Hard to believe that today is the second Sunday after Christmas day. Almost two weeks since we welcomed, again, the birth of Love into the world: in an ordinary baby boy, born probably in the ordinary stall of a cave with animals standing around, placed maybe into a stone trough used as a manger. In the biblical account of this birth, the lowliest of pastoral workers—the shepherds—witness the miracle, along with a couple of angels and probably a couple of exhausted, amazed parents.

From the Letter to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.”

The grace of God has appeared. The Creator of the universe, the source of our life and our being, has come into the world. It is Christmas, again.

This past week, Time magazine named its person of the year, and it wasn’t the person some of us expected it to be. It wasn’t a person who holds a position of rank or power. It wasn’t a person with decades of experience in a profession or field of inquiry. It wasn’t someone who makes people feel good about the way things are, and what our future might bring.

Each of the Sundays in Advent have a theme, did you know that? And the candles we light on our Advent wreath each Sunday have names, did you know that? Last week, the first Sunday, the theme was hope and the first blue candle we lit is called The Prophecy Candle or The Candle of Hope. Next Sunday which is Gaudete Sunday, we’ll light the rose candle along with two blue candles. Gaudete means rejoice and so the theme for next Sunday is joy – the candle, not surprisingly, is called The Candle of Joy or The Shepherd Candle. The fourth Sunday in Advent we light the third and final blue candle, The Angel Candle – the theme will be peace. And finally, on Christmas Eve, with all the other candles, we light the only white candle – the Christ candle – to signify the purity of Jesus and his coming into the world. Today, the Second Sunday of Advent, we light the second blue candle, The Bethlehem Candle, and the theme for today is love.

Today marks the end of the church year. It’s the Last Sunday After Pentecost, the last Sunday in ordinary time. Today marks the culmination of the mystery we have been pondering for the past year, starting with the story of Christ’s birth and the years he walked this earth, teaching and healing, and telling people that God loved them—all of them. It is a day we remember how he died and was raised again, and how he ascended into heaven. Today the church year ends with the reminder that Christ will come again, not just at Christmas, but at some end point, when the kingdom of God, which is present to us in some fashion now, will finally be realized.