This is the season of Advent, the time when we get ready for Christmas. “Advent” means “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” For the next few weeks, we are reading the story of the arrival of Jesus Christ in the world.
And oddly, each of the gospels tells a different story of Jesus Christ’s arrival.
The Gospel of Luke gives us the Christmas story we are most familiar with. In Luke, Mary and Joseph find themselves in Bethlehem in a stable because the inn is jam-packed. Jesus Christ spends his first night in a manger, a trough for feeding animals. Shepherds from the hillsides urged on by a choir of angels, arrive to see the new baby boy. This is a story depicted in our nativity sets, Mary kneeling over her child, Joseph standing nearby with a staff, surrounded by sheep and cattle peacefully lying in the straw.
The Gospel of Matthew describes the advent of Jesus Christ differently. The Gospel of Matthew takes a more political approach. Matthew begins with a long genealogy making the case that Jesus is a descendant of King David of Israel. Jesus Christ is the long-awaited messiah ready to ascend to the throne.
The Gospel of Mark is in a hurry to get the ministry of Jesus Christ underway. Before chapter one is over, an adult Jesus has been baptized, resisted temptations, called his first disciples, and is actively healing and preaching.
And in the Gospel of John, the advent of Jesus Christ is described in a beautiful hymn, with light entering the world and no darkness can overcome it. And the light is Christ.
(Here’s a thought—read the first two chapters of each of these books. Really interesting stuff.)
And even though these differ, they are each “advent” stories. They each describe Jesus’ entry into the world. Each author experienced the entry of Jesus Christ a little bit differently. A remarkable thing about Jesus, he enters our lives in different ways. I believe his role is the same: to redeem us, to give us worth, to give us life beyond our human abilities. He comes to lift us up from whatever might be keeping us from being fully human, fully us. To strengthen us. For me, Christ is freedom. We are set free, our only goal is to love.
So, each of the Gospel writers told their advent story and now the question is: what’s your advent story? How and when and where has Christ the Redeemer entered into your life? Like the writer of Luke, have you found yourself in an unexpected place, maybe not a crowded inn in Bethlehem, but maybe a crowded high school or an unwelcoming office or an unexpected and maybe unwelcome relationship, a place where you were more victim than a free agent. Did Christ arrive with an invitation to freedom?
Like the writer of Matthew, can you look back at a long history that has led you this time? And has Christ the redeemer “advented” into the events of your history and given you an assurance about your future?
Maybe like the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has arrived in a hurry, standing between you and temptations that would only cheapen your life, healing just when healing was needed, and preaching and teaching you about life.
Or the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ has simply arrived in some expression of beauty. I am convinced that beauty is a tool God uses to heal us.
Or maybe your advent story is completely different, Christ choosing a different means to enter your life. Through a friend? In the words of a book? On a Saturday night when you felt abandoned? I don’t know how. I only know and trust that the power of Christ has entered our lives, probably lots and lots of times whether we acknowledge it or not.
It’s Advent. A time to share our advent stories. “Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king!” We sing those words. Joy. That’s what happens in Advent.
Blessings to you,
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church
720 Grand Avenue
West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
Like us on Facebook or visit us at wdmumc.org.
We worship on Sunday morning at 8:30 in a traditional way and at 11 in a casual way. You are invited! And now we are live streaming 8:30 worship service.
This week at WDMUMC:
Worship on Sunday: We will be reading the advent story in Matthew and talking about the heroes and villains in our advent stories. Who are the heroes and villains in your life? Have they been a part of your advent story? Read Matthew 1-2:18 to prepare. See you Sunday!
Bar+Church Pastor Trevor will be leading Bar+Church on Sunday at 1 pm at Twisted Vine Brewery. Does the advent story look different in a bar? You are invited to find out!
Tonight! Midweek Refuel! Supper is at 5:30 and lots of activities all night long.
Focus on Prayer Midweek Connection Family Activities will begin a three-week focus on prayer. Prayer can be AWKWARD! Come and bring your children and learn more about what prayer means. 6:30 tonight.
Saturday Morning Hot Chocolate Bar at 8:30 at WDMUMC! And then a Family Christmas party at Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 9. Everyone (young and old!) is invited to start their day with hot chocolate. And then, if you like, you can travel to Aldersgate United Methodist Church for activities and fun as we retell the Christmas story. This is a great way for you to share the Christmas story with your children, grandchildren, and the neighbor kids!
Giving Tree! Have you seen the Giving Tree just outside the sanctuary? We are partnering with West Des Moines Human Services and sharing Christmas with our community. The ornaments on the tree each have a Christmas wish. You simply take an ornament off the tree, fulfill the wish, and return it to the church by December 11. Share the joy!
Blue Christmas Tree The Stephen Ministers have put up a special Christmas Tree in the café. This is a Blue Christmas Tree, a way to remember that for many people Christmas time may hold memories of grief and loss. You are invited to stop by the café and write the name of a loved one or a circumstance on an ornament and place it on the tree. The café is also a quiet place to pray or simply sit quietly. We do use the café for meetings, but it is open in the evenings and available late in the day for quiet reflection. On December 22 at 4 pm, the Stephen Ministers will host a special Blue Christmas service.
And also, the sanctuary is always open for quiet reflection.