Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And now the reason for the season

The time before Christmas, at many churches, is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. We prepare for it by celebrating the birth of Jesus. In Advent we are reminded of how much we also need a Savior, and we look forward to the second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. Let us keep in mind the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.

Advent can be a solution to the age-old problem of secular Christmas vs. spiritual Christmas. We need to recognize that Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately, we spend most of our time preparing, not for a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but for fulfilling the demands of the season. We have to buy presents for many people and make sure they are all wrapped and delivered. We have parties to attend and parties to host. We have relatives who come to visit or we are the relatives who go elsewhere to visit.

Are we focusing on the real reason for the season – the birth of Jesus? Are the traditions of Advent helping us to focus more on the Lord, to get in touch with our need for Him, to replenish our hope, and to celebrate Christmas with greater meaning and depth? Or are we facing heavy competition from retailers, relatives and friends. How do we save Christmas from being consumed by consumerism? Not to say giving gifts is wrong but our priorities and overspending, going into debt to give what we can’t afford and giving something they really don’t’ want or need. Instead, we need to put the needs of others above our own our actions need to speak so much louder than our words. Materialism has hijacked Christmas and we need to get our priorities straight. Spend less but give more from your heart. Maybe we should change it to, we need presence not always presents.

The lighting of the Advent candles is a way of preparing for the second coming of Jesus and focuses on Christ's threefold coming: past, present, and future. First, we remember the Lord's humble first coming in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Second, we give thanks for His present and continual coming to us through His Word. Finally, we look forward with hope and longing to His second coming in glory on Judgment Day.

The first candle symbolizes the hope and anticipation of His coming and is purple or dark blue in color. The second candle we are to ask for forgiveness showing repentance, knowing Christ is the way, again purple or dark blue. The third candle is for joy and rejoicing with anticipation of His coming and is usually pink or rose in color. The fourth candle is a reminder that Christ will bring peace both in our hearts and to the world; this candle is also purple or dark blue. The center candle which is larger and is white is lit Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day and represents Christ himself who is born to save us from our sins. It is a celebration of the fulfillment of prophecy as represented in Jesus’ birth and hope in the fulfillment when Christ comes again. This one will continue to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas or until January 6th or the first Sunday thereafter. Some churches may use a different order for their Advent celebration or sermons but it will be close to this order. Possibly Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and the Christ candle.

May you all have a very Blessed Christmas and remember the reason for the season.

Smile – it’s one of the best gifts you can give someone.


Teddybear said...

Thank you Merle. You brought tears to my eyes. Yes Jesus is the reason, the only reason for Christmas. When people spell Christmas with an x it bothers me so much - if they only knew that it means the removal of Jesus. People who spell it wrong think it is a short cut - but it isn't.

Thank you for a blessed blog.

May you and yours have a very blessed Christmas as well. Love Deb.

Jen said...

Merle..this is so true..We all need a reminder of the real reason of the season...Not that I do not like gifts..but like some of my family go overboard..I only give a small gift and they all appreciate that the same..Thx for that post..hope you are enjoying your family and loved ones:))
I know I am exhausted with the "preparing"..and I finally know what..thats all I can do and this is not even the reason for Christmas..You are such a wise one, my Phriend:))

Diane said...

You are right on ( as always ).The real reason fro Christmas is what gives me the most joy !
I love advent and lighting the candles.A great way to take time and reflect on the meaning of Christmas.Love,Hope,Peace and Faith.
Thanks Lady,
Happy New Year to you and your family.