all that has been lost. The candle of peace shines bright with God's plan, our hatred and wars will give way to healing and restoration.
The third candle is joy. Joy can be defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Joy has its root in the hope and peace we find in living a Christ-centered life. In this year that has robbed us of our liveliness, we are joyful even when we are drained of energy and enthusiasm. The candle of joy reminds us to sing a new song; God's kingdom is one of delight and surprise. The proud will be humbled and the lowly will rise!
The fourth candle is love. Jesus is the perfect incarnation of love itself. In this year that we have experienced so much oppression, hatred and ill-will toward each other, we love even when all we see are our differences. The candle of love tells us what we are worth - God loves us so much that God came to the earth to save us and set us free!
The final candle is the Christ candle. It sits in the center of the other candles because hope, joy, peace and love all come from Jesus. We light this candle as a sign of our belief; we believe in the Light that has come and is coming. This light resides within us, perhaps dim for a time, but always lit - an ember of the Holy inside us.
This light reminds us that we are not alone, that Christ has come near - Christ is in us, Christ is for us, Christ is with us.
The Rev. Maggie Lewis
Chinook Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church, Havre