Happy New Year!

“1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. 4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. 5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. 8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people.” –Isaiah 64:1-9

Happy New Year! Well, happy Church New Year that is. This weekend we begin a new liturgical church year with the beginning of the season of Advent. The word "advent" comes from the Latin “adventus,” meaning "coming" or "arrival." The Advent Season is then focused on the "coming" of Jesus as our Savior and how God became flesh. Our worship in the coming month will prepare us spiritually for Christmas as we remember Christ’s first coming and also look forward to His eventual second coming. You will notice that the Bible readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the promise of a Savior, and the New Testament passages concerning Jesus' second coming as judge over all. When we celebrate Advent each year, we remember the faithfulness of the Bible’s promises in the arrival of Jesus as the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. In turn, our faith is strengthened in the fact that God is faithful!

Advent is not a part of the joyous Christmas season, but a preparation for it. The season is supposed to be more penitential and similar to Lent, as we remember the weight of our sin and humanity’s need for a deliverer. Therefore, the character of worship during Advent is more solemn and reflective than the rest of the year. Sometimes Advent is called the “little Lent.” You can see this attitude of humility during Advent in the early Church, as Christians often set aside a time for fasting during the season. St. Hilary of Poitiers in the 4th Century spoke of a three week fast before Epiphany and St. Leo the Great preached many homilies about "the fast of the tenth month,” which referred to the part of December prior to Christmas. This Advent season, let us remember the humble and reflective words of John the Baptist who said, “I must decrease, He must increase,” as he reflected on the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ.

God bless,

Pastor Joel