In the bustle and business of every day life, how easy it is to forget all the multitude of blessings we have and forget to have an attitude of gratitude, of Thanksgiving. Especially should we give thanks for those who serve or who served in our armed forces to protect and defend our country and our freedoms. As we end the Church Year, we remember that Jesus will return as triumphant judge and end all that opposes our wondrous Triune God.

As we move into the new Church Year with the season of Advent, which comes for the Latin for “arrival” or “to come.” Past, present and future… we remember to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christ first coming in the manger, look to His coming among us now in Word and Sacrament and look forward to His second coming as righteous, conquering judge. Did you know that Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas that began the day after the feast of St. Martin (which is November 11 which was the day Martin Luther was baptized and the reason he was named Martin)? As early as the 5th century, it was called “St. Martin’s Lent.” In the ninth century, Advent was shortened to the 4 weeks before Christmas yet preserved the characteristics of a penitential season (that’s why we used to use purple paraments as a counterpart to Lent). However, it also has the expectation and preparation for the feast of Christmas as well as for Christ’s second coming.

Advent is reflective and penitential and yet expectant and joyful. Theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing –  sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.” Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness and a great way to think of Advent. Plan to join our Divine Services to be prepared.

[Laskey, Mike Jordan. “This Gaudete Sunday, rejoice despite the heartbreak all around us”, National Catholic Reporter, 11 December 2014]