by Pastor Craig Swenson
The following verse is from a hymn that did not make the cut of selections to be included when the ELW was published. It is a great reminder of what is central for us as we enter this next season in the life of the church.
The advent of our God
Shall be our theme for prayer;
Come let us meet him on the road
And place for him prepare.
From my office window, I look out at the flow of traffic on War Memorial Drive. Thousands of cars pass by Salem daily. (What an outreach opportunity!) There is an ebb and flow of the traffic as lights at the intersection change allowing cross traffic a chance to share the road. Not only do I see traffic, I also often hear horns as motorists express their “opinions” to those who get in the way, not going as fast, have made an error in judgement and compromised safety. Several years ago, I spent two weeks travelling 500 miles on local roads by bicycle. First, because it was fun but I soon realized I could use it as an opportunity to study human behavior. I learned that some motorists are willing to share the road while others are impatient or not aware of a smaller and slower traveler on the same pathway. That experiment taught me to be more attentive as I commute to and from work, am out shopping, while at a restaurant, at church, or recently at a polling station. Who is sharing this journey of life and how is my behavior affecting others? It is interesting what one can learn if more attentive to one’s surroundings and the opportunities right around us every day.
Advent causes us to slow down from the hustle and bustle, the planning and preparing and ponder with eager anticipation how God is at work shaping our lives. Our faith teaches us that God comes to us time and again, unceasingly and in abundance. God’s love for us does not stop at intersections, does not take a break, does not honk us off the road. God’s love comes and dwells among us. Emmanuel is his name, the one who loves us unconditionally and wraps lovingly around us. Do we notice? Is the message of our faith influencing how we live and the intention we make to prepare a central place for the living presence of God?
I love this season of the year. It is filled with hopeful anticipation. While the story of God’s love is old, the telling of it is timeless. I invite you to open your heart to the renewing and life-giving presence of God’s greatest gift for the world, Jesus the Christ, cradled in a manger, pondered in our hearts, lived among strangers, died on a Friday but rose for our salvation. The story of Jesus is the greatest and most beautiful story, cherished, lived out daily and longing to be shared so that it impacts our lives and those around us.
I am wishing you the warmest and most sincere blessings in Christ this Christmas. I encourage you to invite a friend, a family member to share the story of Jesus this Advent/Christmas season. May the blessings of Christ and his continual and renewing presence dwell in us and flow through us. Blessed Christmas!
Christmas Worship Times are:
Christmas Eve., December 24 at 4pm (family worship) and 10pm (traditional candlelight worship)
Christmas Day, December 25 at 10am