December and the season of anticipation

“Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79
– well, we do have the wreath up!

Yes, I know that I am a little behind this year! We’re already most of the way through the first week of Advent and I haven’t even mentioned In My Heart I Carry A Star. It’s still my favorite read to properly set the mood for Christmas.

Rebekah and I uncharacteristically missed church last week, driving back from Florida! We don’t have the tree out, we don’t know where our Nativity is, we haven’t even been up in the attic to look, and the lost Wise Guy with the small group of camels who spent the year in the kitchen window is still rooted in place; he hasn’t even started to follow the star!

But he is facing in the right direction.

And we did – thanks to Chris and Clark Pashby – put a wreath on the front door.

And our morning devotions together are setting the stage.

And our hearts are more than ready.

– Pilgrims on the long path to Christmas…

Because this is what anticipation is all about; it’s rooted in the belief – no, the knowledge – that something is coming that will meet us exactly where we are and then will carry us along.

This is the spirit behind Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s classic poem: “I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play…” Familiar. The power of practice and tradition, where well worn paths take us to the places our hearts yearn for.

Christmas is not something we can drop into at the last moment! (at least not if we want the authentic experience); the child in Bethlehem is best approached over time, reverently, walking the sometimes winding pathways the pilgrims take.

This is why the good people of Wake Forest Presbyterian Church have stepped up to offer the first “in-person” Walk Through Bethlehem event in three years. This weekend – December 2nd 3rd and 4th – on the campus at 12605 Capital Blvd.

Check out the following two links to get a sense of this unique and compelling approach to getting to the heart of the real Christmas story.

– playing the role of guide in 2020

So yes, December is the time – the season – of anticipation. My word for all of us today is this: Join the Magi in search of the newborn king. I believe with all of my heart that this king is Jesus, and that Christmas can be a homecoming so rich in love and in joy if only we follow the star and kneel at the manger.

Happy December – DEREK

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1864)

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