Christmas doesn't come within a void but within a season, the end of Advent. Outside the church, Christmas music starts in November, but in the church Christmas music doesn't come until Christmas Eve. Some people come to church on Christmas Eve and Easter only, missing out on the season of Advent. Yet it is so important. It is not just the time we prepare ourselves for Christmas morning; but the season in which the church looks within ourselves. How well have we been keeping up the Spirit of Christ? How well have we been preparing the way not only for Christ to work within our own lives but in the lives of others?
On the first Sunday of Advent, with the prophets we asked the question: "Is this time?" Is it time for the Messiah? The prophetic voice we hear is the signs so that we will know that indeed it is time. For us today, we ask "Is this time for me?" "Can I make the time for God in my life?"
On the second Sunday of Advent we meet with John the Baptist who is telling off some religious leaders and we are left with "Is this good fruit we bear?" Do we spread goodness around? Do we share God's love wherever we go? Do we truly live into our relationship with God or do we spread anger and hate? This are the tough questions as we are asked to look into ourselves. We are asked to not just live into the Christmas spirit once a year but all year around spread the goods of great joy to the world.
On the third Sunday of Advent, still with John, we are left with "Is this him? the one?" John has sent some of his disciples to scoop Jesus out and see if this is indeed the Messiah. This is something we must ask ourselves. Living in a society of multiple faiths, we are left with the ability to choose. Yet, choice is something interesting for it is a must. Simply living "open" or "spiritual but not religious" is in a way a choice to reject and yet to accept nothing. We are called to make a choice; we are called to live into that choice by living into a full relationship with God. John knows the answer to this question, on the third Sunday John is sending out his own disciples to help them figure it out for themselves. Once they witness all that Jesus has done we are left with the understanding that they choose to follow. We are reminded this day, that we must choose.***
On the fourth Sunday in Advent we hear from Joseph and Mary. We see the struggles to understand and the understand the "messiness" of life. Yet we also hear the faithfulness of the two young people who because of their strong faith listen to God. Live into what God is asking of them. We are left with the question "Is this worth it?" Certainly they answered "yes" or they would not have continued on as Jesus parents. Today it is worth it for those who believe. Jesus works within and through our lives to bless us at moments we need it most. I can personally affirm, it is worth it to have faith! Don't believe me, look at science: people with faith recover better. People with faith are less depressed, people with faith live longer. People who have faith communities pray for them heal!
On Christmas Eve we hear Luke's words tell the amazing story of Jesus birth. We hear the angel speak to the shepherd and the choir of angels sings the goriest song. And we are left pondering "Is this real?" Pretty sure that angels appeared to more then one shepherd for if only one experienced it, they wouldn't have believed what happened to them was real. After hearing from the angel they go out and search for this baby, perhaps to test to see if it was for real. They look and find Jesus, just as it was foretold, lying in a manager. At that moment they knew this was for real. Hopefully you too have had a moment in which you knew God was real. A moment in which you felt the Divine working. If you haven't had that moment, it will come. The shepherds heard the angels words and went out looking for the sign; they didn't just sit back down in the field and say "oh well if it is real it will come to us!" God extends invitations for us to experience the Divine around us daily; but we must be open to accepting that invite.
On Christmas morning, we open presents under the tree and we are surrounded by family. Jesus doesn't get mentioned much as Santa and Reindeer are the big deals. But in the quiet of the Naivety the infant Jesus lay in a manager. The question that gets asked is: Is this for us? You see Immanuel God with us is more then just a King born in the line of David to rule Israel. Jesus, God humbly walking among us, line of David, came not to usher in a new Israel for people 2000 years ago, but instead came to usher in a New Kingdom. A Kingdom not of this world but for this world. A Kingdom in Heaven not for one group of people at one time but for all people for all time. Jesus that baby is not just born for Mary and Joseph, for the disciples or Paul but for you and me. Jesus was born for Salvation to all who believe, who trust and who say "Indeed this is for me!"
God's love for the world abounds around us and in us. God's love for the world manifested as Christ and offered Salvation to all - of every time and place - of every race and gender. We are reminded this day that indeed it is the one who has come to save us, who has made us all worthy of salvation and who in the fullness of God's grace offers us all new hope in Kingdom everlasting.
*** by making a choice to accept Jesus as the One, the Messiah you are not thus suggesting that all must do so. By accepting Jesus we are not rejecting or disrespecting others faiths. This is simply about your own relationship with God and how you are going to express it.