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Pastor's Pen

Advent

Pastor's Pen December

We find ourselves in December and in the middle of the season of Advent. In Advent we wait for the coming of Jesus and the expectation that Christ will be reborn in our hearts. As we wait with expectation, we celebrate Peace, Joy, Hope and Love. This is a special time in the church year as we celebrate the new beginning of Christ.
 
As I ponder new beginnings, I'm reminded of the new beginnings Melissa and I had as new parents. Yes, there was indescribable joy and happiness, but also many sleepless nights and restless days. New beginnings can be like that, often bringing stress, agitation, financial burdens, and additional tasks to name a few. Advent, a time for renewed hearts can easily become about expectations of gifts, decorations, baking, visiting Santa, etc. But it also can bring about generosity, family gatherings and compassion in those that are not regularly practicing those things.
 
I also want to acknowledge that the season of Advent and eventually Christmas is also a depressing time for some. There are many circumstances that lead to this time of hope, peace, joy, and love to be considered instead as despair, turmoil, sadness and loneliness. There are many people who are grieving the absence of people in their lives that would otherwise be present. There are many people going through financial struggles that a Christmas meal, let alone any sort of gift make this season a season of struggle.
 
 
I want you all to know that I am with you in this journey, wherever you find yourself in this season of Advent. I am here with you in your joys and celebrations, I am here in your lowest of moments, and I am with you to remind you that waiting the rebirth of Christ in our hearts is why we break out the candles, the banners, the Christmas trees and our generosity to those who need it.
 
And I always am going to remind you that we remember Christ’s new beginning and celebrate our continued journey together. And in the spirit of the season, we must share the Good News with all who will hear.
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours!

With the Greatest of Hope!
 

Erik

December Pastor's Pen

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
 
The happiest, most joy-filled season of the year is upon us. For many of us, there is a new energy in our steps these first few weeks of the season. We are filled with excitement as we see Christmas being birthed around us – trees and lights and garlands. We walk into a store, and are greeted by sales folk in holiday hats; by Christmas Carols being played over the store's speaker systems.
 
We are currently in Advent, though, not Christmas. We are in the season of preparation, of getting ready for Christmas. It's not just about making sure our Christmas shopping is done, of getting the presents wrapped, of decorating our homes. It's also about getting ourselves ready to welcome Jesus into the world, and into our hearts. Preparing a place for Jesus to be Emmanuel – God with us.
 
If you're like me, when I think about preparing for someone to come, I get a little bit panicky. I want to make sure everything is perfect. Are the floors clean? When did I dust last? Are the cat boxes cleaned out? Is the bathroom safe to enter? Have the kids picked up all their junk from around the house? I think about all the stuff I have to do, in order to feel like I have done enough to make my guests feel welcome.
 
The reality is though, most guests really couldn't care if everything is perfect, as long as they are welcomed with smiles and handshakes, hugs and friendly greetings. So what if the bookshelves aren't dust-free. So what if the bathroom mirror still has fingerprints on it? Who cares if the floor hasn't been vacuumed in a week? Those things are secondary to the welcome that is extended.
 
The same is true for us at Christmas as we prepare for Jesus' arrival. God is well aware that we are far from perfect, and doesn't expect perfection from us. Just look who God used as hosts when Jesus came 2000 years ago: a teenage unwed mother, a bunch of smelly and dirty shepherds, Magi from other countries and religious traditions; not exactly the perfect hosts. Yet, God chose to come, Emmanuel to that motley crew.
 
As we prepare to welcome Jesus this year, and in our lives, let's focus less on making everything perfect, dusting the corners of our hearts, making sure we look great; instead lets focus on how we live out that welcome, how we extend it; not just to our Savior, but to all those who we encounter on our journey from the manger to the cross.
 
May the extravagant welcome offered by the “least of these” to a babe in a manger, be our guide as we welcome the “least of these” in our lives and faith.
 
May the blessings and joy of the Christmas season be with you and your families.
 
With the Greatest of Hope!

Erik

December Pastor's Pen

If you're like me, I feel like I've been passing myself going in recent days. December tends to be one of the busiest months of the year. Maybe there is a reason why God chose this time to announce “Peace on Earth”. We just need to be still and wait for the Lord. Waiting is one of the major themes of Advent; and we’re not very good at waiting! I am sure that you have heard the desperate prayers, “Give me patience, Lord, and right now!”
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a hard time sitting still, I have a hard time waiting too. What makes it worse is that we live in a time when instant gratification is common. Hungry? There are 24 hour drive thru’s. Want to watch a movie, there is Redbox or Netflix or Hulu. I send a text message to a friend, and they see it almost instantly. We can turn on the news channels and get breaking news as it happens. When we post something on Facebook, we quickly get feedback on how cute our kids pictures are, or whether or not someone agrees with our words. Waiting is tough, being forced to wait is even tougher. 
Sometimes we have to wait a long time to see any good come out of a difficult or troubling situation, and sometimes the good comes in unexpected ways. Hasn’t it been your experience that when we wait long enough, when we are patient enough, God acts?
The Psalmist writes, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) But, it is also written, “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently” (Psalm 37:7a), and, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God's word I hope.” (Psalm 130:5) God is always out ahead of us, God has the answer to our prayers long before we even pray. As much as it might irritate us, it is actually in the waiting that God is working in us!
The Israelites waited for centuries for deliverance from exile in Babylon and centuries more for the promised Messiah. When Jesus finally came, they didn’t recognize him, indicating that they weren’t really waiting for the Lord all the time, but rather they were too busy with their own agenda. Advent only makes us wait four weeks; yet are we any better at recognizing Jesus? Are we too busy with our own agenda and our society's celebration of the holidays to wait for the Lord and actually allow him to work in us during this Advent time of waiting? 
Advent means coming, and Jesus tells us at the end of the bible, “Surely I am coming soon!” We have to wait! It can be difficult, but the One for whom we wait, makes all the difference in the world.
“Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”
With the Greatest of Hope!
 
Erik