Advent

We are in the season of Advent now, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord, the coming of the Savior, and the Incarnation of Christ. Advent is about preparation. This time of year even feels like preparation. It is cold and the days give way to night earlier and earlier. I often feel as if we are already preparing and anticipating spring by this point. Our secular culture definitely makes this time of year about preparation. We are preparing for Christmas. Perhaps we have got the idea of preparation correct, but are we preparing for the wrong things?

Our culture tells us to prepare for Christmas by shopping and filling our calendars with times of gathering. We spend countless hours shopping and planning for celebrations. When the celebrations finally arrive, they far too often fly by without ever fulfilling our desire for deeper relationship or real celebration. Advent on the other hand is not about our planning or shopping. Advent is about Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, but the holiday season often leaves me feeling stressed, tired, grumpy, and sad. 

The season of Advent is not about something we do, but instead it is about something God did and will do.  Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are what we crave. Only God can truly provide these. Advent is about preparing to remember, anticipate, and celebrate the coming of our Lord. God has done and is doing everything that is required. Our only goal is to prepare ourselves for God’s grace. Advent is not just about anticipating a gift. it is about preparing ourselves to receive the gift that has already been offered and continues to be offered.

You see, to prepare ourselves for God’s never-ending gift of grace we need only accept that we are not in control and be willing to allow God to lead us. This sounds simple on paper, but in reality the sins of pride and self-righteousness keep us from really preparing. We are sort of willing to accept grace or as John Wesley described us, “Almost Christian.” The good news is that God does not take the gift and go home. Instead God keeps offering, keeps calling, and keeps providing. It is never too late to go deeper in our love of God and neighbor and we can never go deep enough.

This year during Advent at Nolensville First UMC, worship is going to be about going deeper in our faith by making ourselves ready and willing to receive God’s grace. By opening ourselves to the grace of God by being willing to let God have control, we truly can experience Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace as God intended: as an all-encompassing way of life that not only makes us a new creation, but changes the world around us. My prayer is that you would join me in making the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, service, and the sacraments priorities in our lives. 

May the God of grace fill us, as we are willing, to the fullness of God’s love and empower us by the gift of the Holy Spirit to share that love.  Amen.

Your, almost but still hoping to go deeper, brother in Christ, 

pastorjimmy@nolensvilleumc.org