Hope United Cochrane
Letters from the Pastor
December 2023
From the Pastor’s Desk

As December begins so does the season of Advent. Not the Christmas Season, but the Advent Season.

Now before you think I am a Grinch who hates Christmas, I love Christmas and all its trappings- shopping and giving presents, the trees, the lights, and Christmas Cookies. I love singing Christmas Carols- once the Friday after Thanksgiving comes around (please save me from the stores that start playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on Halloween.)

But as Christians, we are also aware that Christmas celebrates God incarnate, God as one of us born as a baby. Emmanuel-God with us, now and always.

So before Christmas there is Advent. Starting on the first Sunday before Christmas and continuing for four Sundays until ending on Christmas Day. We spend Advent in anticipation, preparation, waiting, expectation.

But anticipation of what? Part of that answer is Christ’s birth. But that’s not the whole answer. The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus”, which can be translated as “coming” or “arrival”. Early Christians established the period of Advent as a time of preparation for the birth of Christ, similar to Lent as preparation for Easter. Later it also become a time of anticipation of Jesus second coming into the heart of the believer, as well as when God’s just and loving reign is over all Creation.

Advent express one of the paradoxes of Christian faith: that we live in a time of already/not yet. At Christmas we celebrate that Emmanuel is here born to us as child, but that the purpose for this child is not yet fully realized. Advent celebrates the future hopes that infant embodies.

And so we light a candle each Sunday symbolizing the growing Light coming into the world. The first is for Hope, then Peace, then Joy, then Love. All qualities seen in the birth of Christ. They also are what we look forward to being fully realized in God’s coming reign. Advent encourages us to seek God’s grace to be the channels through which God is bringing them about in this world. Advent reminds us that we are to be living testimonies to the reality that these qualities are possible, not merely ideals that can never be obtained.

Just as I feel we diminish our experience of Easter if we try to rush our way through or skip Lent, I feel we lose something of Christmas if we ignore Advent.

For now I will wish you a blessed Advent Season. I will wait until the evening of December 24to wish you a Merry Christmas. But I’ll be on the lookout before then for some holiday cheer. (Probably singing “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World” as I do)

God’s grace and peace.
Pastor Deb Kunkel

P.S. This year the fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. That Sunday we will worship here with Hope United Church at a special time, 9:30am, for the last Sunday of Advent, hearing “What Mary Knew” from an older Mary – sneaking in a little of Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Eve we will begin the Christmas Season with our candlelight service at 6:00pm. Please see the rest of the newsletter and the website for more Advent and Christmas opportunities here.
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