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Are you ready for Christmas?

“Are you ready for Christmas?” the waitress asked my friend Jean and me as we were seated at Duke’s Restaurant in Elkins. I thought to myself, “Now, that’s a loaded question!”

Christmastime is filled with a litany of expectations, even in these pandemic times. If that question were broken down into implied individual questions, it might go something like this: “Have you put up your lights? Have you bought presents? Have you wrapped them? Did you put up the tree? Did you put the gifts under the tree? Have you hung the stockings? Did you bake some goodies? Did you send out your Christmas cards?” And the list goes on.

Please try not to judge me; I love Christmas. I even relish giving gifts and baking cookies with my children.

However, in my heart, I know the associated expectations are part of the commercialized mess we humans have made of the holiday (word origin: holy day) marking the Savior’s birth. Even while the exact date of the Lord’s birth is debatable, many Christians choose to celebrate the coming of the King during Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “arrival”).

This year, Advent started on Sunday, Nov. 29, and it concludes, as always, on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. Many churches choose to celebrate the four Sundays of Advent with the tradition of lighting the Advent wreath, in which three purple or blue candles and one pink candle are lit symbolizing hope, love, joy and peace.

On Christmas Eve, we light a white candle, the Christ Candle, meaning that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, has come. He is Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

While the most common question this time of year may be, “Are you ready for Christmas?” that question is not the most important question. The most important question is, “Are you ready for Jesus Christ?”

Jesus was God in the flesh, born of a virgin. He came as a baby in a manger (see Luke 2) but grew up, lived a sinless life, was baptized, ministered healing and deliverance, preached repentance, forgiveness, and grace, and called people to love God and others completely. Jesus was crucified, and he died, was buried, rose on the third day, and ascended into Heaven. He created the Church (known as the Body of Christ) and calls all who believe to worship and serve together, sharing God’s light in this dark world.

This year, I pray that we center our hearts upon the spiritual meaning of the Lord’s arrival rather than being consumed by cultural or commercialized obligations. Celebrate Jesus’ birth and be filled with hope, joy, love, and peace. Please stay safe, take precautions, and remember this, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is LORD and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

Rev. Julie M. Davis is the pastor of three local churches: Wayside UMC (Sunday worship at 8:30 a.m. at 35 Almond Way in Elkins), Otterbein UMC (www.otterbeinelkins.org with worship at 9:30 a.m. at 1100 S. Davis Ave. in Elkins, and on Zoom), and Phillips Chapel UMC (worship at 11:15 a.m. at 282 Jimtown Rd., Coalton). E-mail pastorjuliedavis@gmail.com with comments.

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