Every year, at this same time, I enthusiastically resolve to observe the season of Advent in the run up to Christmas (advent comes from a Latin word meaning ‘coming’). In other words, Advent is the season to celebrate the “coming” of Christ – which in turn is an opportunity to rejoice that He has already come. But, inevitably two weeks into December amid the crazy schedules of working and parenting, I end up feeling completely unprepared for the spiritual significance of the impending Christmas celebration (and I’m confessing this as a Church Pastor!). So THIS year, I am resolving not to let my hectic schedule obscure the real purpose and meaning of this season.
Growing up in England, many of my seasonal activities at this time of year were connected to observing the christian Advent season. As I participated in the school choir we inevitably started rehearsing Christmas carols and choral songs in mid-November. It seemed my Advent Calendars were most definitely themed towards anticipating the birth of Jesus rather than commercialism and marketing chocolate, candies or Disney characters. Even though we only went to Church as a family on Christmas Eve, we did so precisely because we recognized the spiritual significance of the occasion we were remembering: the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Of course, there were numerous Christmas fairs (aka mid-year fundraisers!), Christmas parties, carol concerts, gift exchanges and of course Christmas card making (that’s right folks… not only did we write in actual cards, we even made them by hand!).
Whilst many people in our increasingly post-christian culture no longer celebrate Christmas for the birth of a Savior, (or are even aware that is what Christmas is celebrating!), I am always surprised how few of us in the church take time to intentionally meditate on this true meaning and prepare ourselves for hopeful remembrance. Instead, we give much time to buying gifts for people, but not to committing ourselves to receive afresh God’s greatest gift to each of us, his own son. We may attend many annual Christmas parties and celebrations with friends and coworkers, but forget to celebrate that the good news announcement of a Savior born in the City of David is a reason for great joy for each of us (Luke 2.10). We even experience a massive spike in people who will suffer with loneliness and depression, despite the fact that the message of Jesus birth was that God is with us (Immanuel!)… we are not alone (Matt 1.23).
So perhaps this year, you might consider joining me in intentionally remembering and anticipating that this wonderful holiday is a celebration of a person: God in human form, dwelling amongst his people, bringing hope and shining a great light in the darkness. God with us.
Reflection: What does Christmas mean to you? How is the birth of Jesus good news to you?