*We will be starting Advent a week early so we can enjoy the children’s Christmas pageant on Dec. 16th.
The Weekend After Christmas (12/29 & 12/30): …Is Born
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a [betrothed] beautifully dressed for [their beloved.] I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. [God] will dwell with them, and they will be [God’s] peoples…Then [God] said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the lifegiving spring.” – Revelation 21: 1-6
The story continues. Even though we feel as if the Christmas “season” is over and the tree is quick to come down, the real story begins again in the renewal of our very souls as God nudges us toward new life and possibilities in the new year. What is being born within us?
CHRISTMAS EVE (12/24): Calm and Bright
Silent night, holy night All is calm, all is bright Round yon Virgin Mother and Child Holy Infant so tender and mild Sleep in heavenly peace Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight, Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing “Alleluia”! Christ, the Savior is born, Christ, the Savior is born
Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light, Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Silent night! Holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light; with the angels let us sing, “Alleluia” to our King: “Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born.”
“While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.” – Luke 2: 6
There is something about Christmas Eve. It is hard to describe that “something” that many of us feel and it is different, to be sure, for everyone. The older we are and the more memories we accumulate, the more complex the feeling becomes. Perhaps the tendency for reflection upon one’s life and the presence or absence of loved ones on this night is why we love to hear “all is calm, all is bright.” On this night we remember the promise of God–that God would be “Emmanuel,” God-with-us forever more.
ADVENT WEEK 4 (/12/22 &12/23): Let Us Sing – HOPE
Silent night! Holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light; with the angels let us sing, “Alleluia” to our King: “Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born.” – vs. 4
A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9: 6
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” When King Herod heard this, he was troubled… – Matthew 2: 1-12
The last verse of the hymn invites us to lift our voices in alleluia’s to the one who is “King.” This descriptor was more radical for the people of Jesus’ time as it resisted the powers of empire that threatened “the least of these” that Jesus came to serve. We are reminded by this seemingly benign and sweet song that whenever there is injustice in this world, we are to look to the one whose power is love. How might this increase our hope for the future?
ADVENT WEEK 3 (12/8 & 12/9): Redeeming Grace – LOVE
Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light, Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth – vs. 3
What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light… The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of [an] only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; as the Law was given through Moses, so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.- John 1: 1-18
The presence of God in human form is the “dawn” of redeeming grace, says the hymn’s third verse. God so desired to be “up close and personal” that God came to live, breathe, feel, teach, touch, and love. Made in the image of God, we are called to nurture relationships that birth, multiply and radiate grace in the world. What would the world be like if “love’s pure light” was at the center?
ADVENT WEEK 2 (12/1 & 12/2): Glory Streams – JOY
Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight, Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing “Alleluia”! Christ, the Savior is born, Christ, the Savior is born – vs. 2
All the nations that you’ve made will come and bow down before you, Lord; they will glorify your name, because you are awesome and a wonder-worker. You are God. Just you. Teach me your way, Lord, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name. – Psalm 86: 9-11
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” – Luke 2: 8-20
The shepherds got quite a wake-up call that night when the sky lit up “like a Christmas tree” (so to speak). Awe at the transformative glory of what God can do in our lives is the focus this week. Glories are streaming every day if we only have eyes to see. How would our lives be renewed if we saw the world and our lives through the lens of wonder?
ADVENT WEEK 1 (11/24 &25): Sleep in Peace – PEACE
Silent night, holy night All is calm, all is bright Round yon Virgin Mother and Child Holy Infant so tender and mild Sleep in heavenly peace Sleep in heavenly peace – vs. 1
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2: 1-4
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined… 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 [Parent], Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. – Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7
One of the most famous stories about this beloved hymn took place in World War One. British and German soldiers on the front lines called a truce on Christmas Day. So close where the encampments from which they were fighting one another, they could hear each other in the peaceful quiet of the truce singing “Silent Night,” each in their own language. This prompted the soldiers to come out and meet on the battlefield, without weapons, and they spent the day playing soccer and exchanging small gifts–whatever they had. Humanity is the holy infant for whom God so desires a heavenly peace. Is it possible to bring calm and bright to our own corners of this world?