What would it be like if someone were to start a campaign to reclaim the Season of Advent in our culture? This would make sense to me because every year, Christmas seems to begin earlier and earlier. I think that many people would agree that this year it was even worse. Can you believe that the Black Friday sales actually started on the evening of Thanksgiving Day? I believe that in many ways we've already lost the season of Advent to the Christmas shopping rush. Are we going to lose Thanksgiving, too?
When we race right from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas, we miss out on the beauty of the season of Advent. I remember as a child making a paper chain in red and green and tearing off one link each day starting on Dec. 1. In that way, we marked every single day in the Season of Advent and gave it a special place in our home.
My mother was raised in a Norwegian community in southwest Wisconsin. She told me that as a child, her parents didn't even put up the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. She was taught how important it is to be patient and wait until Christmas Eve for all those gifts to appear under the tree, especially since the people of Israel had to wait for so many generations for the Messiah to come.
Pastor Heather Brown
If we skip the season of Advent and charge right from Thanksgiving into Christmas, we forget that according to the church year calendar, Christmas doesn't even begin until Dec. 25 and then it lasts for 12 days! In our world today, this fact is often ignored when so many people take down their Christmas trees on Dec. 26. In addition, it seems that Christmas carols are widely heard and enjoyed from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, but on Dec. 26, they have mysteriously disappeared from the airwaves.
How can we reclaim the season of Advent? The Advent wreath teaches us how important it is to observe the four weeks that lead up to Christmas. The Prophet Isaiah says, "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." Advent is a time when we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ, who is our light, is coming into our world to stamp out the darkness of sin, death, and evil and so we need to prepare for his arrival.
As we light each Advent candle week by week, first one, then two and so on, the light of those candles glows and grows among us. In the same way, our hearts and homes are being enlightened by the message of the season of Advent. The candles serve as signals to us to brighten things up around our home and our church as we prepare for Jesus' entry into our midst.
Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Religion Editor Loretta Johnson at 857-1952 or Debbie Sandvold at 857-1950. The toll-free number is 1-800-735-3229.
When we count the weeks until Christmas, we also learn to be patient. Each candle ignites hope and expectation in our hearts for Christ's coming. We are reminded that waiting is part of God's unfolding plan and that we are living according to God's timeline, not our own.
Since the Advent wreath is in a circle, the candles invite us to gather around together to worship and pray, to give thanks and sing, to read God's Word together and share our experiences of God's activity in our midst. We do this when we come to church on Sunday mornings and when we sit around the dinner table with family and friends.
The candles of Advent also make us realize just how important it is to love one another as God has loved us by giving us his son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior and Lord. Each way that we prepare, whether it's baking cookies, wrapping presents, putting up lights and eventually our Christmas tree these are all ways to say "Welcome!" to Jesus.
How did you prepare for Christmas this year? What did you do to get ready to receive Jesus into our world once again? It's often said that at Advent, it is as if God gives us a new broom and dust pan so that we can clean house. When we come before God and lay bare our souls and give him our sin and brokenness, we empty ourselves of the old so that he can fill us anew. That's what God longs to do for each one of us as we welcome his son, Jesus Christ, into our world.
Jesus offers us gifts of forgiveness of sin, salvation and eternal life the best Christmas gifts of all. Let us pray that we won't be so distracted by the busyness of these December days that we forget to welcome the "heavenly guest who is at the door."
Let us remember Christmas didn't even begin until Dec. 25 and then it lasts for 12 days!
Pastor Heather Brown is pastor of Trinity United Parish, Glenburn and Lansford.