November 30, 2023
Originally this week I was going to be offering a reflection on Chapter 5 of Losing Our Religion, but instead I will be offering a final reflection on that book in my blog for next week. Instead, this week I would like to introduce our sermon series for the season of Advent:
Happy New Year, friends! It may seem strange to receive that greeting at the end of our calendar year, but it’s liturgically accurate. Despite what our calendars say, it is not the end of a year but the start of a new one. Advent is the beginning of a new year for the Christian church.
Advent is a strange season. It is a season of waiting. We join with the ancient Hebrew prophets in waiting for a long-promised Messiah (it’s why prophets like Isaiah and Micah are often read during this season) but we also wait as Christians for the return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom on this earth (it’s why strange, apocalyptic passages like Mark 13 and Matthew 24 are often read during this season).
But waiting does not mean we are simply twiddling our thumbs. Advent is about an expectant-waiting, a waiting that calls us to prepare the way of the Lord in our own souls. It is why we focus on four virtues during the season of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love. We seek to cultivate these in our hearts because we know that, with the coming of Christ, we shall know them in full.
At our church this Advent season, we are going to spend some time walking the streets of Bethlehem. In the Bible, places are not simply locations on a map; they are rich with meaning and significance. And this little town of Bethlehem holds so much purpose in the story of Jesus. So, during the season of Advent, we are going to be looking at stories from the Old Testament that deal with Bethlehem. They are not your normal Christmassy passages. One person whom I asked to read scripture in one of our upcoming services, sent me an email that said, “I think you may have made a mistake when you sent me the passage you asked me to read.” I assured them that it was no blunder. As we explore these texts, I hope we can ask the question, “Why did God choose Bethlehem as the home of salvation?” And if God can choose to use this small, backwoods town, imagine what God wants to do with me. With you. With us.
I hope you can join us for our worship this Advent season:
- December 3 (1st Sunday of Advent): Hope from Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1-22)
- December 10 (2nd Sunday of Advent): Peace from Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:13-17)
- December 17 (3rd Sunday of Advent): Sanctuary Choir/Instrumentalists/Family Nativity Service
- December 24 morning (4th Sunday of Advent): Love from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-5a)
- December 24 evening (Candlelight & Communion): O Little Town of Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)