Room for the Excellent
How about that snow, yesterday?! It was beautiful, wasn’t it? I watched from my office window as those big snow flakes fell on the church grounds, and it was indeed a lovely sight. Even more perfect was the fact that it didn’t stick around very long and that our travel on the roads was not impeded! It was just a preview of things to come in these winter months, a reminder that our view of the world can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. Sometimes it’s our physical surroundings that actually change, and other times it’s simply our view of the world based on our thoughts and feelings at the time. Have you ever had the experience of suddenly noticing how beautiful the world is, or how beautiful people are, when your attitude or your thought process has been adjusted?
Seasons like Advent are meant to adjust our attitudes and our outlook on life. It’s unfortunate that in our culture, the weeks the Church calls “Advent” can be one of the most stress-filled times of the year. Rather than being a time of reflection and devotion as we wait to celebrate the coming of the Christ child, these weeks can be filled with worry about getting everything done and having enough money to do it. So many of the things we try to get done at Christmas are “good things” – expressions of love and fellowship through gift-giving, card-sending and gatherings with family and friends. But too many “good things” can crowd out the better, or the excellent things.
Years ago, a book was published called Unplug the Christmas Machine, by Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli. I think it’s out of print, but you can find a used copy here or there, or order one via Amazon. I have the 1991 paperback edition, which I encountered when my children were small. It contains a suggested “Christmas Pledge” which includes: “Examine my holiday activities in light of my deepest values.” I believe that’s one of the purposes we as Christians can claim for the season of Advent. More than any others who are putting up a tree or filling a shopping bag this time of year, those of us who are celebrating once again the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ at Bethlehem, ought to be able to look the Christmas season straight in the eye and ask the question, “What really matters right now?” Are the “good things” I’m trying to do just crowding out the more excellent things that I as a Christian am called to, during Advent?
Easier said than done, right? I’m right there with you. I’m frequently in need of an “attitude adjustment” during the Christmas season. Some of the greatest blessings can be things that force us to slow down or stop, as we’re careening through this busy season. Like snow, maybe. Or an unexpected change in plans that gives us a little extra time on our hands. Or, like gathering for worship on Sunday mornings with others who also want to remember what this season is really all about.
I hope that as our celebration of the Nativity of Christ approaches, you can find ways to make room for the excellent things this season has to offer; such as reflection on who you are as a child of God, and on what really matters in your life, and on the boundless blessings and promise offered to us in the birth of a tiny baby so long ago.
The sermon text this Sunday, December 9th, is Luke 1:5-25. The sermon title is “A People Prepared.” On Sunday evening at 5 o’clock, we’ll have our annual tree-lighting service. We’ll gather for a brief time of worship in the sanctuary, then head outside for the lighting of our big “Christmas tree” outdoors. All are invited to attend, and to head to Holman Hall after the tree-lighting to enjoy refreshments.
NOTE: We are aware of the possibility for inclement weather on Sunday afternoon and staff will be watching the forecast closely in case any changes should be needed in our plans for the tree-lighting service this Sunday at 5 o’clock.
On Sunday, Dec. 16th, you’ll have an opportunity to join your friends at Hebron for some community Christmas caroling! Gathering time at the church is 5 o’clock.
Christmas Eve is a special time at Hebron Church. On Monday, Dec. 24th, we’ll gather for worship at 5 o’clock, and enjoy celebrating once again the coming of God in Jesus Christ at Bethlehem. This service of “lessons” (Scripture readings) and carols is appropriate for the whole family. It’s a great way to spend part of your Christmas Eve!
As the Advent season continues, remember that you can access free online devotional resources by going to our church website and clicking on the link that’s provided under “News & Events.” Our thanks to Lori Alford for locating and suggesting this Advent resource from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Here’s the link to the page on our church website: .
On Sunday, December 30th, we’ll be worshipping in Holman Hall with a light, continental breakfast provided and a time of fellowship prior to worship. If you would like to bring a breakfast item to share that morning, you are welcome to do so, but we want this to be a stress-free time of fellowship and worship at the end of what is so often a stress-filled season.
See you Sunday!