Dear My Brothers and Sisters In Christ,

There is something really wonderful about the word, advent. When you search the word, one of the definitions you get is: the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. We know this word from other contexts besides religions. We say things like, "Since the advent of the automobile . . . ." Or "Since the advent of the modern era . . . "

Advent means something new is coming. The dawn of a new and better era. This is really what Christmas is about, isn't it? It's the celebration of the advent of a new era. God broke into time and space and entered our world. He is Immanuel, God with us. He broke in the midst of the sin and clamor and the fallenness. He came as a vulnerable baby in a poverty-stricken town to ordinary people, in a time of great political unrest. Advent--Christ's Advent--means that God sees us in our distress, in our sin-ravaged condition, in all of our helplessness.

We'd like to think that we can save ourselves from ourselves. We'd like to think that with a few tweaks here and there, we can create the Heaven we long for. We'd like to think that with a bit more progress and education, we can overcome evil. But alas, we know we cannot. If the tragic events in Sandy Hook tell us anything they remind us that evil invades even the safest, most beautiful environments on this earth. But the hope of Christmas tells us that Christ invades even the most evil, sin ravaged places on this earth.

The 1st Advent is worth celebrating with great joy because it tells us that a new day is here. Christmas is the dawn of something to come. It fills us with hope that the endless cycle of sin and violence and hopelessness of human history will someday be reversed. The curse that was put on mankind, on the universe is not forever. God broke in as man and God and by his life, death, and resurrection defeat sin and death. As hymnwriter Isaac Watts wrote:

No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow:  Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.

We should celebrate Christmas joyfully with presents, with food, with singing, with festive decorations because Jesus has come. God is with us. And because the First Advent signals a second advent, a coming of a King whose Kingdom will end all other kingdoms and whose rule will create the world we all long for but can't create. His glory will spread through the earth and sin and sickness and death will be no more. The enemy will be forever silenced.

So, celebrate Christmas, not a scrooge, not as a scold, but with overflowing joy. Because the Lord has come.

Rev. Hoi Tran