Hal Brady

Hal Brady

What are the sights and sounds of Advent/Christmas? To be sure there are many and varied. They range from the sacred to the secular, and they are extraordinary and ordinary.

While standing at the front door of the church and greeting people, one little girl handed me a picture she had drawn during the church service. She had drawn a picture of the Nativity scene and below it had drawn a heart with the message “I love Jesus” in the middle of it.

At Christmas, I was visiting another church waiting for a grandson to sing in a children’s choir. The crowded congregation had just settled down in quietness, and suddenly a little girl and her mother raced to the back of the church with the little girl shouting, “I gotta potty! I gotta potty!”

Needless to say, the congregation came apart in laughter.

There was that Advent Sunday morning when I was preparing to give the children’s sermon. The sanctuary was beautiful with Christmas decorations, the pews were packed, and the children had all taken their seats up front. I thought I had an exceptional message prepared. But just as I was getting ready to begin, a little boy raised his hand and said, “Could I ask you a question?” I leaned down and said, “Sure, what is it?” The little boy asked, “How long is this going to last?”

As you can imagine, when I got the congregation back together there wasn’t much need for a children’s message.

A church seeks to give a special gift to Christ by seeking out at Christmas to express its compassion for the entire community. The people of the congregation buy and collect shoes, socks, clothes, toys and others all year. In addition, they serve a sumptuous breakfast after leading in worship, singing and fun. Three hundred volunteers serve some 2,000 guests.

I asked the question of a small prayer group, “What has been your most meaningful Christmas?” After several of us had shared, one friend touched us all with her most meaningful Christmas.

This friend stated that 40 years ago she was diagnosed with cancer. She spent 16 December days in the hospital. As she was being taken home in the ambulance she heard people talking about Christmas. At that time, she said that she had two infant children and was wondering if she would ever spend another Christmas with them.

Then she stated, “This was 40 years ago, and I am especially grateful for Christmas, for God, for my family and the opportunity to share Christmas.”

Recently, a friend told me how stressed she had been. She had even resorted to talking to herself in her automobile. She kept saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season, and Christ is in Christmas. That’s what it’s all about. And here I am fretting over not having the time to go buy something, when a lot of other people don’t have the means to go buy something. Why should I be stressed?”

Then there was that special Christmas service where we celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Communion with the entire school, home-schooled children, family members and friends. Five hundred students and adults participated, and the behavior was worshipful and beautiful.

Now, all of this has to do with this blessed season through which we are passing. Such are a few of the sights and sounds of Advent/Christmas. To be sure, there will be more to come.

It’s at Advent/Christmas that hearts are kinder, hopes are higher, relationships are dearer, acceptance is easier, ties are stronger and commitments are deeper than at any other time of the year. Thanks be to God!

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The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

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