Happy New Year!

If your church (or you personally) follow the church calendar, you're aware that today was the first Sunday in Advent (of course, a few branches of the church are on a slightly different calendar). Advent actually begins the new year on the church calendar (happy new year!). And we begin by awaiting the coming of the Christ (which is what Advent means). Our church doesn't typically mention the church calendar, but our family tries to take some note of it.

We're still developing our traditions (some years the tree doesn't go up until mid-December or later, some years its up when Advent begins), but we try to make Advent one of our traditions. We try to follow a family advent devotional to go through each day and talk some about the waiting for Jesus to come (not only as a baby at Christmas, but to come again, and to come into our hearts). One year we had an advent wreath that we lit each night with devotions. Traditions aren't always good--they can become too legalistic, doing them just for the sake of doing them--but they can also be very beneficial in helping you focus on the deeper meaning behind things.

Typically, the first Sunday in Advent focuses on Hope. Hope accompanies faith. We hope for the fulfillment of what we believe. We hope for the return of our Savior. We hope for a new heaven and earth where sin is completely washed away. We hope. And we cling to that hope.

When Mary was told she was carrying the Son of God, I'm sure she spent months simply hoping that He would be born healthy and well. She hoped that she could fulfill God's plan for her to be His servant. She hoped that Joseph would stick by her through an awkward situation. As we await Christmas day, what are your hopes? For me, I hope to be drawn deeper into my relationship with God. And the promise of the coming baby is a good reminder of that: His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means "God with us." God desires to have an intimate relationship with us. That is the main reason He sent His Son--to show us, in the flesh, how much He loves us.

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