Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Ah…to make it through December in one piece! Exams, pageants, concerts, dinners all blow past us in the whirlwind of Christmas season, the intensity leaving us bewildered. Not only are the dates on the calendar daunting, but also engaging with families (sorry children of divorced parents) is sometimes enough to finish us off!
Most unsettling, however, may be how little we reflect on our relationships with one another during this season’s busyness and, of course, God. Maybe we’ve become accustomed to this and expect it to be no other way. Let us stop for a moment. Let us take time to focus on the time at hand.
Last week, I discussed Advent as a time of reflection and confession. Well, here is my confession: In the next few weeks amidst the hectic schedule, I am going to get angry at my kids, frustrated with my wife, annoyed at my siblings, exasperated with my parents, and afraid I’m not going to have a relaxing Christmas break. Knowing this I have to acknowledge my motives (pick your poison: power, control, approval, or comfort).
At a minimum, when someone says something painful or offensive this Christmas season, I will know why I’m angry or afraid, and it’s by the power of the Holy Spirit that it can be the moment of my salvation. Instantaneous! Before I choose to feel a certain way, God interjects His love to reveal that it doesn’t have to go in a bad direction, I can sense His powerful forgiveness and in turn gain composure to love those who have seemingly offended me (and I’m about to offend) at the Christmas table.
The third week of Advent is about rejoicing! I can tell you I find no greater joy than witnessing God guide my thoughts and embolden my will to overcome my desire for power, control, approval or comfort. We’re going to have a hard time manufacturing our own joy when the whole Christmas season feels like a photo session — jowls getting sore from keeping your smile in place.
Joy comes when we recognize that we are actually receiving God’s infinite love in the moment; in that moment of salvation, we can rejoice. I love this season for its eventfulness, but also for spending time Sunday night reading scripture and singing songs, all the while, preparing myself to rejoice in the greatest moment of my salvation – Christ’s birth.
Advent Week Three: Sunday, December 14
Set the mood by lowering the lights and and preparing candles. You’ll need five – one for each week plus one for Christmas Day. Light the two Advent candles from weeks one and two of Advent.
Read the scriptures.
- Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
- Psalm 126
- I Thessalonians 5:16-24
- John 1:6-8, 19-28
Discuss what you’ve read.
- How does Isaiah relay his cause for rejoicing?
- In Psalm 126:5-6 What did God do for those “sow with tears” and “go out weeping”? (A great understanding of the moment of salvation.)
- In I Thessalonians 5, when should we rejoice? Pray? Give thanks?
- Read all of I Thessalonians 5 and discover where Paul’s joy is coming from.
- In the reading from John, we learn that he was a witness about the light (v. 7) and that he was, in fact, the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” just as Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years earlier. Who was the light and what was the light’s purpose? (This passage prepares us for the fourth Advent.)
Light the third Advent candle.
Sing together: “Joy to the World.” Listen to “Rejoice in the Lord Alway.”
- “First Week of Advent: Hope” by Philip Martens
- “Second Week of Advent: Preparation” by Philip Martens
- “Joy to the World” lyrics and music
- “Rejoice in the Lord Alway”
- Lifeway: Advent Week Three
Written by Philip Martens - Website
Philip Martens has lived in Phoenix for twenty years, but grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Raised in a Christian environment (family, church, school), he desired a relationship with Christ at the age of six and was later baptized at thirteen. He graduated from ASU with degrees in History, Accountancy, and a Masters in Accountancy. His wife of 16 years, Susi, also hails from Canada; they have four children. He currently manages the US portfolio of a Canadian real estate investment trust. He has been a member of CBC since 1998.