A Critical Season of Advent

Pastor’s monthly newsletter article for December, 2015

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.

There are times when the prospect of living as a faithful Christian in the 21st Century seems extraordinarily daunting to me. When I consider the challenges facing our world, our nation, even our congregation, I am aware that I don’t have within me the capacity to overcome the obstacles in our way. That is when I am most inclined to pray this 13th Century prayer, attributed to St. Francis. It reminds me that when I make myself available to be an instrument of God (even though my human brokenness would rather be in charge…), God’s power is then able to move through me in new ways. Peace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope, light, even joy become possibilities, because they depend on God’s power and presence, not my own.

Our world is facing significant dangers these days. From hunger and poverty, to international conflicts, to environmental concerns, to the prevalence of terrorism, these are challenges we must meet as an international community. Our nation is similarly challenged. From national debt, to racial tensions, to deteriorating infrastructure, to the seeming inability of our elected representatives to work together for the good of the nation, these are hurdles we must clear. At Saint Peter we are experiencing critical shortages of volunteer commitments and financial support.

So how will we equip ourselves to engage these issues faithfully and robustly? Perhaps the ancient tradition of Advent might help us. During these early-winter months that are typically filled with chaotic schedules and frenzied activity, the church offers us Advent – four weeks of waiting, and watching and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas.

Advent typically includes the invitation to enter into:

  1. Worship; on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, drawing near to the presence of God in the Word and in the Meal.
  2. Meditation; intentional times of quiet, listening for that still, small voice of God which speaks to us, even when we are too busy to hear it.
  3. God’s Word; perhaps using a service like the ELCA’s daily Bible Verse direct e-mail (to sign up, visit: http://tinyurl.com/ELCA-Daily-Bible), or my own OneLittleWord.org.
  4. Service; becoming involved in one or another of the numerous service projects available this month at Saint Peter, or elsewhere in our lives.
  5. Prayer; using these words of Francis, or other words of our own, to ask God into our lives in a way that transforms us to have a faithful impact on the world around us.

Advent can be a time of deepening our faith, and empowering us for faithful living. Given the challenges that face us, this year may well be a critical time for us to do just that. I will be praying for each of you, that you might step away from the busy pace of life during this season, and rest in the presence and the promise of God. I can guarantee you: it will be well worth the effort!

A blessed Advent Season to you all,

Pastor Dave