Advent: The birthing pains of expecting and anticipation.

Advent: The birthing pains of expecting and anticipation.

The Iconic song, Silver Bells, has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. The voice of Bing Crosby has seemingly become a holiday standard as he sings, “It’s Christmas time in the city” My kids will attest that this is one of the first songs I start singing when Christmas comes around.

As a small boy, one of my favorite things to do in the Christmas season was to travel with my “Grandpa McLain” down to “Rebman’s Store” on the south side of Lancaster City. As you may recall, the back rooms were full of “wonder,” as trains and displayed Christmas trees lit up the imagination of everyone who entered. Likewise, so many downtown storefronts were often lit up and decorated beautifully, to both entice joy and sales for these businesses. These memories come back to me as I hear Bing sing, “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style.”

Decades later, when Katie and I were married, we started living in a very small (500-square-foot) apartment on the third floor, of a historic house in the West-Side of Lancaster City. We both really love Christmas, and found ourselves over-decorating the small space we lived in, with decorations taking over our fire-escape. Nightly, we would bundle up and walk the streets together looking at various decorated houses and festive storefronts. I remember telling Katie “It just feels like Christmas in the air.” As the falling snow crunched under our feet, I was noticing the joy and the warmth in those we passed. I was sensing the reality Bing sang about, “In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas, children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile, and on every street corner you hear Silver Bells.”

I am sure you have similar memories. Many of us have many traditions that we practice throughout the whole month of December. Seemingly, there is no other “Holiday” or “Celebration,” that we look forward to with such great expectation and anticipation. This idea of celebrating Christmas for the whole month has more to do with the church, originally, than it does with a “business plan” for the marketplace. Dan Wilt writes, “In the early centuries of the Church, it became clear that the rhythms of time – days, weeks, years, and lifetimes – could be used to help Christians remember and reclaim the saving events of Jesus’ life.” The month leading up to Christmas, known as Advent, was used by the church to remember the anticipation and expectation felt by the Jewish people as they longed and waited for their Messiah to fulfill his promises of hope, peace, joy, and love. For centuries, prophets reminded people of God’s heart, and His promises to bless them. For centuries they waited for clarity, provision, and answer.

Advent, leading up to Christmas, is a season for us to remember that expectation and anticipation. This is often referred to as the “birthing pains,” explaining the tension they felt as they waited for their Messiah to come with answer and provision. The weeks leading up to Christmas make us realize what we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Jesus. Then, Christmas Day, this magnificent day of celebration and triumph explodes with joy and color in our neighborhoods and families. That day, the birthing pains came to an end as a Mother literally gives birth to a boy she names Jesus, a boy that was the physical representation of everything those prophets were promising for centuries.

At Christmas, we celebrate and remember that God has given us, humanity, a physical representation of his loving heart, Jesus. In that moment, “The Day of the Lord,” was unleashed. This was a triumphant day foretold by Prophets for years. The religious teachers and preachers surely knew with the Messiah would come his Kingdom, they just expected that it would look different. Even know some are still looking for “The Day of the Lord,” but this reality crashed into the story of mankind during that sleepless night, thousands of years ago. Many had longed for his deliverance, but expected it to arrive with violence, victory, and valor. Rather, it came with a baby who through his life and work would free us, peacefully, from sin and crush the workings of evil.

We enter Advent, realizing the city streets are starting to look like Christmas, but it is not Christmas yet. So, we enter the Advent Season feeling and reflecting on the anticipation and expectation. We light a candle in the darkness, to remind us of the promise of the Messiah. A Messiah who brings with him hope, peace, joy, and love. Promises that include things that are yet to come, but none more important than the realization that Christmas is the story of how God became accessible.

This Advent, East Petersburg Mennonite Church is passing on to you a few resources to aid you in your reflection and remembrance in this Advent Season.

You can find them here.

We also invite you to ‘enter the story’ with us on Sunday Mornings, at 10:10 a.m.


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