Thursday, December 21, 2017

Light in the Darkness

Today, we will be getting just over nine hours of sunlight. By now, you are probably used to driving home in the dark as you take quick glances at all the light displays on the houses you pass. For folks who work a traditional nine to five job, all the daylight and brightness is squandered by a career that demands you stay inside. For others, even the sun’s brief invitation is not convincing enough to step out on chilly December days. 

It is in these bleak days that we wait with hope for God to do something. We light candles, pray, and anticipate the light that shines in the darkness, which cannot be overcome. Many of us even celebrate the birth of Christ all December long, confident that the light of Christ will shine down and prevail on this earth.

Maybe, though, the darkness is getting to you. Despite all the parties and carols, you are just not in what folks call the holiday spirit. There could be any manner of reasons for you to have little Christmas cheer this year. You may think that Christmas is for the people who start listening to holiday music in October and get their cards in the mail on time every year while sipping cocoa and baking batch after batch of cookies. Yes, this holiday is for them, but I am pretty convinced people like that are elves anyway. What makes Jesus’ birth so meaningful is that he didn’t come on the brightest day, when everyone was full of joy. You don’t need to hang lights or wrap presents perfectly in order for Jesus to decide it’s time to come to earth. You can even give in to the darkness completely, and Christ the Savior will still be born. 

Jesus is coming to dispel the gloom. Christ’s arrival gives hope to the hopeless and light to a world shrouded in shadow.

If you are really observant of the sun’s movements, you may notice that things are about to change. We have been through the worst of it. Today, the sun was out a whole two second longer than yesterday! Can you believe it? Tomorrow, there will be seven seconds more. And so on, until all the darkness has been scattered, and we can actually spend our days in daylight. Jesus shines in much the same way. So when you come to worship on Christmas Eve, come with a heart that hopes for the arrival of light and joy in our wintry world.

Pastor Chad

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Real Work of Advent

Dear St. Mark friends,

The season of Advent is a busy time with lots of activities and events.  Yet, it also is a time of quiet reflection as we await the birth of our Savior Jesus.  In the midst of it all, we pause to give thanks to God for the assurance of hope and the promise of salvation.  We also give thanks for those significant persons in our lives by whom we are blessed beyond measure. 

Our spirit of thanksgiving this Advent season stands out in a culture that may not share our optimism and faith.  Lowell Erdahl speaks to this juxtaposition in his devotional, “No One to Thank.”

Alvin Rogness likes to say that “the worst thing about being an atheist is having no one to thank.”  When life is terrible, it is possible to stoically endure it.  But when we are overwhelmed by joy and overflowing with gratitude, what can we do with no one to thank?  It is difficult to reconcile the goodness of God with the world’s evil; but, for many of us, it is impossible to reconcile the goodness of the world with the absence of a good God.  Our intellectual problems are not solved by dismissing a God of love from the universe.  We then face “the problem of goodness” – how do we explain the beauty, joy, and meaning that are also a part of life?  Even now, we see the miracle of our own lives, shattered as they may be, and recall the joyful moments of love we have known.  We ponder the beauty of sunsets and symphonies, flowers and friendships.  Above all, we think of Jesus, who came through sin and suffering to become our beautiful Savior.  Remembering all this, we again dare believe that there is someone to thank.

I encourage you to make the time this Advent season to thank those many persons who have blessed your life and helped shape your faith in God.  Above all, let us give thanks to God for the birth of Jesus, our beautiful Savior!

Walking this journey of faith with you,

Pastor Mark

Looking Back

Dear St. Mark friends, 2019 is a year I will never forget.   On January 13 of last year, my second granddaughter, Madlyn Olivia Hagen,...