This week we begin a new church year with the season of Advent. This is a time when the Church invites us to slow down, savor the anticipation of Christmas and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. Yet too often we have found the busyness of preparing for Christmas soon overwhelms our best intentions for prayer and pondering.
But whether we like it or not, this year will be different. As the pandemic surges around the country, this year’s Advent is beginning to look a lot like this year’s Lent. To avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19, we are by necessity paring down our usual seasonal activities. Get-togethers are being canceled or moved online, and we are left with sincere feelings of loss. It is painful to have to skip or alter the traditions, celebrations and togetherness that help us celebrate what matters most…we are mourning right along with you.
While we are planning to continue indoor worship services through December, we are aware that those plans are subject to change based on conditions around us. That’s why we are continuing to develop our technical capabilities and offer more options for worship. We are in the final stages of being able to have Sunday morning services go ‘live’ on Zoom (and hopefully Facebook). These will also be recorded and available at other times you want to watch, including on YouTube. You can also come to the parking lot and pick-up worship booklets and communion cups and listen to the service on radio station 93.1 FM. We’ve come a long way since March!
Despite its challenges, this Advent can be a time of great opportunity if we let it. Since the Church is calling us to slow down, and the pandemic is forcing us to slow down, maybe this is the year we allow Advent to truly take root in our hearts. Perhaps our social losses can lead to spiritual gains. In this newsletter you will find information on our upcoming on-line Advent Study, our virtual Christmas ‘pageant’, and a special Christmas celebration offered by the National Lutheran Choir.
This Advent also offers a chance to ponder more deeply the real meaning of the season: that we are preparing our hearts not just in memory of the Lord’s birth but in anticipation of his coming again. With a global pandemic endangering the health of millions, political divisions straining our relationships, and climate changes threatening habitats, many of us are feeling anxious, frightened, overwhelmed. We are in need of healing…physically from a virus that has claimed too many lives, emotionally from strained relationships, spiritually from the fatigue of doubt and fear. But remember that Jesus was born into a world facing disorder, oppression, and fright as well. People then, as now, longed for a Messiah who would save them…bring them wholeness and healing.
So never forget that Advent is above all a season of hope, joy, peace and love. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and we look forward to his coming to bring healing and restoration of all of God’s creation. He made his dwelling among us in order to save us, and we rejoice in the hope of one day meeting him face to face. This year, when so much is unknown, let us cling to that hope ever more fervently.
Even during our current time of darkness, we find reasons for hope. Stories abound of the courage of our health care workers and the creative perseverance of our churches. Truly remarkable scientific advances seem to be bringing a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. The people of God are generous and are helping one another in concrete and meaningful ways. And, of course, Jesus Christ dwells among us. What better source of hope could we want?
So while this Advent is going to look and feel different, if we make a point to center our hearts on the coming of Christ, and remain filled with his hope, this season will be not only reclaimed but enriched. We may find ourselves celebrating the most Advent-like Advent ever.
Yours in hopeful expectation... Pastor Debby