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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
During this Advent/Christmas/Epiphany Season, I will focus my attention on the epistle lessons of the New Testament. Don’t worry. We will read the traditional stories about Jesus’ birth (the annunciation, the birth, and the coming of the Magi) on Sundays and at our Christmas Eve worship services.
The Church has appointed Advent as a time to reflect on the Second Coming of Jesus which includes remembering his “First Coming” in the manger in Bethlehem. Familiar themes include watchfulness, repentance, obedience, and restoration.
Over the millennia, the Church has adjusted its expectation of the Second Coming of Jesus. The Apostle Paul was forced to do this as the first generation of Christians in his churches began dying. But Paul never gave up on his hope of the Second Coming.
During Advent, we will be reading from two of the Pauline epistles and the epistle to the Hebrews. These epistles encourage Christians like us – who are living between the two Advents of Jesus. In the scant verses the lectionary provides us, many new themes emerge. However there are three we will focus on:
FIRST ~ Restoring One Another’s Faith
This year has brought many changes to the lives of the congregation: job losses, medical diagnoses, and unexpected deaths. As Americans, we consider faith a fairly private matter. Paul did not. As a pharisaic Jew, he felt Christians were obligated to assist each other in the faith. Who at Church would you be willing to discuss your faith with and to receive encouragement from?
SECOND ~ Expressing Gratitude for Those Who Share in the Labor of the Gospel
Did you know that Elmhurst has over 30 Christian Communities? During Advent, the worship committee will provide cards addressed to each of those communities. They encourage you to take one card and write a note of appreciation and gratitude for those laboring in the vineyard with us.
THIRD ~ Following Jesus by Doing God’s Will
The countdown to Christmas has begun. Many of you probably have compiled your to- do lists and have begun checking them off. Perhaps we could add this line to our Christmas list: follow Jesus by doing God’s will. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to ask how we ourselves are revealing our faith.
During this Advent may we affirm with Jesus and with one another:
See, God, I have come to do your will.