While the period leading up to Christmas brings the happiest of our times (as we look forward to travel or to receive guests, as we decorate our homes, the sanctuary and party venues, and as we decide what gifts to give out to our friend, family and loved one), there are people known to us or outside of our circles who are experiencing untold suffering; experiencing hard times or heartbreaks. What will Advent mean for them? What will Christmas mean for them. If no one will step in to stand with them by their side, and share the joys of Christmas with them – this will go down for them as a very terrible and forgettable experience. So our challenges this Advent season is to be intentional and therefore help to spread the joy of Christmas as far and wide as we can, and to touch as many people as we can.
Every Sunday in Advent we reflect on the HOPE, LOVE, JOY and PEACE that Christ brings to our world. Though our world is overwhelmed with so much pain, suffering and evil, Christmas time brings to us a sense of triumph over evil! Advent for us is a very important time to prepare for a great celebration – celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ! “During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.”1 1http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-advent
God’s gift for us is Jesus Christ who God sent into the world, “…in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17; Matthew 1:21. Jesus came for all people, including the least, the lost, and the last. So Advent engages all of us in some way. We are all part of this unfolding story of Advent! As such individuals and families participate in spreading Christ’s love; decorating of the sanctuary, lighting of Advent Candles, community caroling, sending care packages, serving meals for the homeless and praying with the
sick. This is our way of expressing our faith, not only among ourselves but also to our community as we proclaim the Joy of Christmas and the eternal love for humanity! Off course, we may express our faith as we recite themes of
HOPE, LOVE, PEACE and JOY in our liturgy, but it is even more important if we, as the church will pay attention to the problems and challenges facing our community.
As we prepare for Christmas, may we also be prepared and equipped during this Advent Season so that we can respond to the challenges that we face here and now? As we light the candles each Sunday in Advent, let us be encouraged to participate in God’s mission here and now – let us bring hope for the hopeless, love for those who feel lonely or rejected and unloved, let us comfort those who have lost their livelihood and source of pride and those experiencing grief. “During each Sunday of the Advent season, we focus on one of the four virtues Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace…The Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding Christians that Jesus is the light of the world.” 2 http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-do-the-candles-in-our-advent-wreath-mean
For many people the church is the only family there is to love them and accept them. Let us therefore step in, and stand with them by their side. If we do not, this Christmas will go down for them as very terrible and forgettable experience. We will play our part, here and now – here in our community, seeking out to bring Christ’s love around! This is the Advent Season – HOPE, LOVE, JOY, and PEACE!
Pastor Jacob Maforo