O come, O come, Emmanuel,And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Advent is a time of waiting. Together we wait for the coming of Jesus Christ.
“Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time.”*
In the sentimentality of our commercialized holiday season it is all too easy for us to turn a blind eye to the staggering reality of a God who bears our flesh. We can blame our indifference on the fa-la-la-la-ing of our radios or the seizure-inducing Christmas light displays of our neighbors, but the true source of our resistance in found in our hearts. For to acknowledge that God entered this world as the most vulnerable amongst us is to admit that there is something so completely broken and without hope in our world and in our own lives that the only remedy could be the invasion of God as a baby.
And here is the wonder of wonders! He invaded not as an Intergalactic Army but rather came in the form of a helpless baby to shoulder the weight of our sorrows and bear the punishment of our sin in his adult death on the Cross.
And this is the God we need this Advent. In the past few weeks we have been confronted with a few of the horrors that are particular to us as a people at this moment in time. The sexual violence that has been exposed at UVA is present on all of our college campuses--and the evil of sexual violence is a reality for too many. And in Ferguson this past week, we have witnessed the perpetuation of a system of racial injustice to which we cannot turn our backs. True Hope cannot come from within our institutions, our ourselves, but rather must come for outside of us. Friends, we need a God who is both with us in our suffering and who will come again to judge the world in righteousness.
And this is what we sing in our hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” We are crying out together for God-with-us to return so that he can set right all the things we have broken, including ourselves. Together we acknowledge that the weight of our sin is too heavy for our shoulders and the sorrows of our neighbor are too great for us to bear alone. And so for Advent we wait and we sing together, “Come! O Come! Emmanuel!”
But our song does not end there. Like the hymn, we call one another to rejoice for God has answered our plea for his presence. In this time between the great Advents, Jesus dwells with us by his Spirit. God really is with us. Emmanuel is perhaps the truest thing about us. And so our waiting is not in vain, and our waiting is not done in isolation. But the God on whom we wait is the God who waits with us.
Here are some of the ways that we will celebrate Advent together this year:
Our Advent sermon series will be shaped by the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." By exploring the themes of this familiar song, we will trace the arc of Advent through five Old Testament prophecies of Christ... November 30th -- Emmanuel December 7th -- Rod of Jessee December 14th -- Key of David December 21st -- Desire of Nations December 28th -- Dayspring
Each week our bulletin will feature a piece of art from various City Church members. We will host a reception immediately following worship on Sunday, December 14th, where all of the Advent art will be on display. Please plan to join us in the parlor.
City Church Christmas Pageant, Party, and Sing-A-Long
Our Christmas celebration will take place on Saturday, December 6th here at Grace Covenant. We’ll kick things off with the pageant at 5:30pm (participants, please arrive no later than 5!), followed by dinner, and a fantastic Christmas carol sing-along. Please bring a dish to share! If you’re interested in helping with any (or all!) parts of this event, please email Val Catrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas Eve Services
In addition to our 4pm Sunday Worship, we will have two Christmas Eve services. A family-friendly service of Lessons & Carols at 3:30PM and an 11PM Lessons & Carols service with Eucharist.
Jennifer Murphy, our Director of Children’s Ministry has put together the following resources for families...
Prepare Him Room
Prepare Him Room is a Family Devotional book that has 13 lessons. The book also has instructions on making an advent wreath as well as other activities you can do as a family during advent. This book corresponds to the four-lesson advent series written by the same author that we are using in Children's Worship. This is best for children who are elementary age and older.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is a family devotional that can be used with or without ornaments for a Jesse Tree. The short, simple stories, and beautiful pictures make this ideal for younger children, but also great for children who are a bit older.
Randolph Christmas Caroling
On Saturday, December 13th, at 9:30am, we will visit the Randolph Place Retirement Home to sing Christmas carols and visit with the residents, put together a simple craft to leave with them, and share the love of Christ with them. This will be the fourth year we've visited them at Christmas, and it's always such a fun time! We will meet at 9:30am in the Randolph Community Center to warm up our voices and enjoy donuts and coffee together, and will head next door for caroling at 10am. For more information, contact Jennifer Murphy at email@example.com.
*From the Church of England, Common Worship: Times and Seasons (London: Church House, 2006), 33.