Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2020 has been a challenging year to remain thankful. All the tensions in our world have elevated the ambient anxiety to a nearly unbearable level. And yet, these words from Philippians ring true: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In this passage, I do not believe Paul is urging us to be thankful FOR our trials. Instead, we are to be grateful for God’s PRESENCE amid those challenges.
As we approach Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, I am keenly aware of the differences between those celebrations this year and how we have celebrated these important days in the past. Many of our Thanksgiving celebrations will be smaller, we will not have a Thanksgiving meal at the church, and our Advent and Christmas celebrations will be significantly different than usual. Yet, I am also thankful! Thankful because I can say, without a shadow of doubt, that God is walking through this strange time with us.
One of the things which COVID-19 has taught us is we can use technology to build and maintain relationships from a great distance. A prime example of this is a prayer and accountability relationship with a friend and colleague from Mexico, MO, Zane Whorton. Zane and I have known one another for several years, but we have never lived close enough to one another to develop a deep relationship. That all changed this spring when we were involved in a continuing education experience together via Zoom.
For various reasons, the support systems I have had throughout the years have faded in the last 18 months. So, when Zane asked if we could meet weekly to talk about life and ministry and pray for one another, I jumped at the opportunity. Especially since the miles between Mexico and Marshfield do not matter as much when we are meeting virtually. Our meetings have not only deepened our relationship with one another; they have filled an important void in each of our lives.
During one of our weekly meetings recently, we talked about the changes we would experience during Advent this year. Then inspiration struck. Why not have a joint Advent study with our two congregations?
So, a joint Advent study is precisely what we are planning. We will be joining the congregation from Mexico to work through a study of the book “The Advent Conspiracy.” The sessions will be on Zoom beginning at 6 pm every Sunday of Advent. (Beginning on November 29th.) There will be videos, teaching, and discussion led by both pastors. We will send out more information as the first session draws nearer, but I hope you will join me in saving an hour (or a little more) of your Sunday evenings throughout Advent this year. And that you will join me in thanksgiving for the opportunity to build relationships and study our faith in a new and exciting way.