by Rev. Benjamin Chung (鍾立恆牧師)
Matthew 1:23 ESV "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).
How convenient that today is the first day of December! This marks the first day of Advent, which in Latin means coming. For the Christian church, this represents the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the arrival of Jesus. We recognize this day to be December 25. In present times, we often have a chocolate calendar where we eat a piece of chocolate each day, leading up to Christmas.
At many different times in church history, the anticipation was acknowledged in many different ways. Believers didn’t eat chocolate, but refrained from eating instead. In France in the 5th and 6th centuries, some fasted for three days each week, while more “devout worshipers” fasted even more days, sometimes fasting every day of Advent! (This might be a good thing for us, after the Thanksgiving feasting many of us have participated in!) In Germany, a 19th century pastor by the name of Johann Hinrich Wichern, who was also a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor, sought to help the poor and orphans children with their impatience. He designed a wreath made out of a ring of wood, with 20 small red candles and 4 larger white candles representing the Sundays of December; 24 candles in total. Each day, a candle was lit. Today, only the 4 white candles remain. And these 4 Sundays represent 4 Advent themes of the life of Christ: hope, love, joy and peace.
No matter how you want to acknowledge Christmas this year, whether with chocolate, fasting, wreath making, candle lighting or even giving to the Christmas tree offering, I encourage you to seek a way to acknowledge the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His name is Immanuel, meaning God with us. He came to earth and was born as a human baby, like each and every one of us. Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. And like Him, we can one day rejoice in His atoning work in heaven. Let us all find the time to patiently and thankfully anticipate that joyous day 2000 years ago, when Jesus came to save. Be patient and wait!
馬太福音 1:23 說：『必有童女懷孕生子，人要稱他的名為以馬內利。』（以馬內利繙出來就是『 神與我們同在』。）今天是十二月的第一天，多方便啊！ 因為這表示這是將臨期的第一天，在拉丁文中乃「即將到來」的意思。對於教會來說，這代表了熱切的期待以及為慶祝耶穌降臨做準備的時間。我們認定這一天是12 月25 日。在現今，我們通常有一個朱古力的將臨期日曆，每天我們都會吃一塊朱古力，直到聖誕節為止。
在教會歷史上的許多不同時期，人們以許多不同的方式表達這種期待。 有些信徒因不吃朱古力，就選擇戒口。在五世紀和六世紀的法國，有些人會每週禁食三天，而更多的「虔誠的信徒」會禁食更多天，甚至每天都在禁食！（這對我們來說可能是一件好事，特別在我們當中許多人享用過感恩節大餐之後！）在德國，十九世紀的時候有一位名 Johann Hinrich Wichern 的牧師，他是個城市宣教工作的先驅，專門服事窮人，力圖幫助貧困兒童和孤兒。他設計了一個用木頭做成的花環，上面有ニ十個紅色的小蠟燭，以及四個較大的白色的蠟燭，代表十ニ月的星期日。 總共ニ十四支蠟燭。每天點燃一支蠟燭。 到今日，剛好會剩下四支白色蠟燭未點燃。 而這四個星期日就代表了基督生命中的四個降臨主題：希望，愛，喜樂與和平。
無論您想在今年如何慶祝聖誕節，不論是吃朱古力，或禁食，或製作花環，或燃點燭光，甚至是捐獻金錢作聖誕樹奉獻，我都鼓勵您尋找一種方式來宣告我們的救主耶穌基督的到來。衪的名字叫以馬內利，意思是上帝與我們同在。 衪來到人間，像我們每個人一樣出生成為人類的嬰兒。 耶穌來到世上是為了拯救我們脫離罪惡。像耶穌一樣，我們終有一天可以因著祂的贖罪工作在天堂歡喜。讓我們大家都用耐心和感恩的心期待那歡樂的日子，就像ニ千年前一樣，期待那個耶穌來拯救的日子。 請耐心等待！