(Coming in on the heels of the Children’s Christmas pageant where the kids debate the true meaning of Christmas)
Hey, kids I’ve been enjoying to your play but it seems like you still are a bit confused about what Christmas really is. You know it’s more than singing and having a good time? And more than presents, lights and trees. Christmas is about hope, and love, and joy, and peace, and of course God’s great gift given to us through Jesus Christ. Here, let me explain it this way. This is our Advent wreath. Each week leading up to Christmas we light a candle to remind us of what Christmas is all about.
The first candle is about Hope. Hope is a feeling we get when we expect something to happen. It’s more than wishful thinking, like “I hope I get a new X-Box for Christmas,” or “I hope Michigan State wins the Cotton Bowl.” Our hope is with God. It’s about patiently waiting; knowing God is making something happen. The Bible tells us our hope is tied to God through faith. Which means we have to think about it as we wait for it to happen. So I guess you could say hope dwells up here in our head. Of course, as we wait it begins then spreads down here towards our heart. And its in our were we find love.
Which is our second candle. Love is an inward feeling that ties us to God and to others. It’s not easy to describe or think about up here in our head. Instead, love is something we feel down here in our heart. We understood it by the things it makes us to do – like acts of kindness, being generous and giving of ourselves to others. It’s like having the Spirit of Christmas with you every day; except it’s God’s Spirit that is given to us. The Bible tells us that God gives us all his love so that we can have joy in our life.
Joy is the candle we lit today. It’s like a kind of special happiness inside us that happens when the hope in our head collides with the love in our heart. Joy is an overwhelming sensation that we feel throughout our whole body. It tells us the Spirit of God is fully alive inside us. It tickles us and makes us feel happy and secure. When God’s Spirit is in control of our joy, we know everything will be all right. The Bible tells us that having the joy of the Spirit is what gives us peace, because God is in control of our life.
Next week we will light the Peace candle to remind us of God’s peace that comes to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus called it “shalom.” Shalom is a Hebrew word for peace. But it’s much bigger than that. It’s not just comfort and tranquility or a freedom from distress or trouble. Instead, shalom is complete wholeness in every part of our being. And if that weren’t enough, it also extends into everything and everyone around us. The peace that God gives us through our relationship with Jesus is also impossible to keep to ourselves. It needs to be shared because God wants shalom to spread around the world. That’s why God gave us the Christ, the Prince of Peace.
So you see, Christ is the real reason we celebrate Christmas. That’s why we light the Christ candle last, on Christmas Eve. It reminds us that Christ is the true light of God shinning on us and through us. The Bible tells us that following Jesus is all that we need to get through our darkest moments, and to live a godly and good life. Jesus is the fullness of God’s love, God’s shalom. He is the Incarnate, our Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus is the great Christmas gift; our peace, our joy, our love, our hope.
When we walk with Christ, we are walking with God. When we walk with God there will always be peace around us, joy within us, and love and hope exploding from us. And so Christmas is a time to honor God’s great gift to us. That gift, of course, is Jesus. And do you know what, kids? The best part about this gift is we can open it up every day and still be surprised by what we find.