Greetings Siblings in Christ,
As always, I hope and pray that this note finds you safe and well.
As we enter into the third week of Advent, not only are we only a little over a week from celebrating Christmas, we have witnessed the symbolism of the light of God continues to grow while the amount of daylight grows shorter. This Sunday, we celebrate the love that is of God. And this love isn’t just any love, it is the selfless love that is of God and is God. This is agape love.
And as we remember and celebrate the agape love that is God this week, and as we grow yet a week closer to Christmas, you may be asking yourself, “What type of Christmas can it be if we can’t be together? How can we celebrate and rejoice if we can’t be together in our church buildings singing together, the beautiful Christmas songs that we know so well? It’s just not Christmas without all the things we’re used to!” And I would agree. I miss the fellowship and am feeling quite bummed about the possibilities of no Christmas Eve worship services where we light each other’s candles from the flame of the Christ candle. Then I started to do some research for this thought of the week about the Advent candles.
Although there are a lot of resources to aid in putting together the liturgy for a worship service, and many other resources full of commentaries about the different special days during the liturgical year, with the exception of Gaudete Sunday, there is very little I could find about the other Sundays in Advent. What I did find caught me off guard at first. In the Companion to the Book of Common Worship it states, “As Advent draws nearer to Christmas, the congregation experiences the increasing brightness radiated by the wreath.
This is the significance of the wreath, and should not be lost by trying to give each candle some special meaning such as hope, joy, shepherds, angels.” (CBOCW p98-99) What?!?!? Not give special meaning to each candle? Then I read the next sentence and the world again made sense, “Let the focus be not on the proper meaning of the candles, but on the light generated by the candles.” (p 99) The candles are just candles. They mean nothing until flame is added. And the flame is what really supplies the light, and the light of the flame is what helps us to remind us about the hope, peace, joy, and love of God that brings light to dark times. Just as we may have focused on the candle instead of the flame as the true source of light, we too look to the traditions of Christmas and often forget the blessings that we have and the true light of not only this season but of every season, Jesus. Yes, Christmas traditions are important, and they help bring joy to our lives, but as we need to protect each other from the pandemic, and put off in-person celebrations and traditions, if we find ourselves depressed, angry or frustrated at doing so, we are forgetting the real reason for celebration, Jesus. Not only do we have alternatives for getting together that generations passed hadn’t even dreamed of, for example, telephone, FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook, email, and yes, even the good old United States Postal Service. Knowing and remembering this isn’t going to make the pain and frustration go away of not being together, but it will hopefully help to retrain our focus to where it should be, Jesus.
Focusing on Jesus this season, and all other seasons of our lives, will not make our problems go away; instead, it will help us to get through them with hope, peace, joy, and love. A hope, peace, joy, and love that is truly only available through a true relationship with the Holy Trinity. And look not to the festivities of years past for hope, peace, joy, and love, but rather to God and be patient. God will see us through these times if we allow God to lead. Just as the vaccine is on its way, Jesus is here now! We will be together again sooner than later, until then, and always, God will be and is with us.
As I’ve said before, we as a church family continue to seek God’s wisdom on how we can keep our sanity and maintain our connections with each other during these challenging times of Covid-19. Together, with God’s help, we will persevere. If you’d like a call from me, I may need a nudge. So please, in the kindest of ways, drop me a note and let me know. Please know that you each are always in my heart, thoughts, and prayers. Please know too that I thank God every day for each of you and for the God-given love and gifts that you bring to our church family and to God’s creation. The world is a better place because of each of you.
Be safe, love, and serve the Lord and always, give God thanks.
Blessings, hope, peace, and joy,