A day of Thanksgiving immediately followed by a season of grateful remembrance and expectant anticipation. Maybe that is why some call these next few weeks “the most wonderful time of the year”. At least, it should be. And, it can be, with our attention focused appropriately.
Thursday is Thanksgiving – a day to remember the blessings of our lives, and to give thanks to God for them. As Bryan Simpers reminded us in his prayer this past Sunday, we are living in one of the few places on earth where the governments sets aside a day to be devoted to such thankfulness toward God. For many of us it might feel a bit of a bummer that we cannot be with some of our family members, due to coronavirus, but no doubt there is still much for us to thank God for.
Sunday begins Advent, a season of the traditional church calendar, which consists of the four Sunday before Christmas, ending on Christmas Eve. Advent is a season of thankful tension. It is a season that reminds us that we live during “in-between” times. It is a season to be thankful that, beyond all odds, God has fulfilled all his prophecies to send us the Messiah; and yet, it is a season of waiting, for though Messiah has come, in the person of Jesus, not all of God’s promises have come to their completion. Advent is a season when we look back, thankful for how God has fulfilled all his promises in Christ, and how he has provided for us practically, tangibly, and abundantly; and yet a time anticipating the day still to come when Christ reigns completely throughout the whole world; the day when, in the words of Sam Gangee (Lord of the Rings) “Everything sad comes untrue.”
Like most churches throughout the world, Grace Covenant will participate in the celebration of the Advent season in a variety of ways.
First, we will decorate for the season. While traditional and not necessarily Biblical, we will festively transform our building and grounds. Origanally plans were to put up the decorations this past Monday evening, but a power outage around the church caused us to shift to this coming Saturday, November 28. Folks will be gathering at the church to decorate at 2pm. Anyone who enjoys decorating for the holidays is welcome to join in. If you have questions, of if you want to let someone know you plan to come, please contact Diane Britton. A big part of our decoration for this season is the incorporation of Poinsettia’s. Each year we invite folks to honor someone special in their lives, or to remember a beloved one who has gone to be with the Lord, or to just express a general “Thank You” to God, by donating a Christmas Poinsettia ($5 donation requested). If you would like to donate a poinsettia, or if you have questions about how we recognize those honored/remembered, or what we do with them after Christmas, please contact Kathy Buhl in the church office.
Second, during this Advent season we will take a break from our study series surveying the Book of Romans, and focus our attention instead on the characteristics traditionally associated with the Advent Season. We’ve covered a lot these past several weeks in Romans 9-11, digging deep into doctrinal truths that are foundational for a vibrant faith. In January, we expect to pick up again in Romans 12, which is the beginning of the final section of Romans, where Paul begins to show us how these deep – and sometimes difficult – truths apply to our lives. Our plan will be to look at these applications each week in more bite-sized sections than what we chewed on in the Fall. But in the meantime, during Advent, we will shift from our regular teaching to more mediation on the characteristics of Advent: Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope.
Finally, some have wondered how the recently renewed COVID-19 restrictions will effect our traditional Christmas Eve service. The good news is that we will have our service, on December 24, as always. That said, in order for us to practice the social distance protocols to which we have committed, there will be limited seating. To accommodate the maximum number we are able, we will have sign ups for seat reservations this year – AND we will both LiveStream and record the service for viewing, for those unable to join us in person. The sign-ups will be first-come-first basis. Kathy will send out information and a link to the sign up early next week. If you have any questions about our Christmas Eve service, please speak with me, or contact Camper.
As always, I am looking forward to these next few weeks. I have much for which to be thankful. Among the things I continually thank God for is you – the Grace Covenant family. I am thankful for you graciousness, your generosity, your encouragements, and your faith and faithfulness.
Happy Thanksgiving to All!
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor