Tuesday. December 1 Reflection by KC Gubrud, Director of Operations
"... you long to see us, just as we also long to see you."
Those words were written by Paul nearly 2,000 years ago and they could have been written today.
This passage from Thessalonians hits home. There's nothing like a global pandemic to reinforce how deeply meaningful and life-affirming connections to brothers and sisters in Christ are. And nothing like the season of Advent to emphasize longing and waiting for God.
I miss seeing people live and IN PERSON. I especially miss the everyday chats I used to have with CtK BIble Study members on Monday and Tuesday mornings. I miss Wednesday's bustle when Elders in Action folks mingle with Choir Members mingle with confirmation families and everyone is eating Ginger's delicious Wednesday Night meals. Such pleasant memories! I miss seeing CtKers and hearing about the life and death matters and I really miss hearing about how your garden is doing, what books you are reading and what's new with your kids. I miss being with my CtK community of faith. I miss connecting with you all.
As the pandemic continues into its tenth month, I am working on the art of connecting during a pandemic. During phone calls and ZOOM sessions, I set aside time to ask people how they are doing AND to leave space for an honest response no matter where it takes the conversation. I have mailed cards, sent out-of-the-blue texts to friends and family. And, I have never prayed so earnestly as I have in these past months.
Please pray with me: God, we long for you. Help us stay connected to you and to each other. Amen.
Monday, November 30 Reflection by Nate Crary, Director of Worship
I have never paid more attention to the moon than when Chelsey and I lived in Beit Sahur in 2013-14. Beit Sahur (pronounced “bayt sahoor”), a sleepy southern suburb of Bethlehem located in the occupied Palestinian territories, is home to two Shepherds’ Fields, where angels and stars once suddenly appeared, leading those first followers of Christ to where the newborn lay, Immanuel, God with us.
After we arrived for a year of living and accompaniment, our day-to-day lives quickly became pretty simple and routine. Chelsey and I would spend four days a week volunteering for a few hours alongside Palestinian-born English teachers at two K-12 Lutheran schools. A couple days a week we would go spend an hour with Michael, our Arabic teacher. We cooked most of our meals in a spacious home we had to ourselves, located on the property owned by the Rishmawi family, our hosts. We even ventured about a mile from our home to work out at the YMCA (pronounced “yim-kaa” by locals) a few days a week.
While we settled in to this simple pattern of being, time seemed to suddenly stop. It’s like I was waiting for it to all be over as soon as it started. My mind couldn’t stand being present and would resort to meandering down an emotionally and spiritually desperate place of exhaustion.
Noticing how the moon grew and shrunk each night served to remind me that time is always passing, tomorrow is just below the horizon. And, in those dark days during the quiet desert nighttime, the brightness of the moon and the stars reminded me that I am never alone. God was and is always with me.
As you wait for what’s next, I pray that your mind can find peace and quiet in the shadows of nighttime, remembering God’s unexpected and relentless presence. Amen, come, Lord Jesus
Sunday, November 29 Reflection by Peter Hanson, Lead Pastor, CtK.
This text for the first Sunday of Advent serves as a plea for all of God’s people to stay awake, to keep alert, for we know neither the day nor hour of God’s arrival. While this wake-up call began generations ago, the people of God over the years showed a seeming mastery of the “snooze button.” Throughout history, God’s people were in a near constant state of falling out of favor with God, and coming back to God.
Like the people of old, we are waiting for God again this Advent season. Our waiting, our anticipation, our preparation; our keeping alert and awake—all of this is nothing less than living in hope, expecting Christ’s return. By this waiting, by these preparations, by our keeping awake and alert to whatever God is up to in the world around us, we insist that there is more to the human story and more, too, to God’s own story than that which has been experienced already.
As people of faith this hopeful expectation leads us to speak up for justice in a world Christ is continually reconciling to himself. We are called to enter into that reconciliation, as way of bearing witness to the one who is coming among us again. We don’t know how or when Christ might show up once again right in our midst, and so we keep his work alive as we wait. We stay awake. We remain alert to the possibility, we speak of what it means that Christ has come and that he is with us now and that he will come again. We live in hope, and we look early and often for signs of Christ’s hope all around us.
A prayer: O God, help us to stay awake, to be alert, to keep watch for you as you continue to break into our world. Remind us that you who are coming are already here: Emmanuel, God with us. Reveal yourself to us throughout these days of Advent waiting. Amen.