The season of Advent is upon us. This beginning of the church year. So happy new year! And also my favorite season of the church because we wear blue. It’s the time of the year we spend time talking about joy, hope, peace, and the promise of the coming of our savior.
The waiting time, the anticipation of the coming of Christ. Don’t they say that that is really the best part? The anticipation. And you see, this coming of Christ that we are waiting for isn’t really all about a baby. It’s about Christ to come again. Which is why all except the third Sunday the readings in Advent are a little apocalypty or end of the worldy. They seem out of place as we look towards Christmas.
And it feels like we spend a lot of time waiting on Jesus. In the here and now to come to us. When is Jesus going to come?!?! And so it always sounds like the end of the world. Even Jesus starts to sound like it’s the end of the world. But Jesus says just a little more. Jesus is urging us to believe, to put our faith and hope in him, in God. That part of this waiting time is about faith, about belief.
During this season, there are a lot of movies about Christmas. Particularly, the “Christmas spirit” and not so much about the coming of Christ. Though, in all of those movies, there is a lot of meaning you can take away.
One of these Christmas movies is called the Polar Express, it stars Tom Hanks.
The polar express is a train that takes select kids to see Santa Claus in the north pole on Christmas eve during an all night winter adventure. It picks up kids that just need a little something more in their lives, a little more hope, faith. The main boy we follow is named Chris.
Chris has all sorts of doubt. He doesn’t really believe any of this is real or even that Santa is real. He’s at that age where he’s starting to doubt everything. He goes along for this wild adventure and meets all sorts of inquisitive characters that slowly help him break this shell of why he is so closed off.
Then finally he gets to the north pole and meets Santa. Theres a huge rally going on, all the elves are in the streets to see Santa off to deliver his gifts. And the reindeer are jumping up and down and all the bells on the sleigh are jingling like crazy. And Christ still thinks he’s asleep, that it all is just a dream.
And Chris can’t hear them. He cannot hear the bells on the sleigh. He hears silence.
Because in order to hear the bells you have to believe.
And finally, with Santa before his very eyes, Chris talks to him, touches him, and he knows Chris. He knows what's in Chris’s heart. And finally Chris hears the bells.
Santa says you can ask for just one thing. Anything. Any present you want in the world. Chris asked for one of the bells from the sleigh.
He wakes up Christmas morning with this bell. And he can still hear it ringing, his little sister can hear it ringing, but his parents cannot. They think the bell is broken.
Throughout his life, slowly his sister couldn’t hear it, his friends couldn’t hear it. But Chris could always hear the sound of the bells because he never stopped believing.
This is the kind of thing that I think these stories about the Christmas spirit can really speak to us and our faith. That year after year when we are preparing for Jesus, it can be hard to hear the bells, to have faith.
Jesus says, “my words will never pass away.” We believe in all that Jesus has taught. His words to love, his words to serve, his words that are worthy and important children of God. His words that you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be a priest or the most holy. You just have to believe.
His words that he is coming. He is coming for us in the signs of the sun, the moon, and the stars. Do you believe?
At Christmas we can get weighed down by all this Christmas madness, specifically the way we celebrate Christmas in our culture.
And Jesus urges us not to be weighed down with this sort of drunkenness. But to pray and stay focused on what really matters.
Do you hear the bells?
Because this is what we wait on, this is what we focus on, not just during advent but all year. As we wait for Jesus, what are the things in your life that keep your faith alive? What keeps the bells ringing?
When you are sad or depressed, feeling the weight of life bringing you down, what keeps your faith going? the bells ringing?
When sometimes the words of Jesus just bounce off of you because sometimes it so hard to believe in promises. What keeps the bells ringing?
This time of advent is a time of prayer, a time of meditation, a time to stop and take in the promises of God through Christ. Because Christ comes to us. Always.
It’s a time where, this year, instead of focusing on the gifts, the Christmas parties, focusing on having the best Christmas cookies, it’s a time to spend with family and friends, a time to spend renewing our faith either in church or in our devotional time. It’s a time for us to focus on. “What are we waiting for?”
He is coming to bring us love, life, and salvation. He is coming to show us how to live. How to love.
So what do we do to keep hearing the bells ringing in this promise? TO keep our faith alive?
I think if we look around this room, you will see that we find that in our community together, in prayer, and how we support one another.
And so this Advent, I challenge you with the same thing Jesus does. To not be weighed down but rather take some time to renew your faith and hear the bells. Amen.