Faith 12/06/18

Christmas Expectations?

Pastor Jerry Donovan

Thanksgiving has come and gone and hopefully everyone has survived the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales without overextending their finances. I grew up in a time and place with a telephone on the kitchen wall shared by everybody, all television and many radio stations signed off after midnight, and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV marked the beginning of the Christmas season.

I have fond memories of those days when my home church would sing hymns about the nativity and coming of the wise men. As I was growing up the fascination with lights, food, music, and family gatherings raised the anticipation and the desire to jump quickly into celebrating the birth of Jesus.

However, over the years I have developed a greater awareness of the need to wait, reflect, and prepare during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. It has helped me spend more time thinking about how the gospel message has multiple implications for daily living, from things affecting my personal life, to things affecting our collective life as a nation.

This is known as Advent in the Christian calendar. As the community of faith, we focus on waiting and expecting God to do the miraculous. Jesus offers words that call us to be ready when the kingdom of God bursts into our daily existence. The kairos of God or God’s time disrupts our human chronos or human time, and things cannot remain the same. For those who live to step on others, the message of Jesus is a message of judgment and a call to repentance. For those who cling to the promises of God in spite of all the social injuries they have been exposed to, the coming kingdom is a time to look up with hope and celebration. Jesus says in Luke 21:28, “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

In Luke 21:25-36 Jesus is uttering a prophetic message concerning the future. Several signs are to precede the final “coming of the Son of man,” which can be interpreted as sources for distress, anxiety, hopelessness, and ultimate annihilation. Eschatological preaching presents a word of judgment against injustice, inequalities, and indifference toward love, compassion, unity, and society. It also brings a word of hope. For the Christian community, Jesus’ message of “end times” is about “joyful expectation”2 in light of the coming kingdom that promises release and deliverance.

There are thousands of believers in the Christian world who are constantly working toward the elimination of oppression’s dehumanizing policies and practices that cheapen our God-given life and that deprive the most vulnerable and disenfranchised human beings, such as children, elderly, ethnic minorities, and women from enjoying a life of respect, fairness, and freedom.

Advent invites us to do the preparing work that John the Baptist points to in preparing the way for the Lord. During Advent, we celebrate the three “comings” of Christ: remembering Christ coming as an infant to the world, anticipating Christ’s Second Coming, and gratefully allowing Christ to come into our lives in ever deeper ways through repentance and preparation.

One of my fondest memories as a child of the Christmas Season was the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our local church. The Van Horn United Methodist Church is continuing this tradition by inviting the community to its Candle Light Christmas Eve Festival of Carols and Scripture Monday December 24 at 6:00 p.m.