And that’s the end of the story...
““Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
For over a month, we have been receiving samples of holiday cards in the office to purchase for the season. That is right. I said “holiday cards”. The last sample received did not mention Jesus or Christmas. What does this say about our culture? What would it say about our church if we selected one of these very beautiful cards to send out that do not mention Jesus or Christmas?
I enjoy this time of the year as much as the next person. We will decorate our home over Thanksgiving weekend with symbols of the season. We have a nativity scene, various angels, and yes, we have a Santa Claus to put out. I will listen to Christmas music. I kid you not. We have our traditional movies we will watch such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, and though it is very secular, I hope to watch “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. The world has shaped the time between Halloween and Christmas. We cannot help but be affected by it.
But, we as Christians still hold fast to our traditions of the church which are thousands of years old. Thus, December 1 is the first Sunday of Advent and is regarded in the Western Church as the beginning of the liturgical year.
Advent is about the end of time. The term itself means “coming or arrival.” Because it proceeds Christmas, many have misunderstood Advent to be exclusively a time to get ready to celebrate the coming of a child at Bethlehem.
In fact, the primary focus of Advent is on what is popularly called “the second coming”. Thus Advent concerns the future of the Risen One, who will judge wickedness and prevail over every evil.
Advent is the celebration of the promise that Christ will bring an end to all that is contrary to the ways of God; the resurrection of Jesus is the first sign of this destruction of the powers of death, the anticipation of what is yet to come in fullness.
What may seem to be an anomaly is a very important theological point: The beginning of the liturgical year takes our thinking to the very end of things. For “end” means not only the “end of time,” but the central purpose of the goal of creation. We are not aimlessly wandering in a wilderness, even though we may be tempted to think so. Rather, history is headed somewhere by direction (though not dictation) from God.
It is necessary that the liturgical year begin with this focus on a central, holy intention; for otherwise the story of Jesus, which begins with conception and birth on Christmas Eve to death and resurrection during Holy week may seem less than what it is: the deliberate fulfilling of divine purpose, worked out through historical process.
Only this focus on the central purpose of God in history can keep the story of Jesus from falling into the superstitious and almost magical understanding that often afflicts the Christian community on the one hand, or into the trivialization and irrelevance that characterize secular interpretations, on the other hand.
The sacred story of Jesus, to be understood correctly, has to be read backward. Just as the birth and ministry of Jesus are incomprehensible until we know of the Lord’s death and resurrection, so to the whole of the past is muddled unless first we have a grasp of the nature of the future.
—Calendar, “Christ Time for the Church,” Laurence Hull Stookey, Abingdon Press, 1996
news & events
- December 716th Annual Charity Christmas Cookie Sale!
On Saturday, December 7, 2013, from 8:00 AM – noon, St. John’s Fellowship Hall will be filled with the aroma of fresh, homemade cookies, candies, cakes, breads, pies, and more! Our fabulous St. John’s bakers will once again delight you with scrumptious creations just in time for the holidays. Sign-up sheets will be up soon as we need many bakers and helpers to ensure the success of this charitable event.
- December 12Men’s Night Out
Thursday, December 12th ~ 6:30 PM Golden Corral - Statesville, NC
- December 14Men’s Community Breakfast
Saturday 8:00 AM — 10 AM at St. John's.
Come & bring your neighbor—Donations accepted to benefit Iredell Christian & 5th Street Ministries
- December 15Children’s Christmas Program
Join us Sunday, December 15 at 9:15 am - St. Johns youth are presenting “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”, our Children’s Christmas Program. Light refreshments served.
Sunday, December 1 ~ Advent 1
9:15 am Sunday School
10:30 am Worship
Monday, December 2
6:30 pm Priscilla Circle—Greg’s BBQ
7:00 pm Council Meeting
Tuesday, December 3
6:00 pm Young Life (Scout Hut)
6:30 pm Social Ministry Meeting
Wednesday, December 4
9:30 am Rebekah Circle—Luther Hall
5:00 pm Confirmation
6:00 pm Youth
No Handbells or Chancel Choir
Thursday, December 5
6:00 pm Boy Scouts
6:30 pm Super Property Committee
Saturday, December 7
8:00 am 16th Annual Charity Christmas Cookie Sale
1:00 pm Crusaders Bell Ringing (Walgreens)
Sunday, December 8 - Advent 2
9:15 am Sunday School
10:30 am Worship