More than Just Ritual – Pastor Ben Zabel

The manger, lights, and candles, the presents and the jolly old elf. The songs we hear and the shopping. The joy that surrounds the Christmas season is exciting for the religious and the irreligious alike. But while the joy is real, I believe there is a danger that lurks in the pageantry of it all. I think that, whether you are a Christian, an atheist, or would identify yourself as “none”, there is a danger of everything becoming ritualistic. As the calendar gets busy and the stores get crazy we can easily just go through the motions of our celebrations. In particular, I think that we in the Church are susceptible to having the ritual(s) of the season lose value in our minds and hearts as we simply “do the Advent stuff”.

Churches all over the world celebrate the Advent season by lighting candles and journeying around a wreath. This Advent at Shoreline Covenant Church we will continue this tradition and remind ourselves each week of the gift that each candle represents. The candles, in this order, represent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Each week we will reflect on one of those gifts, through scripture, prayer, song, and sermon. I pray that our lives will be filled with each gift, as we journey around the wreath toward the Christ candle at the center. In this practice Jesus becomes both the goal and the source of growing in hope, peace, joy, and love!

I encourage you this month to take an extra moment to reflect on each day, each week, and each candle that we light around the wreath! Spend each moment inviting God to use the mystery and beauty of this season to grow in you the gifts of Christmas: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, and Christ! And maybe, just maybe this will help this Advent season be more than just ritual for you.

Have a blessed holiday season and I hope you will join with one another on Sunday mornings for worship and reflection as we pursue Christ together!