“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as Children.”
~ Galatians 4:4-5
The last Sunday in November marks the beginning of Advent for us this year. For the next four weeks the lessons for Sunday mornings are a series of Bible readings encouraging God’s people to get ready for the coming of Jesus. It’s a time of anticipation. As we count the days and light candles, we watch and wait for Jesus. Advent practices vary between families and churches; some are helpful and some are less so.
When I was a boy, I had classmates whose families would get a piece of birch wood, drill five holes—one for each Sunday of Advent and one for Christmas—and place a candle in each hole. They would decorate the logs with greens and ribbons and place them as centerpieces on their dinner tables. Every Sunday they’d light a new candle until all five were burning on Christmas Eve. My dad, though, was the fire chief, and he’d seen too many house fires start with one carelessly placed candle, so we usually stuck to the big cardboard calendars filled with chocolates and enjoyed the candles at church.
As the people of God, our preparations can take many forms, and often involve meal planning, travel, going to church, checking the list and buying the gifts, and no small amount of wonder, anxiety, and hopefulness.
Whatever preparations your family makes in this time approaching Christmas—however you mark Advent together—I encourage you to also sit down and read the Gospel of Matthew. One of the best ways to look forward to the coming of our Lord is to look back at what our Lord Jesus did when he was here all those years ago. Matthew will occupy our Sunday gospel lessons over the coming year, and he’s not that difficult to sit down and read in one sitting.
So open your Bible. Enjoy the story of Jesus born of Mary and visited by the Magi, baptized by John, calling his disciples, healing the sick, and challenging the proud. Be haunted by the burden of the cross, the brutality of Calvary, and the burial in that stone cold tomb. And marvel at the angel’s question, “Why seek ye the living amongst the dead?”
Happy Advent. Merry Christmas. God bless. Come Lord Jesus.
Born thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a king;
born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit raise us to thy glorious throne.
~Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, verse 2, Charles Wesley