Pastor Jeff Nehrbass
As Gethsemane walks as a community church into Advent, we wonder what it means to live in the meantime.... that time from now -where we live as a community with the consequences of urban decay and systemic neglect- to that time when the reign of God breaks through the bonds of poverty, class and race and we truly experience the embrace of co-heirs.
Our community of neighbors and volunteers have decided recently to walk boldly and hopefully into that bright future. We asked that, if we could gather the food grocery stores throw away on any given day with the people who most need it, that God might give us a glimpse of what this new world would look like.
After some planning and countless volunteer hours, here is the picture of what happened...
Two hundred people and 10,000 pounds of food. A moment of smiles. A shared vulnerability shared openly and to each other in gratitude that at least, on this day, our children and families would be fed and nourished. Fed with more than anyone thought possible with the food the world throws away. Nourished by the lived experience that Jesus is still miraculously feeding the hungry and creating Christian community when we are bold enough to walk into God’s world. We declare boldly that, as a community living in the meantime, the growing reign of God is closer than anyone of us had dared to hope!
Rumor has it that my grandpa, a full-blooded Swede through and through, used to wake up early Christmas morning and sing a traditional Swedish Christmas song (whether he pronounced the words correct, no one really knew or cared☺). When I was a child (and before becoming gluten-free), my mom used to make Rosette cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar. In our home now, we decorate with over ten trees, hundreds of ornaments and a giant Santa that guards our front porch. And most recently my favorite Christmas traditions include going to a Handel’s Sing-a-long Messiah with my dad to belt out the Halleluiah chorus until I can no longer speak.
Traditions are fun and meaningful ways to bond together with others in common interest and celebration. But they are also reminders of who we are, our connection in faith and what we believe.
When the Wisemen presented baby Jesus with precious gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, they were continuing on with a common tradition of gifting a newborn’s family with items they might need (something we do even today). But they also started a new family tradition: that of following their hearts, and the signs from God, to seek and find the one true Messiah. This year, in our family Christmas traditions may we not only remember our personal heritage and the little things that make the holiday so special to our families and friends, but also remember that very first Christmas when determined travelers followed a star, and the voices of angels, to meet their savior.
Yes, now we may only see Christmas stars atop our trees and hear church choirs singing Alleluias, but we can still recreate the Magis’ journey to the newly born Christ child. We can try to reconnect to our God with their same spirit of faith in this advent season, continuing to seek to meet Christ in our lives every day. We can pledge to offer ourselves, and our time, as gifts to Christ in honor of his birth and the salvation He so generously gave through suffering and sacrifice. And we can remember that, regardless of our personal family heritage, the unique ways we celebrate Christmas or go about living our lives, that we are all part of God’s original Christmas family tradition. We were all adopted into God’s clan through grace and Jesus’ birth. May we continue to stand like the Wisemen that night, in reverent awe over the tiny baby in the manger, giving profound thanks for God’s generous gift to our world.