Somehow, the whole notion of Advent— the Church’s ancient four-week season of preparation
for Christmas— has a hard time competing with modern merchandising putting giant inflatable snow
globes and toy soldiers on sale before Halloween. The famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade heralding
the arrival of Santa Claus seems to ring hollow when the shopping season is half over by Thanksgiving!
The good news is that as commercialism is getting worse, there is a growing movement to recapture
the spiritual core of Christmas. I’ve noticed a few more ads focusing on family, hope, and community,
even in midst of all the blaring sales pitches. Maybe some of the “reason for the season” is rubbing
off!

But the big theme in Advent is the same as it has always been: preparing ourselves and the
world for the arrival of Jesus Christ into the human life. We reflect on our need for the savior and how
we should prepare ourselves for his birth again. But there is more. Like ancient prophecies of the Messiah,
like John the Baptizer, like the angels in the heavens, like the shepherds in the fields, like the villagers
clustered at the inn, we are called to share the good news of Christ’s coming. We are part of the
chorus, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

The problem for many of us is that we’ve lost our voices. Even about Christmas!
It shouldn’t be all that hard to talk about Christmas, after all! We all know the story— the little
town of Bethlehem, the poor couple’s journey by donkey, the angels and animals, the stable, the manger,
the serene mother and her holy child. We all know the point: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt
among us, full of grace and truth.” We all know the power of the traditional candlelight service, when we
can almost imagine ourselves on that silent night. We know Christmas.

So what’s so hard about inviting people we already know to experience the sweetness and
hope and wonder of Christ’s birth for themselves? Not much, really, so I’d like to challenge everyone
to… to… to… to actually invite someone to church this Advent and Christmas! If everyone can invite
someone to join us, not only will we help fill up the sanctuary, but we can also help fill their hearts with
the good news of Jesus alive among us. What an amazing gift that could be for someone!

Because December 24th is both the last Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve, it’s a packed
schedule! We begin with our regular worship at 10:30 a.m. as the Fourth Sunday of Advent. At 3:00
p.m. we join the residents of Pinehurst Senior Living Center in a simpler candlelight service. At 7:00
p.m. the Family Christmas Eve Service will feature the Puppet Ministry’s production, communion, and
candlelight. At 9:00 p.m. the Traditional Christmas Eve Service will have the lovely candle lighting and
special music. Because the holidays can be hard on families who have experienced losses or difficult
times, I also want to mention the community “Longest Night” or “Blue Christmas” service at St. John’s at
7:00 p.m. on December 21st.

And just to make it easy on all of us, we’re printing up a bunch of those postcards for the Christmas
Eve services again. You can find a sample elsewhere in this Glad Tidings (funny, that name, huh?)
All you have to do is address the blank side and stick a stamp on it. Cards will be available at the
church starting the first Sunday of Advent, or you can call the office and ask for a couple, or we can put
some in the mail for you. How easy is that? (Or, if you prefer, you could send a personal note of your
own, or phone, email, text, tweet, or whatever your preferred form of communication is these days!)
And how wonderful it could be for someone you know and love to be introduced to the love of God in
Christ Jesus and First Presbyterian and to have their hearts warmed with the Christmas miracle. And a
Holy Christmas to you, too!

 

In Christ,

David Ashby