Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
Each year, Lutherans and other denominations celebrate Advent as a special season of waiting and hoping for Jesus to come.
During the four Sundays and weeks that led up to Christmas Day, the church’s main focus is on both the celebration of Jesus’s birth and the larger picture of Jesus ultimately returning at the end of the world.
Advent, which literally means “coming” in Latin, is intended to be a quiet, contemplative season of preparation and watchfulness for what is yet to come. However, culturally, we’ve chosen to start celebrating the season earlier and earlier every year. For some, the countdown begins as early as the day after Halloween!
That can be a struggle for churches because many people are ready for Christmas to start long before the actual season of Advent has even begun. Dealing with the discouragements and struggles of this year, it can be hard to find hope and even harder to hold onto it. That’s why I think having a quiet time of introspection is perhaps more important for us this Advent than ever before.
Waiting, seeking, and contemplating the significance of the season is precisely the nourishment our souls need to prepare us for a true and meaningful Christmas.
The actual celebration of Christmas day is that of Christ coming into our midst as a symbol of hope and new life — and boy, do we ever need to understand what that means to us right now! Jesus coming as an infant wrapped only in swaddling clothes shows us God’s willingness to be vulnerable, to come into our world in the form of a helpless baby. Just think about what that willingness means especially today, when we’ve grown so afraid of being vulnerable with each other because of the Coronavirus.
The truth is, whatever shape we’re in, God’s love always finds a way to come to us.
Even as isolated as we’ve been this year, God found an unexpected way to be with us. As weary as we’re all getting of Zoom and other online services, it was through these amazing gifts of technology that God found a way to break through the darkness of our isolation. Being able to see one another and hear each another’s voices, even virtually, has been a definitive reminder of God’s great love for each one of us -- and of the love and connection we still share with one another, despite being unable to safely gather as a large group.
The gifts of technology have made it easier for us to experience God’s grace both individually and together throughout these long and difficult months. On this Christmas day, it allows us to celebrate the birth of Jesus together and to know that — wherever we are -the hope we’ve been waiting for has come to us once more!
A joyful Christmas to you all!