Brothers and sisters,

Here we are—Advent! This is a wonderful time in the church year where we take time to actively wait for Jesus. We take time to hope for his arrival once again, to believe that his presence in our world changed our world. Advent is this deeply meaningful season of the church year where take time to contemplate what it means for God to have taken on flesh, to walk among us, to live the kind of life we live. It is a season for reflection and contemplation and anticipation.

Now, the way that typically plays out in American culture is that the lead-up to Christmas is a time of busyness. Commercials on TV tell us how many shopping days are left till Christmas. We see characters in commercials, shows, and holiday specials rushing through crowded malls, desperate to get the right present for their loved one. This season is crowded with Christmas parties and special events within the community. It ends up feeling hectic, as we go from one obligation to another.

This year at Hope Valley, we want to help cut through that busyness. We want to provide services that you are welcome to come to and hear the good news of this season—that Christ is coming, and that is enough! We want to provide services that offer words of hope, peace, joy, and love, in the midst of all the busyness! So, I wanted to take time in this week’s Illuminator to explain what these services are trying to accomplish.

The first of these is the Service of Lament happening on Wednesday, December 15th at 6:30 PM in our sanctuary. Christmas is a time of the year when we are often encouraged to focus only on the joy this season can bring. But some of us are carrying grief into the holidays with us. Perhaps you’ve lost someone this year. Perhaps a relationship has been strained or you’re just not feeling joyful right now. The Service of Lament seeks to create a space for all of us to come together, as a church family, and name those burdens we’re carrying, as well as help others carry theirs. Our second special service this year is called, “Sing We Now of Christmas”, and it will be on Sunday, December 19th at 5:00 PM in our sanctuary. I’m excited for this service! Kathryn and the musicians at our church have planned and prepared a wonderful evening filled with songs and scripture that seek to capture the joy and wonder of the Christmas season. It is a service where you will be able to come and hear the gospel in both word and music, as we prepare for the birth of our Savior.
Finally, we will be having a Christmas Eve Candlelight and Communion Service on Friday, December 24th at 5:00 PM here in our sanctuary. I love this service because it provides an opportunity to see our church family and experience the joy of Christmas together. At this service, we’ll take Communion as a re-minder of God’s love for us and we’ll light candles as a reminder to take the light of Christ into the world, a light which the darkness could not overcome.

We invite you to come to any and all of these services. They are designed to help each of us reconnect with God as we move through Advent together. They are meant to be times of respite in the busyness of the holidays. At these services, you will hear about the love of God, the presence of God, and the miraculous grace of God. You will not hear how many shop-ping days till Christmas or that if you order over $100 worth of stuff you can get FREE SHIPPING, but only if you order right now! You will hear a good word from a good God—thanks be to God!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Ben