Though we haven't been able to do it consistently, Linda (my wife) and I have used an Advent wreath and Advent devotions as we've prepared for Christmas this year. This has been our tradition for 25+ years. Each week has had a separate theme -- Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. Sunday, as I sat in the worship service celebrating the birth of Christ, I was struck with the thought that the themes of Advent speak to the people of Africa, the people we have served for the the past 21 1/2 years. Christ is:
HOPE for those without hope -- like those dying of AIDS who have no hope in this life and those who live in fear of life after death because they have no sure hope except to hope that their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds.
JOY for those who have nothing material that can give them joy -- I have had 21 years of amazement at how joyful poverty-stricken African believers can be.
PEACE for those who have endured civil war and who continue to try to carry on normal life in the midst of rebel activity.
LOVE for those who have no person who shows them love -- those like AIDS orphans and street kids.
We have had the awesome privilege to be ambassadors of the one who is all of these things for Africans, Jesus the Christ ...
... the hope of glory.
... for whose birth the angels rejoiced.
... who is the Prince of Peace
... who is love.
Those same themes apply to each of us, though most who read this blog have very different circumstances. Still, many live without hope or joy or peace or love. Christ provides all of those -- He reaches out to each one of us in our need; He knows our needs and cares about them.
As you wake up to Christmas Day today, it's my prayer that you will experience in your life the Christ for whom this day is named. I hope that you will realize the grace of Christ in your own live today as He is hope, joy, peace and love for you.
As these thoughts went through my mind in the service on Sunday, we sang the Christmas carol, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus:
Come, though long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art.
Dear Desire of every nation;
Joy of every longing heart.
That is my prayer for you this Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!
Run well, y'all,