‘Now may our God and Father himself and our
Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the
Lord make you increase and abound in love for
one another and for all, just as we abound in love
for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in
holiness that you may be blameless before our
God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus
with all his saints.’ – Thessalonians 3:11-13
This Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season. In worship this week the students considered the question, “How do we know Christmas is coming?” They explored the many different things which bring our attention to Christmas – the Christmas decorations in the stores, Christmas cards in the mail, Santa Claus appearances in shopping centres and Christmas parties at night. For our students, knowing that there are only a few days of the school year left means that Christmas isn’t far away.
With distractions all around us, it is easy for the profound nature of Christmas to be lost on us. After all, we celebrate the birth of Christ every year, and we know that on December 26th we have only 364 days until we do it all again! In this context we can miss the richness of this event.
We need to remember that the Jewish people had been waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah to be born. They had suffered through famine, slavery, oppression and grief as they waited for their Saviour to appear. We are told that upon hearing that the Messiah was to be born, the great ruler Herod was ‘greatly disturbed’! Herod knew that this Messiah would be a threat to his leadership.
The problem for the Jewish people was that Jesus was not the Messiah they were
expecting. They were expecting an all-powerful, all-conquering Messiah who would put everything right for the nation of Israel. Herod too, was expecting the same and had his armies ready to stop anyone challenging his authority.
But Jesus was not what everyone was expecting. He was a child born into simple
circumstances, whose healing ministry grew from humble beginnings on earth to ultimately healing the relationship between humanity and God. He taught us not to pick up a sword but to seek peace; to love each other, and to forgive others readily. He taught us that in God’s world everyone has meaning, from the smallest child to the most powerful ruler.
So as we commence the Christmas season and are encouraged to believe that the event is all about presents, parties and being busy, may God grant us the wisdom to stop and reflect. May we do as the writer of Thessalonians prays: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for the Lord.”
As my grandmother taught me, “When you take the Christ out of Christmas you aren’t left with much at all.”