As Doug pointed out in his sermon last Sunday, a New Year has begun. Advent marks the launch of the Christian Year. It is a season of expectation and hope for those who gather around the story of Christ’s coming. In our culture, it seems that Christmas has already arrived. But Advent isn’t christmas. It’s a time of preparation and waiting more than celebration. In a way we’re like Mary – we have a due date, but not yet a baby. There is work to be done, in us and in the world, to be ready for the coming of the Christ child.
So the new Christian Year has begun, and the calendar year is coming to an end. We are looking forward and backward at the same time. The past year was an important one for our church family, and for many of the families who make up our congregation. Some of us welcomed the gift of new life in the birth of a child or grandchild. Others lost family or friends whose lives touched and blessed our own for ever. This is true every year, we know. But we remember to give thanks for them and carry with us the gifts they shared.
We completed the first phase of a major renewal of our campus. We improved visibility and access to the church for many years to come. We created space where our children’s programing can be relocated when we begin the replacement of our aging classroom buildings. In a way our work has been a bit like Advent itself – preparing the way for what comes next! Because of your generosity and hopefulness we completed the work and without having to borrow. As we move toward the next phase of the project we are not counting on that. But we are counting on the same spirit and encouragement that has seen us through so far. Thank you. And well done.
We have been through much together this year. From Sunday worship to summer service projects, from weddings and funerals to baptisms and confirmation, feeding the hungry, studying the Bible, supporting and encouraging each other along the way. I believe that what we do as a church is important. It matters. It makes a difference in the lives of literally thousands of people, in our community and around the world.
The world needs generous, compassionate, hopeful people. The future depends on those who are able to see its brokenness, who feel its pain, and who yet remain faithful and loving in the face of it. Advent is an invitation for us to join with John the Baptist, preparing the way, and pointing toward, the love God has shown to the world in Jesus Christ. It is a reminder that even when things seem most hopeless, we are not alone. It was into this same world that the Christ child was born. He is with us still.
Grace and peace,