Once again, 2020 is a gift that keeps on giving. I had hoped when we first went into lockdown in March that by Thanksgiving we would be back to normal. But, alas, our Thanksgiving feast will be for the three of us, and Christmas celebrations will probably be similar.
Rather than being discouraged by all the changes COVID-19 has wrought, I would like to encourage you to consider how you might celebrate Advent in a new and meaningful way this year. Advent begins on November 29th. Included with this newsletter is a four-week Advent devotional prepared just for 2020.
In our worship series for Advent we will continue to use the traditional themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Here is a start on those reflections in both scripture and song:
First, we practice Hope. Paul closes the letter to the Romans with these words:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Hope is an expectation that God values us so much that God will one day lead us into a future that is worth the wait. In hope we sing,
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Second, we practice Peace. Being cooped up with only our immediate family for company has given many of us unique opportunities to practice peace in our relationships
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6
Let us turn to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, for strength when we need to practice peacemaking and reconciliation.
Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
Third, practice Joy. The wise men who brought the first gifts to the child Jesus followed a star to find where Jesus had been born. We read in Matthew’s gospel,
2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
If you are like me and the wise men, you may also find joy at Christmas in giving gifts to others – whether finding just the right present, or offering a gift of your time or service to another.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come: Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
And fourth, we practice Love. As 1 John 4 reminds us,
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
As we share the love we have received with others, we are sharing God’s love with them. This is the message of Christmas, that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son so that we may have eternal life (John 3:16-17).
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are the themes for our Advent worship this year. I hope you will join me in taking a long loving look at each during this very different Advent season.
Have a blessed Advent and Christmas,