Yes, this will be the First Sunday of Advent. We’ll be lighting the first of four candles leading us step-by-step to the Advent (“Coming”) of the Christ Child that first Christmas day. This year, Christmas itself falls on a Sunday, and that will make it even more special.

Our advent themes this year will be captured by four single-syllable words that anyone can understand: HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE. These words embrace all of what it means to be human. If one of these is lacking in your life, you will feel incomplete. If you are experiencing all four, you will feel satisfied and fulfilled no matter what the circumstances of your life are.

These four qualities of life are interrelated and build on each other. HOPE for the future is encouraged by your present experience of PEACE, JOY and LOVE. Your JOY is increased when something you’ve HOPED for comes to pass, or when someone shows LOVE to you. If your experiences bring you JOY and LOVE, you’ll have a bonus of PEACE, and you’ll be encouraged to HOPE for more.

HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE all shined their beams into the manger where a special Child was born for our salvation. He grew to be a man, shared his profound teachings about the Kingdom of God, was executed by deniers, but rose again in victory. Through his thirty-three-year sojourn on earth, he magnified and amplified the beams of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE, and he has sent them reverberating through the world and across centuries of time.

It will take us five weeks to try to do justice to this central truth of our faith. Join us as we light candles of recognition and acknowledgment, one by one.

— Pastor George Van Alstine