Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday was Christ the King Sunday, Thursday is Thanksgiving, and next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent!! As I begin to prepare for Advent, for the coming of the King, I look back on the year and am amazed at what has taken place in just a year. Advent not only marks the beginning of preparations for Christmas, it marks a new liturgical year! What better way to end the liturgical year than by celebrating who Christ is, the Alpha and the Omega, the hope in the world, the light in the darkness. I think it is very fitting for Thanksgiving to fall right before Advent starts, a day where we gather with family and friends, a day to give thanks for life's blessings, and we cannot forget a day to eat some really good food!
The last 12 months have been life changing for me. 12 months of continual, focused discernment, living each day serving a God who is present all around me. It has been an exciting 12 months, I was ordained as an elder in my church, served for 10 weeks as an intern at my home church, applied to preach at a Festival of Young Preachers in just under 50 days, declared a Theological Studies major, set up a visit to Princeton Theological Seminary in February, started attending a new church while at Hanover, have taken on some new leadership positions on campus, and have been continually looking for opportunities to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ while serving an awesome God! It is so awesome to be able to sit down at night and reflect on the day, to ask myself where I have seen God at work in the world around me, where I have been aware of God working in and through me! I am thankful for all of these things and so much more!
Serving and sharing God with the world around me is the most joyful thing I do. The thing I am most thankful for this year is learning how to continually be rooted in Christ. By being rooted I am able to live in love (Ephesians 5:1), I am able to be strengthened in all situations. I am able to be a light in the darkness, to be captured again by the love of God on a daily basis. Life often has its ups and downs, we climb a mountain and fall into the valley, but as we were reminded on Christ the King Sunday, we do not walk alone; Christ the shepherd carries us, walks beside us, goes through the narrow places with us, and leads us into the tough dark places of life. One of the best images I turn to in reading scripture is that Christ is constantly going ahead of the disciples and preparing a way for them. He would walk ahead of them, he was ahead of the sick, the poor, the children, and the widows. Jesus Christ is always in the middle of life's storms as well. In the boat Jesus was there in the middle of the storm to calm it, and when the men brought the paralyzed man to see Jesus, He was inside the house as they lowered him down! Our Shepherd prepares the way for us and is in this life walking with us. Jesus did not stand back and let others do the work, Jesus Christ got down and dirty to serve us!
As we prepare for Advent, as we prepare for the King, let us keep in mind that Jesus Christ is our shepherd, Jesus Christ goes before us to prepare the way, Jesus Christ walks with us through the calm, through the storm, through the good the bad and the ugly! No matter what the cold and dark winter brings, the reminder of the Advent Candles, burning brightly in a world that often seems dark and dreary. Jesus Christ is the light; the hope, the joy, the love, and the peace we long for!
May we all be rooted in Christ during this Advent season, during this new liturgical year! May Jesus Christ be the center of our focus, not the presents, the food, the rush, the money, the perfection of Christmas as America knows it, but may we be reminded of a King who is with us always, to the very end of the age, now and forever. May we join as a nation of believers to shine brightly, reflecting the love of Christ not just for the next few weeks of Advent, but for the new year that is to come.
Be thankful for a loving Shepherd, be thankful for Advent, be thankful for each other, and be thankful for the opportunity to serve one another in all that we do. To God be the glory now and forever!
May the picture above be a reminder of the path we all follow each day, whether it be smooth like the asphalt, rough like the stone, crunchy like the leaves, may it always be beautiful serving the God who created us and knows us intimately!