Last week, on the First Sunday of Advent, we listened to the language of apocalyptic yearnings; that God would split open the heavens, shake up the mountains and reveal a mighty deliverance to the people of God. Such proclamations are normally offered with considerable fear and foreboding. The prophet of doom shakes a finger in our face with messages flush with threats and dangers. This week we focus on the other side of the story. We are offered these warnings, not because God seeks our destruction, but our deliverance. God cares for us with the love of a Shepherd caring for sheep. We are alerted to danger for our benefit and assured of the continual care of God on our behalf. This is also the story of Advent. God comes to us, not as grouch and doomsayer, but as an innocent little baby. In the presence of God, we are offered comfort and peace. Join us as we worship a God well acquainted with our potential to get lost and our need to be back on track with purpose, hope, and joy.
The First Sunday of Advent begins our month-long march for receiving the Christ child. While it invites a period of waiting, it is not an idle waiting. We wait and we watch. We watch and we pray. We pray and we work. Gospel waiting is a time for preparation, vigilance, and faith. We walk together on this journey. Our common worship sets the stage. Like all delicious meals and thoughtfully-given presents, the ingredients of careful planning and attentive readiness insures an experience of joy and celebration. Join us as we carefully make our way through each Sunday. Welcoming hope. Practicing peace. Experiencing joy. Receiving love. Hallelujah, the child is coming.
This is it. The end of the Christian year. We start all over next Sunday with the First Sunday of Advent. We begin our steady and measure preparation to welcome the Christ child and then, walk with him through the long days of winter and toward the anticipation of another season of renewal and new life. But first, we must say goodbye to the passing of this year. We are grateful for the turn of the seasons. As believers in Christ touched by transforming grace and eternity, we balance our lives with celebration and maturity. Through all of our joys and losses, we seek to grow more mature in wisdom, knowledge, and wholeness. Sometimes our progress is slow. Sometimes it grows by leaps and bounds. All the while, we pray for the inner rebirthing of our spirits, even while our physical stamina may be wasting away. In worship, we mark our time, with one another and with the loving God who has granted us life and directs this progression through childhood, youth and adulthood. As we gather in thanksgiving and service, we sing our prayers and lift up our hearts. Join us this Sunday for a sacred day to remember our place and find strength for our journey.
As we finish our Thanksgiving dinners and end the Church year, we think about how we can live into the generosity of Jesus. Jane Tatum and Aaron Austin sing a song by Susan Werner in Sunday Worship.
This Sunday we continue to focus on the power and necessity of hope to guide us through our lives. Guiding our attention are two challenging passages of Scripture discussing the day of the Lord. Often this is imagined as a day full of fear and dread. The reality of our world pushes us to acknowledge how life is not always easy, enjoyable or quickly understood. Yet, despite our troubles, God calls us to live with faith, love, and, yes, lots of hope. As we soon prepare for the gifts and teachings of Advent, we seek inspiration and celebration when the day of the Lord can appear. Herein, lies a hope to inspire us through all difficulties and points us to the tangible and meaningful impact we might have, living and acting as a faithful people, full of love and service to a world in so desperate need of both.
In October of 2013, our church participated in a special study of scripture and what we called a compassionate conversation to further address and define our policies and commitment to the full inclusion and participation of those with a diverse sexual orientation or identity. A part of this process was a study led by Pastor Mark Johnson on how we might frame and address this issue for our church and community.