This Christmas season I had the privilege of attending an Ugly Sweater party. I didn’t have an actual Christmas sweater, but used a sweater my dear wife made for me 30 years ago. The host was the only person I knew at the party, and so I was a bit anxious. But there were so many icebreaker games held, and I had a blast. One of the games was to place an Oreo cookie on your forehead and try to get it into your mouth without using your hands.
The Christmas season can be an extremely stressful time that can result in heightened anxiety and depression. Individuals with limited social support networks can also find this holiday period quite difficult. There are many aspects of Christmas which can trigger or increase stress and anxiety such as managing money, cooking and cleaning, decorating, completing shopping and handling interpersonal relationships and conflicts. And then there is all the added commitments at this time of year.
As a church we have been celebrating Advent (which means arrival of a notable person, thing or event) by lighting a candle each week representing the time enduring quality of Christ. The 1st candle was the candle of HOPE. We looked at the family tree of Jesus. The amazing thing was that each and every person in that family tree seemed to be messed in some parts of their lives. Jesus family tree tells us that no matter how messed up we are, there is always a place for us in His family. Now that is HOPE.
On the 2nd Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of PEACE. When the Old Testament ended with the book of Malachi some time in the 5th century B.C.(before Christ) there was no word, or sign or anything from God for over the next 400 years. And there was no peace for the Jewish people. They were oppressed by several different empires. They were the Persians, the Greek, the Egyptians, the Syrians, and at the time Jesus was born, the Romans. After over 400 years of silence from God, an angel came to a young teenager named Mary with these words, “PEACE be with you! The Lord is with you, and has greatly blessed you” Luke 1:28
On the 3rd Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of JOY. We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of a young virgin teenager named Mary who was engaged to be married. What would people think when they found out she was pregnant? What would they say? What would Joseph her fiancé do? Mary did ask questions as it was massive news as she would be carrying and delivering to the world the Son of God. And after the angel departed Mary penned a beautiful song of praise found in Luke 1:46-55. Mary was filled with JOY!
So what happened to that Oreo cookie at my Ugly Sweater party I attended. Did I win? No, far from it. So here is the rest of the story. Someone came in 1st and was the winner, another in 2nd, another in 3rd. I kept trying and trying and I could never get it. I was defeated and figured I could never ever do it. That was until someone showed me how to do it. By tilting your head sideways, it becomes much easier.
People will try and try and try to find their way to God. And it just seems so impossible. That is until we are shown how to find God. On the 4th Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of LOVE. What Christmas is all about is God becoming man becomes He loved us so much and wanted us to find our way to Him. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”. I encourage you to read the full Christmas story found in Luke 2:1-20. And on Christmas Eve we will light the centre candle called the Christ candle, signifying that Christ the light has come in to the world. That is the rest of the story.