Christmas is supposed to be more than just presents and decorations and good food. It is a time that must be prepared for with thought, reverence and a sense of joy and gratitude.

That's the thinking of the Rev. Roger Anderson, pastor of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, 2500 E. 3900 South.So the more than 400 members of the congregation are preparing to celebrate the birth, life and gift of Jesus Christ with three half-hour midweek Advent programs.

The word advent is made up of two Latin words that translate into "to come to," the Rev. Anderson said.

"It's about God coming to us with his son, Jesus Christ. The original Advent wreath was only a circle of wire, with some evergreens."

The wreath denotes the "encompassing love of God."

In the early 500s, churches celebrated the Advent season as the beginning of the church year - a time to prepare for Christ, he said. That tradition is very important to Our Saviour's Lutheran Church.

The special Thursday night Advent gatherings, at 7 p.m. Dec. 6, 13 and 20, will center around a thematic puppet show and the lighting of an Advent candle. Each week, a different-colored candle will convey special significance.

The first three candles are "hope" candles of royal blue. The fourth candle is rose-colored, representing Mary, mother of Jesus, and the promise she was given. During Christmas Eve services, a white candle will be lighted to represent Christ.

"People are so busy this time of year they sometimes lose sight of the season's meaning. These special worship services are about taking some time before you go on with the rest of your life," the Rev. Anderson said.

A puppet show, which will highlight the three services, is being staged by Debbie and Steve Shrank and their sons Geoff, Jon and Joey. The program includes songs, scripture readings, a devotional and discussion of the evening's themes, which are promise, light, love and Christ.

"A `promise' candle will remind us God has promised to send his son, Jesus. Light is the wisemen following the star. And love, well, God wants us to love others. We love because he first loved us."

The church will celebrate the season "and the reason for the season" with other events as well. On Dec. 9 at 3:30 p.m., the church will be decorated with "the hanging of the greens." Members will each share something from their nationality, and caroling will conclude the evening.

"We use a lot of evergreens because they are a sign of hope. They are for the thousands of years people awaited the coming of Christ during the darkest time of the year."

The church also puts up a "mitten tree," and the mittens will be donated to homeless people, along with hygiene kits that include sundries like soap, shampoo and other personal items.