MONROE, MI – I had the privilege of growing up in the church that I now pastor, Monroe Missionary Baptist Church. I remember always looking forward to the Christmas program our church would put on. Every year our building would be crammed with people from our community celebrating the birth of Jesus along with us. We would have the manger scene, wisemen, shepherds as well as the occasional live animal. Thinking back, those moments were essential for me and my walk with the Lord. I guess I didn’t realize it back then, but God was using those plays as well as my parents, Sunday School teachers, and pastors to help me grasp what Christmas was all about. I will forever be thankful for that.
It wasn’t until I was studying at bible college that I was introduced to Advent. At first, I was pretty skeptical about it. It sounded old fashioned and archaic. As I began to study what advent really was, I felt a sense of freshness within the Christmas season. I first started having my family observe the Advent season. We would light one of the candles on Sunday, and then spend that week discussing passages concerning the theme for that week. We would normally use Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. It was such a wonderful way for our family to keep focus on the blessedness of Christmas.
Some years later I found myself back at MMBC, but this time as a pastor. I was given permission to walk our church through the Advent season. I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure what everyone would think about it. Regardless of my nerves, I found a couple ladies to help me buy a wreath, candles and table then we set it up in the front of the church. Then on Sunday mornings we would have different church members come and read some selected verses for that day to go along with the theme. We would light the candle and have a time of prayer, thanking God for the hope, love, joy, and peace that is found in Jesus. After that, we would have a sermon focusing on our theme.
I know all of this sounds so simple, but for me it was a big deal. As a pastor I can sometimes feel the pressure of being creative and unique, especially during the holiday seasons. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received concerning preaching at Christmas and Easter was simply, “Tell them what they came here to hear because it is the best story you can tell them.” Advent helps me remember this. We don’t have to come up with some special service or creative form of media to be effective this Advent season. We just need to be faithful to tell the good news to those that God brings to our services: God wrapped himself in the flesh, came to this earth to free us from our sins so we can know what true hope, love, joy, and peace really are.
I’m thankful for pageants, plays, concerts, movies, and other types of delivery to get the message of Christmas out to the world. We need to remember the power of God is not in our creativity, but in His activity. This Advent season let us be faithful to trust God with His word. Let us boldly proclaim the truths of this Advent season not trusting in our creativity, but in His power through His Word! Pastor friends, tell them the story they came to hear, and trust God to change their lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Iocoangeli is Lead Pastor at Monroe Missionary Baptist Church which is in the Southeastern Association. He is married to Amanda and together they have 4 children.