Christmas Lights

Read Romans 13:11-14

During this time of year the nights grow longer. That makes being a kid riding in a car pretty tough. Though it certainly helps when video and DVD players and iPods light up the night.  As a kid during Christmas many times we would make the trek from Vermont to Pennsylvania to visit family.  During that trip one of my favorite things to do was to look out my window and see the Christmas lights we’d see every once in a while.

From time to time as we make our way along God’s path through this Advent season we catch glimpses of the light of our heavenly home. These hints come to us as a favorite hymn or song in worship. They also come as a renewed awareness of the forgiveness, acceptance, and peace God offers through the pastor. They especially come as that wonderful taste of the heavenly feast when we celebrate the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood.

These glimpses thrill our hearts and remind us of the wonderful place waiting for us. The lit candle on the Advent wreath-and the three that remain to be lit in the coming weeks ­remind us how little time is left to prepare for the day that is rapidly approaching. Paul reminds us of this same fact in our Bible reading today.

Like a beautifully lit house at Christmas time, Jesus shatters the darkness and fills us with the warmth of His glorious light. He is the Light of the world who came into the darkness and vanquished it through His suffering, death, and resurrection. And each of us who were reborn in His image in Baptism shine like stars in this dark night of sin, giving those who do not yet know Jesus Christ a brief glimpse of God’s love through our words, attitudes, and actions. How brightly are you shining in the crowded store aisles, in the long checkout lines, in the jammed parking lots, and on the busy roads?

 

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we would be Your lights, shining brightly in this dark and selfish world. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may live as You choose, bringing the light of Christ’s love to this dark world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Gathering

Read Isaiah 2:1-3a

Holidays are great fun, especially when many generations of family gather together for Christmas. Imagine getting a message from a family member in Michigan: “I can’t wait to spend Christmas with you at Mom’s!” Then you get an e-mail from a brother in California: “Looking forward to catching up when we get in for Christmas!” And then there’s a text from a third in North Carolina: “3 1 /2 wks & counting-can’t wait …” Our excitement builds when we realize we will be together again.

Our brothers and sisters in the reading from Isaiah are excited to share a message with us.  They say “Let’s go up to the house of God!  Let’s go home, with the people that we love, with the people that care about us.”  But it isn’t a once-a-year invitation, this invitation is given to us every time we meet in the name of Christ.  They want to experience this as often as possible!

I have experienced an example of this at the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) National Lutheran Youth Gathering.  Every three years 35,000 youth from around the country gather together for one purpose, to experience the love of Christ.  Many times we gather as strangers, but we leave as friends.

The last two gatherings I went too I experienced something amazing.  In the days, weeks, and months before the event I saw thousands of texts, e-mails , instagrams and conversations filled with excitement in anticipation of the event.  We were not disappointed.  I saw things, experienced things and felt things that I have not encountered anywhere else.  And in the weeks after the gathering many more e-mails, texts, tweets, and posts crisscrossed the nation and the world: “That was so great! Wish we could do it again!”  “See you in three years!” “This was a life changing event” Now imagine a worldwide gathering that won’t end after a few days but will last forever! That’s heaven.  I was completely amazed at how that one event changed the lives of so many youth.

It took a lot of hard work and planning by hundreds of dedicated people to put the National Youth Gathering together. But to put our heavenly reunion together it took Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection: He suffered and died to take away our sins so we would be fit to come, and Jesus is now preparing a place for us to stay eternally.  May your Advent season be blessed as you prepare yourselves for family gatherings, Christmas parties and the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

THE PRAYER: Lord, open our ears to hear our brothers and sisters calling us to gather together.  Let us  join our voices together as one.  Lead us to call those who have not yet heard Your invitation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

First Sunday in Advent Devotions

Read Psalm 122

Did you receive a Thanksgiving invitation this year?  I guess all of us who regularly have the chance to gather with family and friends for the holidays take it for granted.  The wonderful smells of the holiday meals, the laughter filling the house, and everybody catching up with events in each other’s lives make the holidays so special.

But today Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end and all those happy get- togethers must break up.  Roads are packed with travelers scattering their separate ways.  Of course in a few short weeks, we’ll hear a new invitation:  “Come on up for Christmas!”

The church is sending out its own invitation this Advent.  In the next few weeks people in churches all over will be decorating, learning parts for the Christmas pageant, and practicing anthems for Christmas Eve.  We are doing all of this because we want to invite you to come on up for Christmas as together we will celebrate our Savior’s coming.

This invitation is unlike any other that you will receive.  You will not have to worry about getting stuck at the kids table or not having enough mashed potatoes.  There is room for all and your cup will overflow with wonder and amazement.

