By Pastor Nathan Clements, American Lutheran Church

Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night, though dark the winter and cheerless,
the rising sun shall crown you with light, be strong and loving and fearless.
Love be our song and love our prayer and love our endless story;
may God fill ev’ry day we share and bring us at last into glory.
~ “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn” vs. 4,

Winter can be a difficult season of the year for many people because of the progressively colder, shorter, and cloudier days. I have known friends with Seasonal Affective Disorder and have witnessed the emotional and physical toll it can take. One friend had a lamp that was advertised to cast light similar to the sun. He turned it on in November, and I’m pretty sure he left it on all the time, day and night, through March. Its warm glow served as a reminder that the cold darkness of the season surrounding him would eventually pass, and that the warmth and new life of Spring would surely return. I think it really did help him.

God’s people were living in a season of darkness waiting for the coming of the Light of Life, the Messiah. For generations the prophets of old had spoken of this Messiah, that he would be a mighty shoot from the stump of Jesse, that he would be the Son of David, that he would be the shepherd of God’s people, and that he would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” As the generations passed, the darkness of waiting for the Messiah surely grew darker, but trust in God’s promise remained the ray of hope. And then, at the right time, Christ our Lord was born into this world. The Light of Life took on human form. Emmanuel, God with us, became reality. And, everything changed, because Perfect Love became our brother in Christ Jesus.

But the darkness did not vanish overnight. The life of love and of service that Christ would model for us would be met with anguish and distrust by many. The shadow of sin would continue to blind the hearts of those who clung to their illusion of power and authority. Because of this, Emmanuel would be put to death by the very people He came to save. And yet, this love was far greater than sin, darkness, and death itself. The Light of Life rose as brightly as the sun on that Easter morning, and its glow was cast upon all people forever.

As people of faith today we live in the reality of Emmanuel, while also recognizing that the shadow of sin continues to affect us, our brothers, and our sisters. This Advent and Christmas season we continue to sing and pray that “Love be our song, and love our prayer, and love our endless story. May God fill ev’ry day we share and bring us at last into glory.” And, may the Light of Life continue to shine in the times, places, and situations that need His unfailing presence. Crowned with light, may we be strong, and loving, and fearless in sharing Christ with others.

May God bless you this Christmas. As we complete our journey to Bethlehem to greet the Christ child anew, know that God is with us each step of the journey. The gift of new life in Christ is ours not only this Christmas, but with every sunrise until we are brought, at last, into His glory.

Merry Christmas, and happiness and blessings upon your New Year!

December 24: 4:00 & 6:00 PM
Candlelight Christmas Eve Service
with Holy Communion