We enter today into a feeling of hope.  Hope for the excitement of Christmas coming, of the preparations we make for travelling and hosting visitors.  We wait and hope and plan for the time coming near when Jesus will be born.

There are lots of ways we mark and track time.  My cell phone woke me up this morning with an alarm.  My calendar, waiting in the kitchen, reminded me to flip the page as we begin a new month.  My advent calendar, with a candle behind the first door, helps me to decorate my home to prepare for company.  Maybe your advent calendar at home has candy in it.  That is good prep for your guts to get used to all the cookies and sweets that you will eat this month as you visit Grandma’s and attend Christmas parties.

Here in the church, we have the stained glass windows to remind us of the seasons.  Today begins our advent wreath tradition.  Each Sunday, we light a candle to bring us closer to Christmas Eve.  And finally, as we did a couple years ago, the Sunday School has prepared for the congregation this calendar.  Each day leading up to Christmas, you will be asked to contribute pocket change to the Soup Kitchen.  Each donation is based on a simple question: How many women in your house go to school and/or work (add a nickel for each)?  How many family members got a flu shot (50 cents for each)?  These things remind us of how fortunate we are and that we can help others in small ways throughout this month.