That’s what Advent is all about, and that’s what these Advent devotions are all about.  We will recall why the Lord Jesus came down from heaven so long ago.  We will recall that the only way we can call heaven our home was because Jesus took our guilt and sin upon Himself and suffered and died in our place.  Then, putting our faith in Christ, we will join our brothers and sister in Jesus Christ in joyful expectation as we journey on together.  So light the first Advent candle, and accept our invitation.  Prepare the way of the Lord.

THE PRAYER: Gracious and Loving God, thank you for the opportunity to gather with family and friends.  Thank you also for always being there for us even when we might not see you there.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Lutheran Websites

 

There are three new Lutheran websites that this blog has been listed under.  I wanted to share these resources with you since there are other Lutheran (and non Lutheran) blogs listed under them.  If you want to see some of my favorite blogs check out the sidebar for those links.  Over the next several months I will try and tell you more about my favorite blogs.

But for now here are the Lutheran websites for your enjoyment:

1. Living Lutheran — This is a new site run by the ELCA.  There are stories about people living out their faith posted on the website. There is a great resource of Lutheran blogs, video’s and as well as other resources.  On the website you will find posts on culture, and there will be plenty of conversations about what is happening in the world from a Lutheran perspective.  I was a featured blogger on their website recently so you know it has to be good. 🙂

2.  Lutheran Central — This Lutheran website was launched in 2000.  However, after about a year the website was too much for one person to keep up so it stood dormant for a number of years.  In January of 2009 the site came back to life and it is a great resources for people to use to keep up on all things Lutheran. Their goal is to connect Lutherans on the web and there is lots of information on it so check it out.

3. Theological Degrees Online — This is not a “Lutheran” site.  This is a website that helps people find information about getting a theological degree.  The website is run by Timothy Dalton.  However, there is a post in his blog where he lists the Top 50 Lutheran Blogs and yours truly was listed number 12.  So if you want to know what is happening in the Lutheran Blog world check out this post — also if you are interested in pursuing a theological degree check out other parts of the website.

Lots of great information on all of those websites.  Check them out and feel free to link back so others can check them out as well.  The more we can get connected online the better off we will all be.

Pastors 24

 

Recently a pastor and fellow blogger over at Hacking Christianity, declared Wednesday October 27th to be Pastors 24 day. He posted a project for pastors who are on twitter to tweet everything they do for a period of 24 hours.

Now I am not a big twitter user.  I have an account and I have some automatic tweets that go out from time to time, but I spend more of my time interacting with people on facebook than twitter.  I keep my twitter account because I think it is great for certain areas of ministry and life, but it is not something that I am really connected with right now.

I do however love participating in projects like this.  I was a heavy twitter user at the ELCA National Youth Gathering, and I am pretty connected with Twitter in the spring time as ELCA Synod’s have their gatherings and pastors and lay people from all over use twitter to let the world know what is happening in their Synod.

This project for me was fun to share with the world what I do on a daily basis.  I was more tuned into what I was doing because I had to share it.  I think it made me a better pastor.  I was less likely to get lost on facebook instead of working on my sermon or a Bible Study, I stayed with one project instead of going from one project to another, I was dedicated to finish what I started so I could include it in my tweets.

One of the neat things with #pastors24 was to see what other pastors do, and how much ministry is going on out there.  Not only did I see how other pastors used social media in their ministries and their lives but I got a gimps of the intentionality that many pastor’s have (like me) in praying for their congregational members when they see them online.  If a congregational member posts something on Facebook that is bothering them and I am not able to get a hold of them right away, I say a prayer for them.  I am not alone in this…..

I found many pastors starting their day either with some exercise, or devotional time.  It most likely centers them and prepares them for the day.  My day does not really “start” until about 8:30 after I spend a few hours helping my kids get up, and get prepared for the day.  It is only then that I grab a bite to eat and head out the door for work.  My devotional time comes more in the afternoon when the hustle and bustle of the day starts to quiet down.

Through this experience I have learned that  every stage of life there is an adjustment that we have to make in all aspects of who we are.  My spirituality needs to be adjusted when I have small children to when I have teenagers to when I become an empty nester.

Thank you fellow pastors for participating and teaching me more about this crazy life called ministry.  #pastors24

I am part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  I have to say that we are privileged to have a great leader guiding the ELCA in Presiding Bishops in Mark Hanson.  He has lead this church during a time when numbers are down, people are upset, and in some places there is no sign of hope.  As I watch him in his leadership, I hope to one day be half of the leader that he is.

One of the reasons I admire Bishop Hanson is that recently he added his voice to the more than 3,000 videos in the It Gets Better project.  He spoke words of reassurance and hope to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.  He reminded them that they are beloved children of God.  No matter where you stand on LGBT issues, you have to agree that no one deserves to be bullied and treated poorly because of who they are or what they believe in.  Please watch the video and share it with other people.