Advent – Are You Ready?
It is always an amazing thing to see how frantic things become as we approach Christmas. With a flurry
of activities, school and church events, special musical concerts, and, of course, shopping, it’s no wonder
people get tired and depressed around the holidays. The demands are real and often overwhelming. It
can become so easy to lose sight of priorities and what these weeks leading up to Christmas are really all
about. Yes, there is baking to do, shopping to do, cleaning to do, decorating and the list goes on and on.
However, this season is really about experiencing again the joy of our new life in Jesus!
Maybe you’ve heard the story about a woman doing her last-minute Christmas shopping at a crowded
mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds, standing in long lines, and fighting her way down long aisles
looking for a gift that had sold out days before. She was sick and tired of Christmas and wanted it to be
done. Her arms were filled with bulky packages when the elevator door opened. Of course it was full.
Still, the occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load
to enter. As the doors closed she blurted out, “Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing
out to be arrested, strung up, and shot!” Many have felt that way. Several on the elevator nodded their
heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice
that said, “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.” When we forget the real reason for the season we
have a tendency to get a bit jaundiced about it.
That’s where Christians may have a slight advantage. Celebrated as early as the 4th or 5th Century, the
season of Advent is all about setting aside time to prepare for the celebration of God’s gift of Jesus.
From the Latin word for “coming”, Advent anticipates the coming of Jesus both in the past, as He was
incarnate (made flesh) as the baby Jesus. Advent also points us forward as we anticipate His triumphant
return to take us home! Sometimes missed is the sense of Advent which focuses us on the present as we
celebrate His presence with us in Word and Sacrament. Luther encouraged people to observe Advent as
a time to teach children about the coming of Jesus. Today we can still do that through Advent Wreaths
and Advent Calendars. Advent Devotions (you can get a daily devotion emailed to you—sign up at the
District Website) can keep us focused. So do midweek Advent services. I love to see a sanctuary
decorated for Christmas. It’s so festive and joyful with candles and greenery.
The candles on the Advent Wreath also point us forward. Whether they are purple for royalty or blue for
hope, the wreath helps us prepare. The first week, the Prophecy Candle or candle of hope, reminds us of
the words of the prophets that foretold the coming of Jesus. The second candle, the Bethlehem Candle
or candle of preparation, reminds us of the place that God prepared for the baby Jesus. The third candle,
the pink one, the Shepherd’s Candle or the candle of joy, reminds us of the joy the shepherds
experienced as they learned God’s plan of salvation and that a Savior had been born for them. The
fourth candle, the Angel Candle or the candle of love, reminds us of God’s love announced by the angels,
which is still heralded today among us. The final candle, the white Christ Candle, lit on Christmas Eve,
reminds us of Jesus, the Light of the world! What a glorious time of celebration this can be!
When I was in college I worked in a retail store selling high end men’s suits. At times it was non-stop
traffic, but there were also times when things were quiet, almost boring. My boss would tell me that
there was always plenty to do. Straighten the racks, make sure the shirts were folded properly. Dust
the displays. Ugh! I would have to admit there were times when I stood around doing nothing or chatting
with fellow workers. Whenever we would hear our boss coming near the phrase was, “Look busy, the boss is coming.”
I have often been guilty, in regard to my faith in Jesus, to also occupy my time with less than evangelical
things. Advent always forces me to think, “What will you do while you’re waiting for Jesus?” The truth is,
there’s no end to what can be done. All around us we find social injustice and hatred, sinful attitudes
and actions that draw us away from our faith and from receiving the good news of a Savior born for us!
God has chosen each of us to be His own child, and He empowers us to make a difference in the world
for the sake of Jesus. It’s really as simple as telling the real story of Christmas to a world that
thinks it’s all about Santa Claus. We know it’s all about Jesus!
As the Florida-Georgia District celebrates 70 years of blessings, there is plenty each of us can do. We are
in the early days of our 70 years-$70 campaign, inviting people across the Florida-Georgia District to give
a one-time gift of $70 to the District’s Mission Loan fund that will live on perpetually to serve the mission
of Jesus in the Florida-Georgia District. Our goal is to raise up two new ministries in each of the five regions
of the district each year for the next five years. This will result in a minimum of 50 new ministry starts.
Let me translate that into an awesome potential. Let’s say that each new ministry start reached only 25 people.
That would mean 1250 people who didn’t know Jesus can rejoice in eternal life! Even if all those potential new
ministries reached only one person, that one matters to Jesus, and so should matter to us!
What will you do during these days of Advent, as we await the coming of Jesus? Can you sing a Christmas Carol
that tells of His love? Can you point people to the meaning behind some of the decorations and lights that reflect
the Light of the World? Can you make some extra cookies that can be given to those who have no food? There are many
things that all of us can do to make a difference while we wait. Maybe it’s planting a new church, or formulating
plans for a new ministry that proclaims Jesus through service and care. How can you be part of the vision to build
God’s kingdom and plant new ministries right where God already has you?
Advent is the perfect time to think and pray, but also to spring into action to serve Jesus. What will you do while you
look for His coming? He’s coming back soon! Let’s take time to prepare and to celebrate the joy of His first coming
by connecting others to Jesus!
Have a wonderful Advent season as we anticipate a Merry Christmas!
In His peace,