No Judgments, Just Jesus

Advent Letter 2018

Dear Immanuel Members and Friends,

I have a confession to make: I always feel “out of sync” when it comes to the so-called “Christmas Season”. While the world is gearing up for a warm time of good cheer and holiday parties, with shopping malls displaying Christmas decorations and playing Christmas carols, and people stocking up on the perfect gifts for their friends and loved ones, the truth about what season it really is for Christ’s Church can come as quite a shock.

Why? Because it’s not the “Christmas Season” according to the Church’s liturgical calendar until December 25. According to the Church calendar it is “Advent” – not a time of good cheer and giddy moods, but a season of preparing one’s heart during the “long wait” for God’s arrival. There’s no jolly Santa, cooing baby Jesus, or singing angels during Advent. Instead, there is talk of guarding one’s heart from despair by choosing hope, resisting anger and violence by pursuing peace, combating empty lives by embracing joy, and fighting hate with a commitment to love.

Advent paints a picture of the world as it is – not as we wish it to be. It is a world full of darkness, despair, pain, violence, frustration, and division. And the call of Advent for God’s people is to intentionally choose to “prepare a way” for the Lord by removing all the obstacles that prevent us from embracing Christ and his kingdom. This “good fight” of faith, hope, and love can’t be sentimentalized away by focusing on “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style”. Rather, Advent invites us to “tell it like it is” about our world and our lives, and then seek to make the necessary changes to welcome God’s arrival into our world.

When we fully embrace Advent and the challenging task it presents to us – to commit anew to waiting on God by embracing hope, peace, joy, and love – then the good news of the Christmas season is experienced with overwhelming delight and gratitude. In spite of our world’s shortcomings, God comes to us in the Christ-child. God comes to share in our dark reality of despair, violence, desperation, and hate. And to our great surprise, God shines a light in the darkness that the world has not been able to crush for almost two millennia.

I greatly look forward to sharing in and fully experiencing the “long wait” of Advent so that we might together be better prepared to welcome our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah. I warmly invite you to share this Advent season, Christmas season, and all the other seasons to come, as we journey through a new year with God in Christ. Only this God can meet our deepest longs for hope, peace, joy, and love. Without God, it’s all just tinsels and wrappings. With God, every moment – from the long wait to the joyful arrival – can be a means to deeper faith, hope, and love.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Rich


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