In one of the years I was doing youth ministry, we ended up attracting a large group of teens from outside the church. This happened because one youth invited another, who invited another, who invited another, and so on. That year in December I had planned the last youth group of the year a week or so before Christmas. I had a selection of Christmas themed games to play and the plan was to read and talk about the birth of Jesus found in the gospel of Luke. Before youth group began, two of the teens from outside the church asked me what we were doing tonight, and I replied we were going to play Christmas games and read the Christmas story. They looked at me with blank faces, and asked “What Christmas story?”
I was a little surprised and replied, “The story of why we celebrate Christmas.” They looked at each other confused, before one asked, “Do you mean The Night Before Christmas?”
That night those two teens heard the story of Mary and Joseph, of angels and shepherds, and a baby being placed in a manager for the first time. They had grown up their whole lives putting up a Christmas tree, getting presents, and celebrating a holiday without knowing why the holiday exists. I honestly was taken back that these two particular teens had never heard the story of Jesus’ birth. However, I probably should not have been. While Christmas is still a Christian holiday, it has also moved to becoming a cultural one. These two teens were probably not alone. For a lot of people the Christmas story has less to do with the bible and more to do with a BB gun. For a lot of people when they think of Christmas music they are more likely to think of Mariah Carey singing all I want for Christmas is you, instead of a song like Silent night. Talking about Christmas and a savior will get some people to think of Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer saving the day as opposed to a prophesied messiah asleep in a manager.
That year I was reminded just how important it is for us to tell the story year after year, because there are people who do not know it. Not only do we need to tell the story, but we need to constantly point to the fact that God so loved the world that he promised a savior, and when Jesus was born, that savior had come. This is why for all of Advent, our focus will be on scriptures from the prophet Isaiah that point to the coming messiah. These scriptures foretold of a coming messiah, and they should inspire us to continue to point to that messiah.
The church season of Advent has more or less been consumed by the cultural celebration of Christmas. So Advent is no longer a separate time, but it is just part of the “Christmas season.” Advent is more than just a countdown to Christmas though. It is meant to be a spiritual journey of preparation to the coming of our savior. So let’s celebrate Christmas, but let’s make sure in doing so we are telling the story and we are pointing people to Jesus. That is, after all, the reason for the season of Advent in the first place.