The approach of Christmas certainly stirs up memories of yesteryear. Changes are replacing the ways of the old days.
It was Advent, which means "coming", and the Finnish Lutheran church that I attended as I grew up was preparing the sanctuary meaningfully for the celebration and anticipation of the coming of Jesus. Men and women together as a church family were placing Christmas decorations around. Many helping hands brought in the huge spruce Christmas tree, more than five metres tall, complete with cones, and dressed it with lots of lights and baubles. To see the male folk together in the spirit of Christmas was a special blessing.
A large wreath had a special place for all to see at the front of the sanctuary, and four candles were set upon it, one more to be lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. The white one in the centre was the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Day. On the first Sunday of Advent, the congregation watched in anticipation as the first candle was lit to bring its light into the darkness. It brought hope to hearts tenderly opening to help from above.
That Sunday, we also waited for the singing of "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" It signified opening our hearts, as we waited for the Lord to come — just as we also did on Palm Sunday, as at the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem, "Hosanna!" rang out from the people, meaning, "Lord, help! Save us!" This was a united cry to God in repentance and sorrow for our sins, with hearts sorry for our wrongdoings, disobedience, and rebellion against God Almighty. With one voice, in unison, we were calling, "Lord, help! Save us!" Individually, we were invited to self-examination in advance of the coming of the Lord. Hosanna! The Lord is coming!
It was good to be in church together before God — and it still is. There, God is present in His Word, in song, in prayers, and in silent reflection.
The meaning of Christmas begins with Advent: waiting, preparing us to be filled with the hope, love, joy, and peace of God our Saviour that we so much need. Christmas hymns and spiritual songs enhance and stir our hearts to repentance.
In Jesus, our Redeemer, we have the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus has come as the Light into the world — into our darkness.
May Advent in our lives today be filled with true waiting to meet our Saviour. King of glory, come!
Prayer: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matthew 21:9b NIV 2011) Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Come Thou Almighty King" (Lyrics)