What if you suddenly found out that Christmas was tomorrow? Would you be ready? Most of us would probably say no. The cacophony of responses would probably include concerns about Christmas cards and letters; wreaths, bows, ribbons, and trees; ham, turkey, tofu, and sweet potatoes; trips, schedules, and maps, etc.
It takes time to plan a celebration and Christmas celebrations tend to require the greatest planning of the entire year. Marvelous celebrations require meaningful preparation. The same is true spiritually as well as socially. When I served as a pastor, I would tell our congregation, “The greater the preparation, the greater the celebration.” This is true both internally as well as externally. The greater that we prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of Christmas, the greater significance the day will have in our life and the lives of those around us. While social celebrations do not always live up to expectations, soul work rarely disappoints. The key to a meaningful Christmas season is to embrace Advent preparation.
There are two main seasons of spiritual preparation in church calendar year, namely Advent and Lent. Advent comes from the Latin, adventus, which means “coming.” During the Advent season, we anticipate the incarnation of Jesus Christ that we celebrate on Christmas day. Although Advent was added to the liturgical calendar after Lent, Advent actually launches a new calendar year. This year, we begin a three-year cycle in the church calendar year with year A. Some congregations choose to follow the calendar year, which contains suggested readings for each week. Year A begins with the glorious Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”
In the next few weeks, you will see some Christmas devotionals posted on our website. These will probably not be the only devotionals that come your way. Take time to read some of the devotionals that work their way into your email inbox. Take time to consider other ponderings that God puts in your path. During the next few weeks, consider doing a little more spiritual preparation for the worship services that you attend. Allow God to interrupt. Finish a conversation with God. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Dr. C. Jeff Woods
Acting General Secretary