“The day are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”
Synonyms for Advent: arrival, appearance, emergence, occurrence, dawn, birth, development.
We are entering the time of year we call “Advent” as we journey toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth. There are many advents within “Advent” – an angel appearing to Mary, an angel appearing to Joseph, their arrival in Bethlehem, the heavenly host appearing to the Shepherd in the fields, to name a few. These advents all point to the arrival of the Messiah – fulfilling God’s promise – born as a child in Bethlehem. We hear the story we know so well again this year and I wonder how it might be new for you? How does God arrive in your life this year? How does Jesus emerge each day for you? How does your faith develop as we travel the familiar path from Nazareth to Bethlehem together?
“Bringing the hope we share in Christ to others.”
This time of year, we see renewed activity in our congregation in a wonderful, transformational way. The rhythm of our days and weeks shifts to returning to school and starting up our children’s and youth ministries of faith formation: WAFL (Wednesdays at First Lutheran) for kids up to 6th grade; LAFEN (Lakes Area Faith Education Network) for our 7th – 9th grade confirmation age learners; and our 10th graders preparing for their “Affirmation of Baptism” service on October 28th. The excitement and energy of these activities are increased by the addition of our new OTC LYO Youth Ministry Associate, Tyler Wright, who will be starting ministry among us in mid-September AND our new Pastoral Care Associate/Visitation Pastor, Pr. Rob Nelson, who will return to ministry among us in this new role in October.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
We continue to celebrate and live in the season of Easter well into the month of May. The flowers, pastel colors, chocolate treats, and Easter Baskets are several weeks behind us now, but Easter and the resurrection of our Lord remain in the forefront of our worship and hearts.
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them...”
This month we will begin our Lenten journey together, as Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th this year. The season of Lent is a time of repentance, renewal, and rededication as we prepare for Easter. We start by reminding ourselves and one another of our mortality with the imposition of ashes and the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Epiphany and the New Year “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests. They offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and, myrrh.”
The magi, or wise men, travelled from a land far east of Israel; they were “foreigners” culturally, ethnically, and religiously. They made their trek to honor a newborn king who was coming for all people, indeed for the whole world! The “Epiphany of our Lord” was the manifestation of Jesus Christ to Gentiles – ALL people – as represented by the magi.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O
Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Isaiah 40: 9
Mountains and valleys – our lives are full of mountains and valleys. We are approaching a “mountain top” of the church year, the seas on of Christmas. It is a high point for many people, emotionally, as favorite music is played and sung, as families prepare to gather, and as children anticipate the holiday celebration and gifts. It is a high point, spiritually, as we commemorate the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child; the moment when God became flesh to dwell among us – a God willing to be vulnerable and humble, born in a stable, and laid in manger. A God willing to enter the greatest darkness of our human experience and emerge as a light of hope, peace, and everlasting life.