Spirit of God – Breath of God

The angel said to [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; He will be called Son of God.” – Luke 1:35

It is the season of Advent!  Are you ready?

As we know, in the Christian Church, Advent represents the period of time beginning four Sundays before Christmas.  It is the season of preparation and making ourselves ready for the arrival of the Christ Child and it’s sometimes marked by prayer and fasting.  Advent (not capitalized) means “the coming into being or arrival of a notable person, thing or event; so, for example, we can speak of the “advent” of spring.

During the season of Advent, we almost always focus on the coming of Jesus to the stable in Bethlehem.  But this past month, I got together with Allison Becker to discuss Advent this year.  As many of you know, Allison is a child of this church, born and raised here.  She and her twin sister, Laura, were supported by this church when they attended the University of Redlands.

Toward the end of her college studies, Allison began to feel the call of God to the vocation of ministry within the church.  She spent time prayerfully discerning God’s call on her.  She went under care of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos as an Inquirer and later a Candidate.  In the process of discernment, she attended Fuller Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity.  She has been certified by the Presbytery, ready to receive a call, and has been checking into opportunities to serve in the life of the Church.  We can keep her in our prayers as she seeks God’s will for her.

Following her graduation from seminary, Allison has been very involved in ministry in various churches, serving as a guest preacher and Bible Study leader.  She has many gifts and talents.  Personally, I think she has a tremendous gift of intercessory prayer.  She’s an excellent teacher and preacher.  And she also enjoys painting.

So when she offered to do an exhibit of some of her paintings for the season of Advent, I was intrigued.  The exhibit is titled: “Spirit of God – Breath of God.”  There are five paintings on display in the Gallery of the church at this time and they will remain up through December.  They are paintings of the Holy Spirit.  I asked Allison if she would like to work with me to coordinate a unified Advent Series.  She seemed excited about the idea and so we got together to discuss the possibilities.

When we got together we had a wonderful conversation discussing Advent and the Holy Spirit.  Obviously, Advent usually focuses on the arrival of the person Jesus Christ.  But how does the Spirit of God fit into the Advent equation?  We seldom focus on the Holy Spirit during this season.  And so we thought we would “mix it up” a bit and devote this Advent season to the arrival of the Spirit of God.

As we reflected on the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters at Creation and leading the people of Israel through the wilderness in the form of a column of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, we thought of how the coming of the Spirit was anticipated in the Old Testament.  We also saw how the Spirit was actively present in the person of Jesus Christ.  And finally we talked about the outpouring of the Spirit of God on the people of God at Pentecost.  Allison and I jokingly said, “We can do three sermons: one on Creation; one on Incarnation; and, one on… uh… Pentecostation.”  Ha hah!

So I look forward to this Advent Season, as we approach it from the lens of the Holy Spirit.  And I love including artwork in the formation of the series.  The first Sunday of Advent is November 30th and we will focus on Creation – the Sprit of God Hovering O’er Us.  The second Sunday of Advent is December 7th and Allison will be preaching on the Incarnation – the Spirit of God Amongst Us.  The third Sunday of Advent is December 14th and my sermon title will be “What Does Pentecost Have to Do with Advent?”  On the 14th, we also hope to have our children participate in worship.

The fourth Sunday of Advent is December 21st and we will be blessed by our Sanctuary Choir presenting its annual Christmas Concert titled, “Canticle of Joy!”  Each of these Sundays will be great opportunities to invite friends to church.

On Christmas Eve, we will have a combined candlelight worship service.  All church family and friends are encouraged to come, from our Hispanic Ministry and our Kenyan sisters & brothers, to our Homeless Christian Fellowship.  Allison will be preaching on the Spirit of God Indwelling Us.  Following the worship service, the Hispanic Ministry will be hosting a Pot-Luck Con Vivio in McFarland Hall.  Everyone is invited to enjoy the food and fellowship.

There are a couple of other activities for the Advent season.  The church will be hosting a “Meet the Artist” reception on Saturday, December 6th, at 7:00 p.m. in the Gallery of the church.  Come, enjoy some refreshments, and hear what Allison has to say about her art work.  Following the reception, we are encouraging our members to go to the Santa Ana Art Walk together (the Art Walk is a monthly event in the Santa Ana Artists Village), where we can share the love of Christ with our neighbors.

The KidSingers will also be having their annual Holiday Concert this season.  This year the concert is earlier in the day than usual.  It will be Sunday, December 14th, at 12:30 p.m. at the Nixon Library East Room in Yorba Linda.  Because of the earlier time, we’ve rescheduled our church session (leadership) meeting for Sunday, December 7th, at 11:30.  For more information, check the KidSingers website.

Also, the Laundry Love Christmas Party will be held on Thursday, December 18th, four blocks from the church at the Laundry Mat at 406 E. Santa Ana Blvd.  Check their website.

For details on all these events, check the church website.