First Sunday of Advent – November 27, 2016
Reader: Shirley G. Spencer
As we celebrate Advent 2016, let me explain once again that Advent is a Latin word meaning “to come” or “coming.” It has become our tradition at River of Life to celebrate the four Sundays leading up to Christmas as days set part to prepare us mentally and spiritually to commemorate the coming of the Savior into the world.
During Advent, we not only anticipate Jesus’ birth, but we look forward to His coming again to complete all that the loving Heavenly Father and Creator intends for His creation.
One of the ways we celebrate the season is with an Advent wreath—a circle of greenery with three purple candles, one pink candle, and a white candle in the center. Each Sunday of Advent, we will light one candle until all four candles are burning on the fourth Sunday. However, since Christmas falls on Sunday this year, the fourth candle will be lit on Christmas Eve. The white, or Messiah, candle also will be lit during that service.
On this, the first Sunday of Advent 2016, we will light the candle of Prophecy, Promise, and Waiting .
Light one purple candle.
Our celebration theme this year is “Christmas: It’s About the Cross.” We will begin our countdown by focusing on Mary, the young girl chosen as the bearer of the Holy Seed.
Thousands of paintings, drawings, statues, and even “living manger scenes, portray Mary, at the time of Jesus’ birth, as a woman in her 20s. Most theologians and commentators believe, however, that the Virgin Mary couldn’t have been more than 12 to 14 years of age when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her with that startling announcement that she had been chosen by God to give birth to His Son, the long-awaited Messiah. To be so young, Mary was a remarkable woman, who showed maturity beyond her years. For one thing, she seemed to understand what it meant to sacrifice for the sake of doing God’s will. Apparently no one at that time, including Mary herself, was expecting the Messiah to be born of a virgin, even though the Prophet Isaiah had declared that it would be so: “A virgin will conceive,” he had prophesied, “and give birth to a son, and He will be called Immanuel” (see Isaiah 7:14). This is why she asked the angel Gabriel how she was going to bear the Messiah when she was not married and sexually active (Luke 1:34). Did she realize at the time that Joseph might reject her? Did she know that, years later, the religious leaders would still label Jesus as a child born of fornication (John 8:41 – KJV).
Surely she knew that accepting pregnancy from God would cause turmoil and pain to her and her loved ones, but did she foresee the agony He, and she, would suffer if she accepted God’s plan for her life? Did she see a cross looming in their future?
Had Gabriel told her that her first-born Son would be rejected and become a “man of sorrow, acquainted with grief?” would she have agreed to become “the servant of the Lord”?
In his book, The Cross, Max Lucado makes this astounding statement: “He [the Christ Child] was born crucified. Whenever He became conscious of who He was, He also became conscious of what He had to do.”
Unlike, the Savior, none of us knows the details of our lives. We aren’t warned of the perils that lie ahead of us when we make life choices. And, if and when we are warned, we tend to shrug off the council as if we are in control of our destiny. It’s probably a good thing we don’t know every grief that we will encounter, but isn’t that where trust comes into play?
Mary’s faith-filled response should also be ours, even when we know there will be crosses to bear and tears to shed: “I am the Lord’s servant, May your plan for my life be fulfilled.”
I surrender to Your will, Oh God!
Song: “It’s About the Cross” – Buddy Williams