We Did Not Forget Advent.

The other night I drove to church for a meeting and this caught my attention:

Now, this was 40 days before Christmas, and a week before Thanksgiving. But this house in our neighborhood was ready to go. My first reaction was shock, but it quickly turned to a sense of warmth. I thought perhaps this family was sending the rest of us a message: Let's move on from all the tough feelings after the exhausting election. Let's experience some joy instead. Right on.

But you'll notice this Sunday that Grace isn't quite ready for Christmas. November 27 is the first Sunday of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, but the season of Christmas does not begin until December 25 (or 24th). It then continues for twelve days. Advent and Christmas are not the same thing-- they don't even have the same liturgical colors (purple and white, respectively). But many, probably most, churches blend them together. In our worship planning team a few months ago, we decided to wait a couple of weeks before decorating for Christmas.

Waiting, after all, is what Advent is all about. Anticipation. Preparation. Advent was once thought of in the same way we think about Lent; instead of a season of self-examination before Easter it was applied to Christmas. The scriptures speak of unfulfilled promises. But in our rush to Christmas we have lost the spiritual discipline of waiting. Like the culture around us, we have rushed on to the next thing instead of delighting in the moment. There's a reason why it's so shocking to see Christmas decorations up in the stores before the proper time-- why don't we feel the same way about churches?

So for a couple of Sundays I invite you to wait. Christmas will come, I promise, and it will be joyful and exciting. Join us for the Hanging of the Greens, decorating the church for Christmas, on the afternoon of Sunday December 4. The choir will offer wonderful Christmas music on December 11, the first Sunday the Celebration Center will be decorated. How amazing will that be?? Your first visual moment of "Behold!" followed by an audio moment of "Behold!" Then we'll have three distinct, but each meaningful, services on Christmas Eve:

  • Children's/Family service at 4:00
  • Traditional worship with candlelight and communion at 7:00
  • Blended worship with candlelight and communion at 11:00
Plus on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, both on Sundays this year, we'll have one service only, 11:00, to celebrate our unity and the holiness of the season together.

But before all that good stuff happens, I invite you to wait. Join me for a special Bible study for Advent, "The Birth of the Messiah," where we'll study the infancy narratives and images from Christian art: Wednesdays, 5:30-7:00 p.m., November 30 and December 7 & 14. 

I know waiting is not fun. How many times have you sat in a waiting room at a hospital or doctor's office and thought, "This is the most amazing place ever!!" I get it. But trust in the Church's ancient practices. Listen to God's promises. And live into hope.