How are your preparing this Advent?
December 4, 2017
by Burt Williams
It’s that time of year again as we are preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. To say it another way, we are preparing for Christmas. This preparation can take different paths. It can be stressful as we try to find the perfect gift for those special people in our lives. We can worry about the preparations from tree to feast, and we can let who we will spend time worry us, whether it be our parents, in-laws, or that crazy uncle. So many things about the holidays tend to stress us out. For clergy and our staffs, our stress can be from how to schedule services leading up to Christmas Eve. This particular holds a unique challenge since Christmas Eve is on Sunday. Where I serve at North, we will celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent at our regular times (9 and 11 AM Worship and 10 AM Sunday School), and then, we will have our Christmas Eve Services as is our tradition, at our normal time of 6 PM.
There is another way that puts all those concerns in perspective, and that way is to focus on Jesus and on preparing our hearts for Him. That’s what Advent is meant to be – the preparation of human hearts to host the King of Kings. We do that by changing our focus and priorities, and rather than worry about what material gifts we will give our family or friends, we instead focus on how we can serve Jesus Christ and those around us.
Engage with me on a little exercise: Who do you know who will be alone this Christmas? Who do you know who will not receive a gift that makes them smile and know they are loved? Who do you know that does not know Christ who could be given the gift of you sharing your faith with them? Each of us can make a difference for Christ and in the lives of others by making space in our lives, in our hearts, and in time for someone who we just named. Don’t just dismiss these folks whom you just identified; call them, invite them, and share with them.
We engage our faith in these ways each year, because we are more aware of the love of Christ during this season. Faith is reinforced by its practice. Faith is strengthened by our investment. If you feel your faith is weak and tested, I recommend you focus on acts of mercy, giving of your time and treasure, assisting hands on helping, or apprenticing yourself to someone who is giving of themselves to their church and to their community.
As you engage in acts of altruism and of service, your faith will be enhanced by your emulation of Jesus. It will also prepare your heart for the long-expected return of Christ Jesus.
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!
Burt Williams is the pastor of North Morganton UMC in the Catawba Valley District.