When God Comes Down
Preparing for the Lord
What is Advent?
My friend Bill Leonard, retired dean of the Wake Forest Divinity School, admits that the church has “lost” Christmas to the retail establishment. It has become something it was never meant to be, and we will not be getting it back. But he does want us to hang onto Advent.
I agree. Though it was not established in the church until the sixth century, Advent embodies the spirit of God’s incarnation in the world. Or, as John Claypool famously put it, the incarnation proves that, “Flesh is a uniform God is ashamed to wear.”
During the four weeks leading up to that day we celebrate as Christ’s birth, we are given the opportunity to reflect upon what it means that God has come to us in human flesh. What are the elements of such a belief? You will find them in the emphases we place on our worship preceding December 25.
The first emphasis is hope. The prophet Isaiah says, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (11:6, 9).
The second emphasis is love, which leads us to the reflections of John: “For God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).
The third emphasis is joy. When we light the candle of joy on the third Sunday of Advent, note that it is pink, rather than the purple of the other three Sundays. We know why the others are purple. Purple signifies several themes of the Advent season. One is repentance. John the Baptist is prominent in our Advent consideration, and he came to the Jordan River proclaiming to the people their need of repentance and baptism. Purple is also representative of royalty. Christ the King is coming into our midst, and using this color signifies His presence. But why pink?
It comes from the liturgical observance called Gaudete (Gaw-day-tay). From the Latin, it is translated “rejoice.” So, the third Sunday in Advent is the Day of Joy or Rejoicing. Advent began many years ago as a season of repentance, repentance being the preparation for God’s coming into the world. The third Sunday of the observance marks a shift in focus from self-examination to celebration. Christ’s coming is near, and that is cause for celebration indeed. It is reason for rejoicing. How appropriate, then, that our music ministry leads this worship, for the music of the season is indeed joyful in nature.
The fourth emphasis is peace. The shift from repentance, which begins on the third Sunday, is complete on the fourth. We will celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace who promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
On Christmas Eve, we find the season of Advent coming to a close as we light the Christ Candle, representative of the One who embodies the four emphases we have considered to this point: hope, love, joy, and peace. These come to us as the Gifts of Christmas, but only do they fully find a resting place in our hearts when they are centered in Christ. —RLH
Advent Sermon Texts & Titles First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29: “Already,” 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 6: “It Doesn’t Begin with Jesus,” Mark 1:1-8 Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 13: “Nots, Neithers, and Noes,” John 1:19-28 Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec....
Our Nativity Lights display that sits on our front lawn, will be lit during Advent and Christmastide this year in honor of Linda Marks.
Our children and families are invited to take part in the procession of Las Posadas. Las Posadas is Spanish for “lodgings”. In Latin and Central America, it is a festival celebrated during the season of Advent. A group representing the Holy Family stands outside a...
Join us as we mark this night together, gathering to name our grief and together find healing as we wait for the light brought to us by Emmanuel. We will gather for a time of reflection and healing on Sunday, December 20 at 4 pm. Please RSVP to Bridget Ellis.
Invite your friends and family to join us on Christmas Eve in our Sanctuary at 6 pm. Together we will celebrate the arrival of Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus Christ.