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As believers, we should experience Advent as a time of wonder, surprise, and gratitude-wonder at the great gift that has been given to us through the birth of Jesus, and surprise and gratitude at the blessing that God has poured into our lives by claiming us as God's children.

It's hard to imagine anyone ever being more surprised by a turn of events than Mary, a young girl whose future was changed in an instant with the appearance of a mysterious angelic visitor. It's hard to wrap our minds around the enormity of what was being asked of Mary-and ofJoseph, the man who had promised to marry her. Scripture does not give us much insight into the feelings they had about this surprise announcement, though we know that Joseph's initial plan was to quietly end the engagement. Perhaps they recalled the scriptures that had been prophesied from old and were able to draw some measure of comfort from God's promises. Maybe they were shocked and afraid, needing to process what was happening. Perhaps they struggled and questioned and fought the destiny placed before them.

Advent begins on Sunday,November 27, and we will start an exciting new Advent program, The Wonder of Christmas. This program explores four elements of the Christmas story that teach us about the wonder of God’s great love for us: a star, a name, a manger, a promise. As we look to these wonder-filled aspects of the Christmas story, we will rediscover that the true wonder of Christmas is found in the love of Christ and made real in our hearts when we share that love with others.