No, wait. For you college football fans, the famous words of College Game Day icon Lee Corso ring out, “Not so fast, my friend!”
It’s not Christmas yet. Oh sure, we’re already wishing others “Merry Christmas.” We’re already enjoying great musical programs full of the sounds of Christmas, both sacred and secular. We’re already in the dead run of buying presents, wrapping, shipping, and hiding.
Oh, sure, we’ve already decorated our Christmas tree, decorated our houses inside and out, and begun baking and giving Christmas goodies. Boy, that sounds a lot like it’s Christmas, doesn’t it?
And I’m not opposed to any of that.
But I do want to lift up what many of us are also doing in these four weeks before December 25th. We are experiencing the journey through what our “Liturgical Calendar” calls “Advent.”
Those of us who use the Liturgical Calendar to chart our lives of worship through the year know the blessings in the way this calendar helps us see more clearly the whole of God’s message for us as the “seasons” and “festivals” unfold.
I won’t go any further into all the details of the liturgical calendar here, but for those of you who share this guideline of worship and everyday life, I encourage you to pay even more particular attention to it for shaping for forming your faith-life experience.
For those of you either not familiar with it or for whom it is simply not a part of your tradition, I even encourage you to find out about it and not be afraid to let it help guide you and your faith-life through the years.
Now, back to Advent as designated in the liturgical calendar. This is a four Sunday and four week “season,” the four Sundays before Christmas. In our churches and in our homes we use an “Advent Wreath” with four candles in a circle around one candle in the middle. We light one candle each Sunday and the days of that week until all four candles burn with the Light of Hope. We then light the center candle on Christmas as the Light of Christ.
We also use an “Advent Calendar” as a way to mark the days of Advent as we wait for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
And “wait” is what Advent is all about. We ponder the Old Testament stories of God’s people waiting for The Messiah. We ponder the waiting of Mary and Joseph as they had to wait for the birth of their son as His earthly parents.
The word “Advent” means “coming.” In Advent, as we wait for Christmas, we distinguish three different, yet related occasions for the “Coming of Christ.”
First, we ponder that, indeed, Christ did come into the world, our fallen sinful world, as the Baby of Bethlehem, to be the Savior and Redeemer of all humankind. Christ came into the world, born from His Heavenly Father and his earthly mother Mary.
Jesus Christ therefore was both fully God and fully human. This gave Him the “credentials” to be able to offer His life on His cross to forgive us all of our sins. And in His resurrection we, too, can have eternal life.
Second, we ponder that, indeed, Christ comes even now to us in our own lives. The Living Christ comes to us as He is revealed in the sacred pages of Holy Scripture, the Bible. Through these words from God’s own heart we have a living encounter with Christ coming to us.
Also, as we receive the simple bread and wine of Holy Communion, the sacrament Christ instituted Himself at His Last Supper, He physically and spiritually comes to us with His own Body and Blood, forgiving us our sins and strengthening our faith in Him.
Third, we ponder that, indeed, Christ will come again at The Last Day. He will come in all His glory and judge the world, yes, and restore all things to the perfection of God’s Kingdom even here on earth. We wait and we watch and we prepare our hearts and lives to be ready for this glorious inevitable event. It may not come in our lifetime, but it most certainly might, and we shall be prepared.
So, Advent. What a great way to escape the busyness, craziness, and anxiety-laden trappings of the season. What a great way to receive the Peace of Christ that is the true meaning of the season. What a great way to grow in faith and love.
Sure, Merry Christmas! Christ the Savior is born! May you have a Christ-filled Christmas, with His Peace and Love at the center of everything.
In the meantime, we wait and watch and ponder His coming: as the Babe of Bethlehem, as He comes to us even now, and as He will certainly come again at The Last Day.
The Peace of The Lord be with you all.
And sure, once again, Merry Christmas to you all! Christ the Savior is born!
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He offers his preaching and teaching pastoral ministry to any group seeking or needing a Christ centered, Biblically based, and traditionally grounded sermon or teaching. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]