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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: Adventing Christmas

Most people know about Christmas.  It is hard enough for Christians to move beyond the frantic search for the right gift and the hoopla about Santa and his reindeer to Jesus Christ, who is the reason for the season.

But taking the four weeks before Christmas, and being still and focused enough to be blessed by a time which drives many people crazy, now that’s a miracle.  Guess what?  God can do it.

Advent, which literally means “arrival” or “emergence,” begins this Sunday, four Sundays before Christmas, and continues to Christmas Eve.  It is an honest effort by Christians to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holy day of Christmas.  It is a season of waiting for what God has promised as we remember the prophecies of Jesus and our past history as Christians.  It is  waiting for what God is in the midst of doing in the present.  It is also waiting for what God is going to do in the future.

So to “advent Christmas,” to see the arrival of Jesus the baby who is to be our savior, is to wait with holy abandon.  It involves putting all of our energy aside and opening our very souls to that which we cannot see but is more important than all we can see.

Mary saw the signs of Jesus’ arrival.  She listened to the angel who spoke of the savior who was going to be born.  She literally felt the presence of God as she was with child by the Holy Spirit.  When the baby was born, and the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest,” she literally became a sign of holiness and devotion for Christians.  

Some Catholics want to even make Mary a fourth person of the Trinity.  But that would be to miss the point.

Jesus is the focus.  His healing and nurturing presence is what we seek.  Even beyond the far-off gift of salvation, our advent into heaven is the presence of God, which can bless every single moment.

In the church, we gather with those who have seen the signs, heard the whispers, felt the tugs of God in their hearts.  God is birthing hope into a world, which is too busy to care but needs him more than they know.

First of all, we must be in worship.  So much draws us away from it.  Family, work, play, tragedy, celebration, all of it can call us away from that one needed focus.

But when worship becomes a place of personal safety and intimacy with God, when we can worship with more than the mind, we will no longer just know about God, we actually know Him.

God will advent into our lives a worship more centered on love and trust rather than status, possessions or fear.  We will see that all the world offers is but a faint reflection of what God makes possible.

In fact, in the heart of Mary’s conversation with the angel, here are the words we need to hear as well.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing is impossible with God.”

During Advent, which begins this Sunday, God sends you an invitation to gather with those who have seen the signs of the coming of Jesus.  God whispers to us in still, moments of quiet.  

He shouts to us in the music of Advent:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel

Prepare the Way, O Zion, Christ is Drawing Near

Come Now, O Prince of Peace

All Earth is Hopeful, the Savior Comes at Last

When God is A Child, there’s Joy in our Song

Wait for the Lord, whose Day is Near.

Savior of the Nations, come, show yourself the virgin’s Son

God will show us in Advent that Christ is come to reconcile us to himself and to others.  True forgiveness, despite the wrong done to us or the burdensome grudge we carry, can set us free.

God will show us that Jesus came to be a servant and that others are more important than we are.  Our focus will turn from what we get to what we give.  Just watch and see that Advent miracle.

Adventing Christmas is a gift from God, which comes in God’s timing.  For some it will come this Christmas.  For others, Scrooge will win out one more year.

But God wants to arrive in your heart this Christmas.  He wants to emerge in new worship which challenges the heart.  He waits to be revealed in mission, which strikes at the heart of human need, surging beyond physical food to the spiritual.

You will know when your Christmas has been Advented.  Others will tell you, for they will see the difference.  Church becomes the main thing, not an option.  Service becomes the driving force, not the surrender to materialism. 

You will find the advent of rich, wondrous colors, the interwoven textures of the tapestries of Christmas for the first time.  Christmas is no longer black and white.  The advent of faith in Christ now happens in full Technicolor, and you find the beginning of the most wondrous life you have ever known.