Anticipating the Joy of Christmas in this season of Advent for our family includes decorations of light on trees. These three photos show the Christmas trees outside my office at Manchaca UMC, on our breakfast nook bench, and out front of our home. Various size trees with various light sources. There is no magical formula for the rightness of the decoration. The things that are represented are the everlasting (in the greenery of the tree) and the light (white, multi-colored, flashing, not flashing, you choose) of this season. Everlasting light is the message to be conveyed!
We could stop right there and everybody would love the photos and the trees and the lights and all that we do to busy ourselves in this special season. Or, we can keep reading.
On Christmas Eve, the church will read scripture readings that are shared in the story of Jesus coming into our world as the Everlasting Light. As Christians, we reach into the Hebrew Scripture for a word about everlasting and light. In the prophet Isaiah, ninth chapter, we hear a word of hope and promise for the people of Galilee of one to come and restore their people:
"But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time, he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined." (Isaiah 9:1-2)
Light as opposed to darkness, joy instead of oppression, peace instead of war. These are the things of which the prophet speaks. These are the hopeful promises of a prophet speaking truth to those who would hear. The people of the 8th century before Jesus needed to hear such words. The people of the first century in the same area also needed to hear these words. I think these words are timeless and I think we need to hear them again for each of us today.
For a child has been born for us, a son is given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The Prince of Peace as referred to in Isaiah the prophet is a term that continues in this story of everlasting light, hope and promise, peace and joy. For the one we claim as Savior is Christ the Lord, Jesus - the Incarnation of God with us, Emmanuel - born to Mary in a manger in Bethlehem.
We will also share the gospel story from Luke 2 in which a great light appears to shepherds in the fields. That part of the story I will save for Christmas Eve. Join us at Manchaca UMC at one of THREE worship services: 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, or 7:00 pm. Hear the story again and make it your own. Light the candles of love with us in our candlelight service and celebrate the everlasting presence of God in Jesus.
Merry Christmas EVE
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend