Dr. Mark Allen Powell, a prominent New Testament scholar, always stops and looks with wonder to the sky on cloudy days. He does this because he believes the scriptures, which claim Jesus is coming back. Ever since he told me that, I have paused on cloudy days to look to the heavens with a smile – just in case this is the day. I have a lot more opportunities in Ohio than I did in Texas!
I love celebrating Advent and Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere, where the days are getting shorter, the night’s longer, and you really get some use from your Christmas lights. (In southern Australia it is only getting dark after 9pm, and quite challenging to take younger children out to see the lights because they will get to bed quite late.) I love the Advent wreath – and lighting another candle each week. I love the candlelight filling our sanctuary on Christmas Eve. I love that we get to celebrate Christmas for another 12 days up until Epiphany, and that too is a wonderful festival – of light coming to the whole world.
There is a rush to get to Christmas. There is a rush to get the Christmas decorations up in stores. There is a rush to get Christmas songs on the radio. Personally I would prefer this to all wait until we have the Thanksgiving holiday first. (In Australia, there is also a rush, and no Thanksgiving Holiday to be in the way. So early November the tinsel and artificial snow is going up in there stores.) Thankfully we have the season of Advent to catch our breath, to push the pause button, to reflect on why we have Christmas, namely the birth of Jesus. I encourage you to come to worship as you are able, to hear the Advent readings, to pray the Advent prayers, to see the Advent wreath counting down the weeks until Christmas. And you may not be too old to buy an Advent calendar, and open a little box each day, and pray for the Lord’s coming in our midst. Some of you may have other Advent traditions. When Pastor Ramona Hayes was our vicar, she showed us her Jesse tree. What will you do this Advent to help to center yourself on the heart of Christmas, and prepare yourself for this wonderful festival?
I love the season of Advent. I love the Advent wreath. I love that we get some time to prepare for Christmas. (I love to wear the color blue in the Advent season. When Pastor Dave Keller was vicar at Ascension he could joke that in the whole year there were 4 Sundays for blue, and only two for red.) Last year I remember that we had two funerals during Advent – for Dick Vaughn and Chuck Cozad. I remember how powerful the Advent season was for bringing God’s comfort and hope. I hadn’t thought about it much before, being from the southern hemisphere, but in the north, as the days grow shorter, and the darkness longer, the lit candles on the wreath increase, and then on Christmas Eve the central Christmas candle is also lit, and in our Christmas Eve worship many candles are lit.