Welcome to Advent Lutheran Church
What We Do
Sunday worship: Holy Communion at 10am
Holy Week and Easter
The Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday) April 9th
Festival Liturgy 10 am
Maundy (Holy) Thursday April 13th: 7:30pm Solemn Eucharist
Good Friday April 14th: Tenebrae, 7:30pm (No Eucharist).
EASTER SUNDAY April 16th
8:30am & 10am Festival Eucharists.
Easter recess April 11,
Classes April 18, 25
Closing Fun Day May 9th
Learn more about our work.
What Keeps Us Going
Our Loving God created this world.
The world is now fallen and the evidence of that is all around: sickness, war, injustice, abuse.
Yet the world is Redeemed from its fallenness by God's coming in Jesus Christ, God's son.
This redemption is only partial, however, until the Lord returns. In the meantime we grasp glimpses of the fully redeemed world when God's Word is preached and Sacraments are administered; when we love and care for each other; when we work for peace and justice.
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM PASTOR:
THE TWO STORIES OF CHRISTMAS
So often in life we can’t see the forest for the trees. We get hung up on the details, which if you are a brain surgeon are very important; but miss the “big picture”. This is what has happened with our contemporary celebrations of Christmas.
We get involved with the gifts we need to buy and wrap, and the events we need to plan and attend. We send cards and receive them. We contact our family and friends and see when they are coming to visit, or when we are going to visit. Those who came at Thanksgiving – we need to go to at Christmas.
Our life in the church is much the same: involved in the details. Last Sunday we trimmed the church’s tree and decked our hall. Our choir has been busy rehearsing for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Since we began our new Church Year November 27th with The First Sunday in Advent, we have begun reading from Matthew’s Gospel (this is the “A” year). So last Sunday (4 Advent) we read from the beginning of Matthew’s birth story. Here’s where the details come in and where it is so easy to concentrate on them and miss the larger picture.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. Matthew 1: 18-25
This lesson is only the start of the Matthew story. We’re all familiar with the other parts of it. Wise Men from the East come, following his star, to their home in Bethlehem, and bring gifts for the baby. They avoid the wicked King Herod by not telling him where the potential rival baby king is born. So, Herod has all infants under two killed. Joseph and Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt. When they hear of Herod’s death, they return, but hearing that his son was just as bad, move far from their home near the Jerusalem capital (Bethlehem is just outside of Jerusalem), to Nazareth, in the Galilee region.
Now you may be quick to remind me of some other details that are missing. The baby was born in a stable, and not only did Wise Men come, but shepherds. We know this because of the manger sets with which we decorate our homes. But let me remind you of one detail that is often omitted: there are two different birth accounts, one in Matthew, which we read this year; and another in Luke which we read two years from now.
The two stories are different in many ways – if you like details. For Matthew the baby is born in the “house” in which Mary and Joseph live in Bethlehem. For Matthew there are Wise Men, but no Shepherds. For Luke Mary and Joseph start by living in Nazareth in the north, and come to Bethlehem simply to register for a tax. They find no hotel, so they bed down in a stable. No wise Men come, but Shepherds who were told to come by an angel. In Matthew the Angel of the Lord addresses Joseph; but in Luke the angel addresses Mary. For Luke there is a relationship between Mary and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother – this is not mentioned in Matthew. On and on…….
In order to see the forest and not get bogged down with the trees, we need to look at what each story is trying to say about Jesus - what they have in common.
Both assert that the Father of the baby is NOT Joseph, but the Holy Spirit. Jesus, both believe, was a divine intervention of God into the world. Jesus is not just any ordinary prophet. His death is not just the typical tragic end for a prophet – his death is redemptive. Jesus is Messiah, Savior, God’s Son.
Both assert that Jesus was known all his life as “Jesus of Nazareth” – a small town in the north far from the religious capital of Jerusalem in the south. But, both wish to proclaim that Jesus was somehow in the line of King David, so born in David’s home town of Bethlehem outside of Jerusalem. This proclaims that even though Jesus was rejected by the religious establishment, Jesus was truly Jewish in the line of none-other than the greatest of all kings, David. Jesus was thoroughly Jewish, but opened Judaism and God to all people.
Both assert that the baby was recognized and worshipped by outsiders. Shepherds was dirty strange men who lived in the fields with their flocks – they were neither religious nor learned. The Wise Men were foreigners from a distant land who knew nothing of the Jewish Law.
When you sit down and explain to your children and grandchildren what Jesus is all about please remember a few basics, and don’t get bogged down with the details:
- Jesus was a wonderful gift from God to us. It was not earned or deserved.
Jesus was God’s way of renewing, reconciling, restoring the broken world.
- Forget Santa and the naughty or nice idea, the endless lists of “I want this” or “I want that” concepts. Gifts are best when given graciously, to those who cannot reciprocate. Like God’s gift of his Son Jesus to us, gifts come “out of the blue” without being asked for, or deserved.
- Although Jesus came from God to all people, Jesus and all his followers
and family were Jewish. Their Scripture is what we call “the Old Testament”.
- Steer your children away from anti-Semitism. “The Jews” did not kill Jesus – stubborn religious fanatics who had sold out to the pagan Roman occupation forces rejected Jesus and sought to get rid of him.
- Live a life of love, forgiveness and acceptance as a model for your children and grandchildren. Reject hatred and violence.
- Jesus’ life was one of service, healing, teaching and comforting. Jesus
enfolded the outcasts, the sick, those rejected by society for not conforming to all the rules.
- Teach your children, by example and words, to imitate Jesus rather than the violent heroes of sports or the movies or video games.
- Jesus’ life was one of obedience to God his father. Jesus’ whole life was
conversation with God, seeking to do God’s will. Before his death he prayed that he would be spared, but said “not my will, but your will be done.” From the cross, as he died, he proclaimed gracious
forgiveness to one of the criminals dying with him, and forgiveness to those who executed him.
- Teach your children and grandchildren by word and deed to be tuned into the presence of God. To attend worship with joy. To seek to be in the presence of Jesus at all times. To forgive and be forgiving. To accept forgiveness graciously.
In our fallen world of violence, greed, and pride; let us remember the humble child born – wherever – whenever – however – and celebrate his proclamation that the Kingdom of God has come near. Let us accept God turning us around. Let us rejoice in God’s loving presence.
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