Advent is one of my favorite times of the Church Year, which is helpful given my odium for bitterly cold weather. It's during this period of waiting that I witness the most generosity and warmth amidst the chaos of holiday cheer. I am especially fascinated to see the various traditions that families share when they come together. I still don't get why some will put a pickle in the tree while others buy fruitcake that no one wants to eat, but if it brings people joy, then I won't judge it. Traditions keep us grounded as a community. Theologically speaking, traditions are a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in Scriptures. We Christians believe that they are derived from the oral teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Our Jewish siblings believe that they are ordinances orally given to Moses from God that were not written in Torah, and our Muslim siblings believe that they are sayings or acts given to the Prophet Muhammad that were not written in the Quran. Perhaps we do not share the same traditions and beliefs as other denominations, but we are all connected through the tradition of having faith. Martin Luther writes that “Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.”... Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly.” In other words, faith is something that we work on over the course of a lifetime that transpire in a series of epiphanies or seeing the face of God in the dirt. Maybe your faith has been shaken and shattered, I know that mine has, but beyond my own abilities, Jesus is there to pick up the broken pieces and create something new. We Lutherans have living traditions, so that God can breathe new life into our dry bones. Whether you are celebrating the same traditions for years or are making new traditions with the people you love, do not be afraid to share the tradition of your faith. If it's important to you, then others will benefit to know about it. There are many opportunities to give here at Apostles Lutheran. I have been told that a few of you practice the art of Alternative Giving, or monetary gifts in honor of someone, at Christmas. Alternative Giving can include and is not limited to giving to the youth so that they can purchase gifts for our two Salvation Army families, or giving to LIRS, an organization that purchases gifts for children in corrective detentions. Other gifts can be given to organizations such as Bread for Life, the Free Clinic, Lutheran Family Services. If you’re in the neighborhood for something sweet, our Youth's bake sale is on December 15th. They will use the money to purchase groceries and prepare a meal for our local homeless shelter. Every-where in the world, there are people who need help. Apostles has created a monetary service apart from our budget known as the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund, aka the PDF. This separate account has been set up solely to assist people in dire times of crisis. If a fire has ravaged someone’s home before Christmas, the PDF is here to ease some of that burden. If someone requires assistance in paying for a funeral, the PDF can be used to help lighten the load. We rely on members to replenish this fund every year in order to continue this ministry to our community. If you would like to give to any of these ministries, then please contact our Treasurer, Tina Britt for further assistance.
The Holidays can be a wonderful and stressful time of year, and while seasons of feast and famine will alternate from year to year, the love of our God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit will never change. I pray that you have a blessed Advent and Merry Christmas. I will be writing to you from beyond the page in the coming new year.
In God's Abiding Love,
Pastor Jeniffer Tillman, MD