Grace and Peace,
We have just completed a sermon series called “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like….” In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus began many of his parables by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…,” then telling a story to help us to grasp what it is to truly live under the reign of God. Amanda and I, and then our youth, each took turns lifting up some of these parables.
Now we are beginning the season of Advent. It is a season during which we anticipate the kingdom of heaven on earth. We do not always think of it in that way. We think about the coming of a Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one of God. Keep thinking. What is it we want the Messiah to do? Usher in the reign of God, the kingdom of heaven so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. We want forgiveness of our sins, the end of violence, the sick to be healed, the sorrowful to be comforted, and the dead to live again. When we pray, come Lord Jesus, come, we are asking for no less than all of that.
Terrorists indiscriminately killing in Paris, Beirut, Syria, and a host of other places; earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods ravaging the land; serious illness striking in every family; hundreds of thousands of children worldwide still going to bed hungry are some of the realities that push me back into the gospel to hear Jesus explaining what the kingdom of heaven is like. His explanation causes me to know that it is God's kingdom I want. I want to be part of the kingdom of heaven. I am so ready for Caesar to leave the palace and for the baby born in a barn behind a crowded inn to take his place. I am ready to sing, “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.” I am waiting to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king.” Advent is that time for me. A time to focus on our most fervent prayer and hope. A time to prepare myself for God’s coming, alert, with my head up. Christ is the only hope for the world. Advent helps me to remember that.
I hope you will join us often at church during this season. An Advent-Christmas brochure was mailed to you so that you can know all that is happening. Let this season be a time of spiritual renewal for you. Enliven your desire for the coming of the kingdom of heaven.
This is also a good time to review your commitment to and support of your church. Your gifts are our only income. Have you contributed to your church this year? Have you contributed what you hoped or planned? Are you in a position to give an extra Christmas gift to the church? Are you keeping up with your “Preserving the Future” commitment? Disciplined giving is as much a part of a vibrant spiritual life as prayer, worship, service, and witness. Giving helps both the church and you.
The holy season of Advent has begun. Enter with us into this time of prayer and anticipation.
O come, o come, Emmanuel.