Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Reflection, Week One--Hope Lives!

After our Sunday dinner, I told Kathy that today was when my Christmas season begins.  Yes, our house has been decorated for a few days.  Yes, I have been listening to Christmas music for a few days now.  And yes, I've done some Christmas shopping, with more still to do.  But for me, our opening Sunday of worship in Advent marks the true start of my celebration.

Arriving at the church building and seeing it decorated for the season was the first step.  May I say that the folks who decorate our facility every year do an amazing job, and this year is no exception.  I feel like I'm walking into a Christmas card!  Then, our musicians always do so much to use regular worship music and Christmas songs together to draw us into just the right focus of our hearts and voices.  I'm so thankful for all of the talented people who sacrifice hours and hours of practice time in order to make our music seem so effortlessly done.

This year, we've added having different families light the Advent wreath in the service, and that is great for at least two reasons.  One--it let's families participate in a unique way in our worship time.  And two--my hand usually shakes when I have to light the thing, and I'm so glad that someone else has to do it!

I personally enjoy the preparation of Advent messages and trying to weave our themes into the service.  This morning, we were thinking about hope, and I had the privilege of looking at the subject through a study of the  story of Joseph as seen in Matthew 1.  Here was a man who had the birthright of being a king, but one whose throne was long dormant.  Yet his hope was not in his nation, nor in his bloodline, but in the promises of God.  His faith led to his being labeled "just" or "righteous," meaning he received right standing before God by faith.  This led to a heart of compassion, a will to obey God, and a devotion that didn't lead him to expect God to bless him specially because of his faithfulness.  He had hoped in God, and he saw his hopes begin to be realized in ways he never expected.  You can go to our church website to see or hear the message.  Follow this link.

Of course, today continues to be a celebration.  We will be going to the annual Cedarville University Christmas Concert, a highlight of our Advent beginnings every year.  Following this, we'll be with families from the church for an Advent dessert (we are doing desserts and dinners in homes in place of one big Advent dinner at the church).

This has been, and is continuing to be, a very good day.  Best of all, it's because everything we are celebrating and anticipating in Advent points to the glorious realities yet to be revealed!