This coming Sunday, November 29, marks the beginning of the Advent season. Advent means “coming” and is a season of preparation and reflection, of readying ourselves to once again ready the Christ-child into the world and into our lives. Advent consists of the four Sundays before Christmas and can be as long as 28 days or as short as 22 days, depending the day of the week on which Christmas falls. It is my favorite season in the church year.
In a culture which is obsessed with instant gratification and easy fixes, and in a society in which Christmas carols play on the radio and in stores starting in October, the church’s celebration of Advent is radically counter-cultural. Instead of instant satiating our desires, we talk about waiting. Instead of a month of Christmas music, we sing beautiful Advent hymns about our longing for God and God’s promises to us. Instead of rushing from one store to another and one party to the next, we take time for silence and reflection and meaningful conversations.
Our worship services on these four Sundays will include special rituals, such as the lighting of the Advent wreath, which focus on the traditional themes of the season: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. My sermons will also lift up the spiritual disciplines of Advent: Waiting, Preparing, Anticipating, and Growing. The sanctuary will be beautifully decorated (come help with that project this coming Saturday!), the choir will be singing each week, and the Adult Forum will be discussing Advent hymns which the congregation will be singing. I invite each of you to take advantage of the various ways that we can use this time to reflect and prepare for the coming of Jesus, our Immanuel.