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Getting Ready for Advent, Part II: Moving out of our comfort zone

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Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written: ‘Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.’ (Romans 15:21)
How far out of our “comfort zones” this prescription of Paul’s would take us, were we to apply it to our own forms of ministry! Most of us confine our proclamation to places where the gospel is already recognized. We preach before congregations comfortable with the idea of Jesus. We write for church-oriented publishers whose clientele is solidly Christian. We teach in institutions sanctioned (if not supported) by the church.We lead Bible studies for those to whom the Word of God is already the source of life.
This is not to say that these endeavors are sufficient simply because we are doing them; there are always deeper and more urgent ways that the good news of salvation can be proclaimed, written, tau…

Getting Ready for Advent, Part I: The source of our joy

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Our culture is in high gear for Thanksgiving. But for those who love the church and its seasons, Thanksgiving means we have almost arrived at the first Sunday of Advent. Yet it is well to remember that Advent,as our hymnody reminds us, is not only a time of quiet reflection but also one of thanksgiving and rejoicing:
Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes,
the Savior promised long;
let ev’ry heart prepare a throne,
and ev’ry heart a song!”
(Evangelical Lutheran Worship #239)
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.
(ELW #242)
For we know that, come Christmas, we will sing: On this day God gave us
Christ, the Son, to save us;
Christ, the Son, to save us.
(ELW #291)
But what is all the rejoicing really about? Yes, the birth of Christ, the advent of the Messiah. But what does that mean to us? From what are we saved?
We find our answer in Psalm 124: “…if the Lord had not been o…

Accountability

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Examine my heart, visit me by night,
     melt me down;
     you will find no impurity in  me.
(Psalm 17:3)

We cannot live without the psalms. They are indispensable in our lives because the psalmist, in every instance, speaks directly to God for us in ways we cannot muster on our own.

The words are eloquent, furious, capricious, heartbreaking, joyous, desperate, soul-searing. In my Bible the psalms occupy about one-eighth of an inch of the depth of the book. But the entirety of what it is to be human is encapsulated in those pages. We dismiss them from our lives--as too many worshipping bodies have done--at our peril, for without their fortifying nourishment we are much easier targets for the devil. God grant us the will and courage to welcome them into the innermost recesses of our hearts.

Consider the verse above from Psalm 17. It amounts to a challenge to God: "See whether or not I have indeed given my life to you. See whether any corruption remains." Yet this challenge is …