OK, let's be honest: How many of us were truly excited when we saw all the decorations and lights coming up right after Halloween? Were you really happy to see how quickly the stores have marketed for the giving (or spending) of gifts? There is so much anticipation and anxiety for a day in the season that even has it's own countdown. Are you looking forward to that coming day: December 25?
Many church traditions celebrate the season of "Advent" which is Latin for "coming." It is a way to focus on the season and it is full of rich reasons on why we celebrate Christmas. Each week candles are lit to remember ways to prepare for the day and to celebrate the reason for hope, peace, and joy. The fourth Sunday of Advent remembers the "love" aspect of Christmas. What is this "love"? This "love" is spelled out in the two names given for the One we remember on December 25th.
Long before the actual birth of Christ, God spoke through prophets as a way to reach out to His people. These prophets were constantly sharing words of correction to stubborn people who did not make the effort to follow healthy ways of loving God and each other. At one point, God communicated through His prophet Isaiah His desire to be in relationship with humanity: "...the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14, TNIV). The name "Immanuel" means God with us. In the Bible Matthew also highlights this idea that God becomes flesh in Jesus to be "with us" (Matthew 1:23).
Years later the prophecy came true as Mary was miraculously going to have a baby. Joseph was pledged to be married to Mary and when he found out she was pregnant and it was not his child, he wanted to get out of the marriage. God spoke to Joseph through an angel in a dream: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV). Jesus' name is the Latin form of the Hebrew name "Joshua" which means "God saves."
In these two names we discover the love of God and the purpose of this season. The event of this season collects the reason for hope, peace, joy and love as it embodies the promises that God makes with His people to be with us and save us!
Are you open to celebrate a loving God who through Jesus Christ is "with us" and "saves us?" If so, this Season can have a Reason and this love will transform the way you live!
The River Covenant Church meets on Sundays at 10 a.m. at the Kenai Boys & Girls Club (Aurora Borealis) at 705 Frontage Road in Kenai. Pastor Frank Alioto also serves as a chaplain with Central Emergency Services and can be reached at 252-2828 or on the web at therivercovenantchurch.org.
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