Advent Wreath 2020

I’m honoured to be pastoring a Baptist church that is cordial toward seasonal faith traditions (among many other things!) And one of those traditions is the lighting of the Advent Wreath at Christmas time. As an aside, keep in mind that the lighting of the Advent wreath may be the most universally Christian tradition there is, aside from communion and baptism. We light a specified candle at the beginning of each of the four Sundays of Advent to remind people about the major themes of the Christmas story. And then on Christmas Eve we light the centre white candle that represents the coming of Jesus Christ. Picture the four candles encircling the ONE larger white candle in the middle. The birth of Christ is central to Christianity with hope, peace, love and joy orbiting Him. Much more could be said about the Advent wreath.
So, with our Advent season significantly altered this year, it seems especially fitting that we stop and reflect, even more than in previous years, about the four themes of the Advent wreath.
Hope. The Jews in particular and the world at large languished for the “thrill of hope” that came with the birth of Jesus. He brings hope even in the darkest circumstances. That’s why this past Sunday the benediction from Romans 15:13 was pronounced. It reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Linger on this verse for a few moments. Memorize it and take it into your heart. It will light a candle of hope in your heart that cannot be extinguished, for, as Romans 5:5 promises us “hope never disappoints.”
Peace. Christmas marks the arrival of the “Prince of Peace” who came to bring “peace with God” and “the peace of God” to rule in our hearts and minds. Jesus Himself, called by Paul, “the indescribable gift” gives us peace as a legacy gift. He said in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” One of the hallmarks of the Christmas story is when the angels appear to the shepherds and proclaim, “Peace on earth,” in Luke 2:14.
Joy. What would Christmas be without singing JOY TO THE WORLD (the Lord is come)? The Christmas story is saturated with JOY. So much so that the yet unborn baby John the Baptist reacted with JOY in the womb of his mother Elizabeth upon hearing the voice of Mary, the birth mother of Jesus. The angels announced the birth of Jesus as “good news of great JOY that will be for all the people.” I’ve always loved the word of Isaiah about JOY. He said, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
Love. Christmas is the celebration of God’s love for the world in giving us His Son as the Saviour of the world. He is literally a gift of love. That’s why John said that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The greatest virtue of all (remember 1 Corinthians 13) explodes in the Christmas story. The God who is love poured His heart out in the Christmas manger.
And then of course, we conclude the tradition of the Advent wreath on Christmas Eve with the “Christ Candle.” The central candle reminds us of the purity and centrality of Jesus in the Advent season. He is the reason for the season.
Church family! Give extra time to think about the four themes of Advent and focus your faith on what they mean in your life this year. Not to sound trite but you be the candle that your family and friends need to see illuminating their lives. Share Jesus’ love and forgiveness with all who will listen.
Pastor Deric

Christmas Visits

Christmas visits were a big deal when I was a kid. They still are in my family. One of the traditions we observed on Christmas Day or Boxing Day was to visit family nearby to snoop at what everybody got for Christmas. It was a very exciting time for the kids especially because of the anticipation that more gifts were to arrive with incoming family members. In fact, as I think back on my childhood, visiting, Christmas or otherwise, was a major part of the social structure of life in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Visits were planned and unplanned. It wasn’t uncommon for family, friends and neighbors to show up at your door unannounced for a game of cards and a cup of coffee. In fact, that lifestyle was more common than not. Most evangelical churches back then sponsored outreach events called “door to door visitation.”
The coolest thing to me about being a Christian is that God makes house calls! He is a visiting God. From the earliest days of salvation history, the Bible records divine visits that changed the direction of people’s lives and even the course of human existence.
Remember the story of Abraham. God called him to leave the home of his forefathers and venture out to a new land that would become the elect nation of Israel. When Abraham was 99 years of age the Bible says that the LORD appeared to him as he “sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” This is literally God making a “porch visit.” The LORD visited him to promise a son and an heir. The son’s name was Isaac, who is ultimately the one through whom the lineage of Jesus was established.
Jump ahead many generations to a time in which Jesus visited planet earth as THE promised Son who was foreshadowed in his forefather Isaac. That’s the central fact of Christmas. God came to earth and visited us with life and salvation. Though our Christmas celebrations appear to be altered this year, nothing can dim the bright hope that dawned that first Christmas day. If anything, this year will cause us to treasure it more than ever before.
So, in keeping with one of my favourite Christmas traditions, this coming Sunday I’m starting a 4-part sermon series titled “Christmas Visits.” It’s quite simple. I will ask you to think with me about four of the more prominent visits that took place between heaven and earth on the first Christmas. They are: Gabriel visits Mary; Mary visits Elizabeth; The Angel visits Joseph AND the visit of all visits . . . Jesus visits the world when he arrived as a baby in Bethlehem’s manger.
Join us for a spiritual visit this coming Sunday on livestream at 9:45AM. The details are on our website. And if you can’t make that time frame, the service will be posted later that day on all our social media platforms.
Blessed Christmas, church family,
Pastor Deric