The Advent Season is a time in which we as Christians prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We decorate our church and homes with symbols of the Nativity, the star in the East, magi, shepherds and angels. We light Advent candles and sing old familiar Christmas hymns. We give to others in need, particularly the gift of clothes, food and shelter to help endure a cold winter. And we remember and reflect on the story of how the light of God shined in the darkness and the darkness couldn’t overcome it. The great theologian and Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said we actually must enter the story as active participants if we are to truly understand and be transformed Emmanuel (God-with-us):
If we want to be part of these events, Advent and Christmas, we cannot just sit there like a theater audience and enjoy all the lovely pictures.
Instead, we ourselves will be caught up in this action, this reversal of all things; we must become actors on this stage. For this is a play in which each spectator has a part to play, and we cannot hold back.
What will our role be? Worshipful shepherds bending the knee, or kings bringing gifts? What is being enacted when Mary becomes the mother of God, when God enters the world in a lowly manger?
We cannot come to this manger in the same way that we would approach the cradle of any other child. Something will happen to each of us who decides to come to Christ’s manger.
Each of us will have been judged or redeemed before we go away. Each of us will either break down, or come to know that God’s mercy is turned toward us…
What does it mean to say such things about the Christ child?…It is God, the Lord and Creator of all things, who becomes so small here,comes to us in a little corner of the world, unremarkable and hidden away, who wants to meet us and be among us as a helpless, defenseless child.
This Advent, the staff of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church invites you to enter the story one of two ways. First by participating in the “Advent Photo-A-Day” challenge:
Simply reflect on the word for each day and take a photo representing that word in the context of Advent-Christmas. Then post on your social media accounts and the church’s Facebook page with #phpcadventphotos. (When possible, we’ll choose a few to show in worship during Advent).
Secondly, take a moment out of each day to read the personal “Advent Devotionals 2015”–-written by church members and staff–that you will receive via email at 5 am every morning between Nov. 28 and Dec. 25 (A few hard copies of the entire set of devotionals are also available in the church’s Narthex):
Blessings and peace as you approach the manger and the unconditional, vulnerable love contained within.