I hope each of you had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving. I certainly did. I got a few chores finished around the house, relaxed, spent some time with my brother’s family and enjoyed a delicious meal. And oh yeah, I watched my Cowboys get beat by the Panthers. I guess there is a reason the Panthers are undefeated and the Cowboys have the worst record in their division.
As our family shrinks, I found we reminisced a little more than usual. We talked about Thanksgivings from the past and about our favorite, and sometimes our not so favorite dishes that mom used to make. We remember those days very fondly, but we can’t relive them, so we must go forward.
And now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we all have to go forward and focus our attention on the upcoming Christmas season.
It seems each year the Christmas season starts a little earlier, at least in the secular world. Radio stations have started playing Christmas music, stores started bringing out Christmas merchandise before Halloween, and Hallmark has been airing Christmas movies for what seems like months. But the unofficial start to the Christmas season was Black Friday, a shopping day that has become an American tradition. There are a few theories why the day is called Black Friday. One is that Black Friday is the day when retailers finally make a profit, going from being in the red to being in the black.
Black Friday has largely been an American tradition, although within the last few years it has spread to England. People start their Christmas shopping as they respond to sales by most major retailers, sometimes fighting over the merchandise. Black Friday is followed by Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are urged to shop at locally owned businesses instead of the major stores, and tomorrow is Cyber Monday, when people who prefer to do their shopping from the comfort of their living room can get good deals through the internet.
In addition to shopping, there is much more to do to prepare for Christmas. There are trees to cut (or take out of the box) and decorate. There are lights to put up on the house. There are menus to plan for our family gatherings. And there is the nagging question, “What should I get this person?”
Now, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I like Christmas and I get wrapped up in the same things everyone else does. I struggle with what gifts to give the special people in my life. I struggle with when I will see my family, understanding they have other people to visit as well. I enjoy going and cutting down a tree and I enjoy looking at it after Marie decorates it. I enjoy looking at the house with the lights up, and I especially like being with my family, even if it is only for a couple of hours.
But I do have concerns. It seems to me making profits and buying things, and keeping retail workers at work and away from their families on holidays like Thanksgiving, just to improve the bottom line, is missing the whole point of Christmas. It seems to me that, other than in the Church, people are more concerned with the secular Christmas than they are with celebrating the birth of Jesus. And it certainly bothers me that Christians would fight over who gets the last tv at the sale price, or walk over other people who have fallen down, just to save a few dollars. I wonder where their Christmas spirit really is.
Yes, we have started preparing for Christmas, but I am not sure the preparations most Americans are making are the preparations Jesus calls us to. Today begins the Advent season, a time of waiting, a time of preparing, a time of expecting the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one promised by God.
In Jeremiah we read “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
We know that righteous Branch is Jesus, but the ancient Israelites didn’t. They waited, expectantly for their new King, the one the prophets talked about.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is talking to his disciples. He has told them about the destruction of the Temple. He has told them many will come in Jesus’ name saying the end is near, and not to be led astray by them. He has told them not to be terrified at the rumors of war or at earthquakes or famines, for these will occur. He has told them how they will be persecuted and hated by many because of Jesus. He tells them some signs of what is to come. He tells them a parable, and ends with words we can take to heart.
Jesus’ words will not pass away. Jesus told the disciples to be on guard that their hearts not be weighed down by the worries of this life. This is good advice for us today as we live in a world full of needless violence, greed, hatred, and fear. It is good advice as we live in a world where ISIS continues to try and terrorize the world and draws more nations into the conflict. This is good advice as we live in a world where millions of people have had to flee their homeland due to violence and have nowhere to go. It is good advice as we live in a world where so many of God’s children are hungry, or homeless, and more young people are turning to drugs and crime.
But Advent means coming and the good news of Advent is not just that Jesus is coming, but also what Jesus is bringing. Jesus brings us hope amid all the chaos that is in our lives, our community, our nation and this world today.
Jesus brings us hope for a better world, one where neighbors truly love their neighbors and strive to help them when they need help. A new world where God’s children have shelter, have food, receive a good education that prepares them for the realities of life, and teaches them that drugs and crime are not the way to happiness or fulfillment.
Advent means the coming of Jesus’ love, for all of us. It means the coming of our reconciliation with God and with each other. It means the coming of Jesus as the Light of the world, to illuminate our paths and keep us from the darkness. It means the coming of Jesus as the Bread of life, that we who follow him and trust him may never hunger or thirst. It means the coming of Jesus as the truth, to teach us how to live with each other in peace. Advent means the coming of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, to guide us and protect us from evil. Advent means the coming of Jesus as the vine without whom we as branches would wither and die.
As we enter this Advent season, let us prepare not only for Christmas with gifts and decorations, but let us prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus, our Lord and our Savior, the newborn King into our lives.
Let us pray:
through long generations you prepared a way
for the coming of your Son,
and by your Spirit
you still bring light to illumine our paths.
Renew us in faith and hope
that we may welcome Christ to rule our thoughts
and claim our love, as Lord of lords and King of kings,
To whom be glory always. Amen.