Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
Contemplation & Celebration
In the next weeks, we will enter into the Season of Advent. Traditionally for Christians, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. The great emphasis of society on the festive nature of Christmas has pushed its observance into Advent and even earlier. The days before Christmas are now considered by many part of the season of Christmas.
On the other hand, in Christian tradition, the days before Christmas are part of the waiting and expectation of the Season of Advent which allows for introspection and meditation. We ponder the reason it was necessary for Christ to be born as flesh and blood and we look, not only toward the joyous birth, but also to all that take place after his birth, including his coming return. We become aware that Jesus' birth was not the end of the story but that it leads to so much more. Though it is true we must celebrate Christ's birth in our hearts daily, there is value to why Christians formally celebrate Christ’s birth beginning Christmas Eve, extending into January 6 when Jesus was revealed to the world through the Three Kings. This is in recognition of God’s purpose to reconcile all of humankind to Himself. Through the preparatory Season of Advent, Christians contemplate the reason we celebrate his birth – the love of our Lord, his life, his work, and his death and resurrection to eternal life.
Sometimes, like little children, we toss and turn in bed, unable to fall asleep because we know the dawning of the birth of our Lord is at hand. We do not want to miss anything. I remember asking my dad quite a number of times, as a child, if I could open at least one present early. He finally said, “It is worth waiting for if it is worth much.” Surely the birth of our Lord and everything that it means is worth waiting for.
The meditation and introspection required of us in Advent gives Christians the opportunity to peer into eternity, to grasp the everlasting significance of Christ’s birth, not just the festive nature of one night. Forrest Hill United Methodist Church will journey through Advent, emphasizing deep reflection and prayer. Each Sunday, we will emphasize the Hope, the Peace, the Joy and the Love that Christ brings to this world and then when we finally come upon Christmas, we will have grasped more fully its worth, its meaning.
I invite you this coming season to travel the winding contemplative and prayerful paths of Advent, to resist grasping the gift lying in the manger until we have come to a deeper understanding of the love and purpose behind the birth of Christ for indeed, his coming and all the goodness which comes with it, are worth waiting for.