December 2020

“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” Psalm 80:7

Dear Redeemer Family:

As we end the year of the coronavirus, we have had to learn some bitter lessons. We have had to face a new normal. And people who have refused to learn, have faced a terrible consequence. Things that we have taken for granted have been taken from us. And, we have been changed. I have had to miss the last two Sundays. The first because I was coughing so hard that my wife was afraid that I would scare some of you. I probably would have. Sometimes, it scared me. The second Sunday because the day before Ruth was notified that she was Covid positive (by the way, she has been tested several times now). And, I am currently waiting for the results of my Covid test, which I assume will be positive as well. Ironically, I’m feeling better today. But we have had to change. We have had to slow down.

We are now in the “holiday season,” and we are also asked to forgo certain traditions, like large gatherings. That is right and proper in the present circumstance. We have had to pause our “in person” worship service because of the surging numbers of this virus. We can live with that. Many of you don’t know, but since March, I’ve performed four funerals which were caused by this virus. And many of you do know I don’t like funerals. If this will prevent more tragedies, I’m in favor of it. We will get through this. We have word now of not one, but three vaccines that will be distributed soon. This is very good news. But, we have to wait.

The Church has been nice enough to provide us with a season of waiting. It is called Advent. This year, we may well be forced to actually observe it as it should be. In this season when the cultural gravity pushes us down the hill to Christmas way too fast, it’s time to apply the brakes and slow down. And this year, we will have to slow down. As counter cultural as that may seem, there’s too much to hear, too much to see, too much to experience, too much to take in to hurry through Advent. We sit with Isaiah and his people who longingly waited for the coming of the Promised One. We stand with John the Baptist as he calls God’s people to prepare the way of the Lord.

This slowing down makes room for the Spirit to show us those things in our own hearts and in our own systems that we might rather leave undisturbed and unacknowledged. The Advent scriptures urge repentance, another practice that is best not hurried through. It may not be pleasant to acknowledge the places in our lives where we have wandered; nor it is delightful to hear a word about a God who has standards and who is angry at both individual and corporate sin. Still, that word stands front and center in the Advent scriptures and begs to be heard in a culture that makes no room for such things. Perhaps this year, as all has changed, slowed and spaced out a bit, we can hear these words more fully. Doing so, perhaps we may more fully prepare for the coming of the Promised One, and receive Christ more fully into our homes. Have a blessed Advent this year.

In Christ,
Pastor Rose

December 2019

Dear Redeemer Family:
Advent, preachers love Advent. Preparations for Christmas often stir up a combination of anticipation, anxiety, and excitement. The fact that the days are becoming colder and darker in many places brings other connections. Yet, Advent is the season that most honestly names and acknowledges our human condition of longing, waiting, and restlessness. Advent is usually seen in relation to Christmas, and though it is the time of year when listeners face the most distractions due to the many things on their minds and hearts, preachers have the unique role of being spiritual guides, providing time and space for reflection on key spiritual themes.

The lessons of the season can easily lead us into two traps: one in the past and one in the future. The prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures can cause us to pretend that we are waiting for Jesus to be born as he was two thousand years ago. Some of the apocalyptic lessons can propel us into a distant future, wondering if and when Christ will come again to bring justice and peace to our earth. Though in many ways we are still waiting for the Messiah to come (again), and we need to have a healthy trust in God’s promised future, we are actually invited to wake up to Christ’s presence among us here and now. In the Sunday worship services, we learn to recognize the Lord’s coming week after week, but from there we go to behold anew this Advent coming in the events of everyday life – whether in the news or in our personal circumstances; whether frightening, confusing or even mundane.

The human theme of longing resonates with all of us to some extent. We are always wishing we could delay aging, go back to a certain time in our lives and relive it, or live in an unrealistic ideal situation. In most cases, we fail to embrace fully the present and what is.

Advent puts before us this great mystery: we wait for what we already have. The message of the Gospel serves as a spiritual director, in a sense, inviting hearers to behold anew Christ coming again and again, Sunday after Sunday, day after day, not only in Word and meal, but in the sacramentality of everyday life, day after every single day yet to come. He who was, who is, who is yet to come!
In Christ, Pastor Rose