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Dec 22 2016

Prepare the Way for Love

Beloved,

The season of anticipation is coming to fullness. This past Sunday we lit the Fourth Advent Candle, the Candle of Love. Our liturgy concluded with these words: “Prepare the way for love and you will find love shining in each and every breath that whispers, ‘Emmanuel'”.

Amen!

And so this weekend we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Saturday night we gather for two services, at 6 pm and 8 pm. The Junior Choir will delight us in the early service. At 8 o’clock, we will engage “The Story in Scripture and Song” as we are blessed with the gifts of the Senior and Bell Choirs. At both services, we will participate in the cherished singing of “Silent Night” amidst a sea of candlelight.

Christmas is on Sunday this year, so we will have worship on Christmas Day at 10:15 am, with Sunday School preceding it. And we will be baptizing a child! The symmetry of holding a baby at the baptismal font as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus is holy indeed. Perhaps the truest fulfillment will be realized in what we prayed for on Sunday when I petitioned, “May the Child of Bethlehem be born in you this season”, and you responded, “And in your heart as well!”

That’s not just talk. Let me offer you a small example. For the better part of three decades in ministry Christmas Eve was more chore than joy for me. When I first came to St. Andrew’s we had only one service into which everything and everyone had to fit. It was blessed but exhausting. I was gladdened when we went to the two services, each with its own distinct character. I love the elements of them! I am warmed by memories like the one year when we had a Living Nativity near the upstairs entrance between services with young people assuming the biblical characters and taking turns on a cold winter’s night. Still, for all of their beauty Christmas Eves tended to be “busy” and hectic and anxious times; events to be completed more than gifts to be received. I was happy when they were finished.

Then it changed for me last year. Weary of the routine I let go and allowed the experience of Christmas to come to me, marveling at the grace it revealed. I found myself sitting in the midst of 23 children for the Children’s Sermon! In those moments I felt so blessed by God and couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. It was an expression of Heaven on Earth. As the evening went on, I surrendered myself to the story and songs rather than managing them. With divine help, and yours, I had been able to “prepare the way”, to make room to receive the abundance of God’s love. With it came the movement of new life and fresh hope within me. Perhaps Jesus’ teaching that we need to let go of the lives we have known in order to find our truest lives, “for [his] sake and the sake of the gospel”, was being realized.

I regret that something that simple took so long! Receiving such a gift is only a beginning for the fresh ways that God’s love will transform us and reshape of our lives and infuse the world for which God’s heart beats.

I am grateful that so many of you have been eagerly embracing the joy of Christmas Eve (rather than the task) for a long, long time. Your candles light the way! For those among us who haven’t had such an experience yet, take heart: this could be the year things change! God doesn’t forget any of us.

So I look forward to seeing you this weekend, as we gather expectantly to welcome the coming of new life together and “find love shining in each and every breath that whispers, ‘Emmanuel'”.

Amen and Amen!

Yours in Christ,

Scott

Pastor Scott’s Archived E-pistles