Anticipating and waiting

Advent is the first season of the Christian liturgical year. Traditionally, it includes a period that starts with the Sunday closest to Nov. 30 and ends at sundown on Christmas Eve.

Advent focuses on anticipating and preparing for the coming of Jesus, the Christ.

A specific color of candle is lit on an Advent wreath for each Sunday: purple (3), pink (1) and white (1), each representing an aspect of the spiritual preparation: hope, love, joy, peace and light. Each is a reminder to us of the real meaning of Christmas.

This sense of anticipation and preparation covers three dimensions of time:

We look back to the past and learn from the Bible the anticipation and preparation for the coming of the baby Jesus.

Now, we look for ways in which we experience Jesus operating in our lives each day, giving us hope for a better tomorrow.

We look to the future with expectations as we get ready for Jesus to return again, not as a baby, but as Jesus our Savior, who died for our sins and is coming again to defeat evil and establish his reign of Justice and peace.

Advent is a time when Christians make spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus. It is a time when we celebrate our beliefs and help bring about a more just and peaceful world.

 — Alberta McCrory, Gaines Chapel AME Church, Anniston

Worshiping on Christmas Eve

My favorite holiday tradition at First Christian Church is the Christmas Eve candlelight service. (If anyone’s interested, ours is at 5:30 p.m. at 1327 Leighton Ave., Anniston!)

Nighttime services are always wonderful to me, and this one is especially moving. To gather with all the people in my church family, along with new friends and family from out of town, makes it really feel like Christmas.

In the service, we read the scriptures from Matthew, Luke and John that depict the stories of the Christ’s birth (and in John’s case, explains the existence of the Christ from the beginning).

We sing our favorite carols and experience beautiful music. And at the end, we light candles to represent the light of Christ that was brought into the world at the moment of that precious birth.

The whole service often brings me to tears because I am overwhelmed by the incredible gift God gave us when He chose to become human, so that we could finally be in perfect relationship with Him.

It is a time of incredible love, and as I look out into the congregation, reflected in the glow of candlelight, I don’t think I could feel love more deeply than I do in that moment.

I enjoy the whole Christmas season (the decorations, the gifts, the songs, the parties) but, to me, it isn’t truly Christmas until we worship together on the Eve of Jesus’ birth.

If you aren’t part of a congregation, or if you aren’t currently planning on attending a Christmas Eve service, I encourage you to do so. I know any church would be happy to welcome you, as I know our church would. I promise, you will not regret it!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May God bless you all with the hope, peace, love and joy of Christ! Amen!

— Rev. Laura Hutchinson, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)