It seems we live in a world of tradition doesn’t it? As much as some of us like new and exciting things to keep life interesting, we still count on some things to happen as they have in years before. I think you would agree the seasons of Advent and Christmas are times in our lives we have certain expectations of based on the past. For instance, when it comes to worship at St. Paul Lutheran Church, we’ve come to expect the Yamhill Chorus on the first Wednesday of Advent, followed by our preschool and elementary school Christmas programs on the following Wednesday evenings. Then we worship on Christmas Eve, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper together on Christmas morning. This year you can expect all this to happen. But on a deeper level, Advent and Christmas are traditional for us Christians in the sense they are seasons of repentance—and you know what repentance means don’t you? Change!
Repentance is reorientation; a turning back from the old ways, back to God and His ways. Perhaps the whole world needs such a tradition. In our culture, there’s lots of tradition associated with Christmas, and some of it’s good because families reunite, people give and receive gifts, charities crank into high gear, and so forth. But in the midst of it all, one doesn’t see a lot of change. In fact, it’s interesting to see our secular culture, which on the one hand seeks to be progressive and somewhat anti-traditional, insist on being traditional at Christmastime; at least in the sense that one goes Christmas shopping, watches “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on T.V. with their kids, and that sort of thing. On top of this are the “traditions” millions of us, Christian and non-Christian, employ to try and escape the painful emotions and memories associated with this time of year such as excess drinking, eating and shopping. Some even sink to the depths of despair and consider ending their life. But that’s not the way it’s meant to be.
The seasons of Advent and Christmas call God’s people to a change of life; to turn from our sin, correct our misunderstandings, and prepare for the coming of Christ. This is the theme and purpose of my messages to you from the pulpit these next four Sundays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Along the way we’ll encounter the prophets who cry out in visions from God. We’ll see and hear John the Baptizer preach in the desert. Angels will appear whether we are asleep or awake. The voices are varied, the places are strange, but one thing is certain: in each encounter, God is preparing us for the celebration of the greatest encounter of all, the birth of Jesus, his Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world. It really will be a tradition the whole world needs! Bring a friend or two. And may God be with us as we prepare our hearts for worship.
Jill, Alex, Aaron and I wish you a blessed Advent and a joy-filled Christmas in Christ Jesus,