Introduction Sunday, November 28, 2021

If you’ve been around the church a while, a few words, images, and colors come to mind when we say the word Advent: hope, waiting, preparing, blue, darkness, candlelight, “O come, O come Emmanuel.” For many, none of that makes sense, especially as stores, houses, and downtowns are transformed into a winter wonderland of Christmas lights and glitter. It makes for a wonderful time of year.

So how does Advent fit in?

Traditionally, Advent has been a season of prayer and preparation for the second coming of Christ. In a nutshell, if Christmas is the first incarnation of God, Advent prepares believers for God’s second incarnation.

But if we’re honest, Advent feels like the grandma who won’t let you eat dessert before supper … or the coach who won’t let you play in the game if you haven’t come to practice … or the Lutheran pastor who won’t let you sing Christmas carols until Christmas Eve! “Do we really have to wait??”

… or is it more than that? Well, yes it is. Rather than “waiting,” think of Advent as a season of “hope-filled anticipation” for what God has done and continues to do through Christ. During Advent we return to the voice of the prophets and consider why Jesus came to us in the first place — to bring justice, mercy, fulfillment, and redemption. As we “wait” for the day when those things will be fully revealed, we live in “hope-filled anticipation” for Jesus’ promise to bring glimpses of his kingdom even now.

The title of this year’s devotional is “All Earth is Hopeful,” a phrase drawn from Alberto Taule’s beautiful Spanish Advent song, “Toda La Tierra.” The first and fourth verses are particularly beautiful reminders of why Advent matters:

All earth is hopeful, the Savior comes at last!
Furrows lie open for God’s creative task:
this, the labor of people who struggle to see
how God’s truth and justice set everybody free.

We first saw Jesus a baby in a crib.
This same Lord Jesus today has come to live
in our world; he is present, in neighbors we see
our Jesus is with us, and ever sets us free.

Throughout these four weeks of Advent, we invite you into deeper reflection about what gives you hope. As you think about your future, what are your hopes and dreams? As we continue to navigate these unusual Covid waters, where does our hope come from?

Again this year, members of two sister congregations have prepared these Advent Devotions: Christmas Lutheran in Bethlehem and St. John’s in Salisbury. In September 2019 – four months before we caught wind of a pandemic — Christmas and St. John’s entered into a formal partnership in which we agreed to accompany one another in our journey of faith, walk in solidarity in our struggle for mercy and justice, and learn from the other’s experience and wisdom. This Advent Devotional gives us the opportunity to hear from members of both congregations, each writing from very different contexts, but yoked together as sisters and brothers in Christ.

We stand in great thanksgiving for what God is doing through our two congregations. Even during these most unusual days, we stand as witnesses to the grace, love, and mercy of God — something this world is certainly longing for.

Advent blessings to you.

Pastor Rhodes Woolly Pastor Munther Isaac
St. John’s Lutheran Church Evangelical Christmas Lutheran Church
Salisbury, North Carolina, USA Bethlehem, Palestine

Introduction Sunday, November 28, 2021

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