12/17 - Pastor's Post

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    One week to go! Next Saturday at this time we will already have had our early service (5:00 pm, incorporating the children's pageant) and be preparing for the 10:30 pm Candlelight Service (preceded by choir music and Christmas carol singing beginning at 10:00).
 
    December 24 is a special time at First English, and even though I say it every year, I'll say it again in 2016 with no apologies: for most of us, there's no place we'd rather be at that time than in our beloved church. There is a special magic in the air that is almost palpable, a feeling informed by Christmases past but also very much about hope for the present and the future, for we know that our time is always in God's hands.
               
    Tomorrow, Sunday, December 18 we hear Matthew's version of the prologue to the story of the birth of Jesus. Of course we hear about Mary: the Gospel reading on the Fourth Sunday of Advent traditionally features her. But this year we also hear about Joseph, Jesus' earthly father. He is an important figure in both Christmas stories, but after the first two chapters of  Matthew and Luke seems to fade into the background. Mary on the other hand is still there at the foot of the cross and active at the time of the early church (Acts 1:14).
           
    But read the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke again. If Joseph had chosen not to believe the dream related in our Gospel for December 18, for example (Matthew 1:20-25), things might have turned out quite differently. If he had not followed the command of the angel given in a dream to flee to Egypt with the new-born child entrusted to his care (Matthew 2:13ff.) the infant Jesus might have been a victim of cruel Herod's attempt to thwart God's promise of the Messiah. But Joseph was obedient. He did what God directed him to do, and, although not the principal player, nevertheless has a key role in the divine drama we hear about at Christmas.
           
    We too may feel that sometimes we are in the background, that the role we have been assigned in life is not all that important, that we are bit players or just along for the ride, so to speak. But the Bible tells us otherwise. It relates a story from creation through redemption and stretching out to fulfillment at the end of time, in which each person who follows Christ and is obedient and open to God's working in and plans for his or her life has a key part.
           
    One of the ways we can discover our place in the greatest story ever told is by immersing ourselves in the Bible, the Word of God. Here are the readings for this last week of Advent:
 
Sunday, December 18: Come, Emmanuel Isaiah 7:10-14
Monday, December 19: Filled With the Spirit Luke 1:5-25
Tuesday, December 20: Call His Name Jesus Luke 1:26-38
Wednesday, December 21: Rejoice and Sing! Zephaniah3:14-18
Thursday, December 22: Holy Is His Name Luke 1:46-56
Friday, December 23: He Is Coming! Malachi 3:1-4
Saturday, December 24: Light in the Darkness Luke 1:67-79
 
    As I said before: daily devotions serve to set our sights on things above, to help us get though the day ahead in spite of all the stress, disappointments, personal issues and other things which do not "help to make the season bright." In this spirit let us observe a meaningful Advent! I'll reserve my wishes for a Merry Christmas to all for six days from now when we gather on December 24 at 5:00 pm or 10:30 pm to hear once again that the Word has become flesh and dwells among us, full of grace and truth.
 
Faithfully yours,
Pastor John Schweitzer
Last Published: December 19, 2016 9:54 PM
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