Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Salem, Wisconsin

December 28, 2020

Again…it’s been a while since I “reflected.” The last few months have been busy and tiring…and quite frankly, draining. I really haven’t had a lot of reflections to share. But good news – I’ve got something, not really my own, but, thanks to some folk I’ve never met, maybe something of value.

Christmas, in case you hadn’t noticed, was a bit different this year. Last year we had 700+ in worship; this year the church was empty. So, instead, we recorded a video, and then planned two live Zoom services – one in the sanctuary, the other in the barn, on the farm. Lots of planning, lots of work, and a bit of apprehension. As we prepared to begin the first Zoom worship, my mind wandered a bit (it does that now and then), and I remembered some words…

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

The word of prophecy…words for this Christmas as we tried something new in the midst of the wilderness known as “Covid”…words that define this moment as God comes into our world through the child in the manger.

So, don’t sweat it – God is doing something new here, and videos and Zooms are a part of all that. I’m pumped, excited, and invigorated.

And I was. OK, so the Zoom in church had some tech glitches, but we made it. Good enough to record, and later to even post it (you can watch it by accessing our video page at www.oursaviorswestsalem.org/videos.)

Then we headed to the farm. Zoom in the barn, in the straw, in the bitter cold. Zoom quaint, quiet, and different. Something really new.

And it was – it was all that – and more. For about 15 minutes. And then…it was dark. No, not the nice, romantic, darkness of Christmas Eve. It was dead dark, as in the computer died and the screen went dark.

Oops!

From pumped, excited, and invigorated to just plain bummed.

But I thought God was up to something new here? I know, the baby in the manger. That’s new, really new, especially in our world that right now is desperate to change the prevailing narrative of Covid.

Still, I was hoping for more. And it left me a bit drained as Christmas Eve turned to Christmas Day.

Then, something happened. I got an e-mail with a picture attached. The picture was from a nursing facility in (of all places) Anaheim, California. The e-mail (thanks to the sender!) was a Godsend. There in the picture was the television, tuned in to a Christmas Eve service – ours! Hey, we made it to California!

And then on Sunday, a regular in our Sunday worship, said she watched the video too. And she lives in Massachusetts.

There you go – coast to coast – God up to something new.

Now, all of that is nice, but really, kind of trivial. I mean, it’s great to know that we have a nationwide audience. But, surely God can do better than that.

God can, and God does. The thought that God is up to new things reminded me of some articles I’ve seen recently.

Like the story about a couple in Chicago, whose wedding had to be redesigned, revised, and rethought. A small crowd – really small crowd. But what of the deposit – $5000 – for the reception? Instead of pushing for the dollars, they worked with their caterer and provided 200 meals for a bunch of folk in need (https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/06/us/wedding-deposit-to-feed-needy-trnd/index.html).

God at work, doing something new!

Or the story of the woman in Cleveland who, after 19 years, was forced to close her restaurant. But a conversation with her Priest changed her direction completely. A midst the emotion of losing her business, she discovered a purpose and donated much of her equipment to a local soup kitchen. The business died, but she found new life in her generosity. Generosity grounded in what God is doing in the world. (https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/08/opinions/tastebuds-restaurant-closing-pandemic-gift-mcginty/index.html)

God at work, doing something new!

And then my favorite – a bunch of Boy Scouts in Webster, Texas, seeing a need, getting an idea, making a difference. They built a “hug booth” at a local nursing home. A way for family to connect with their loved ones, even in Covid. (https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/27/us/boy-scouts-hug-booth-nursing-home-clear-lake-trnd/index.html)

God at work, doing something new!

OK, so our Zoom didn’t work the way we wanted it to. So the church was empty. So it wasn’t the Christmas we all wished we could have. God is still at work, and God is doing something new.

No, that’s not right. God is doing LOT OF THINGS new! God is doing new stuff all over the place. God is bringing life out of death, and shining the light in the midst of our darkness (you know, like in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting life…”).

That’s the point of Christmas. God is doing something new in the manger, and God is doing something new, again and again, right here in our world, even in these days that have been (and continue to be) long, dark, and wearying.

That’s the message and the meaning I’ve got for you, and it comes not from me, but from those witnesses – a newly married couple, a disappointed business owner, and a bunch of kids. Showing us how we can be a part of God’s new stuff, how we can, even in these days, bring life and hope to those around us.

Maybe you don’t have a wedding on the rocks (I don’t). And maybe you don’t have a business in such straits that you’d ponder what to do with the assets (I don’t). And maybe you don’t have the ability to build a “hug booth.” (I really don’t!)

But other opportunities are out there – watch for them – opportunities to be a part of what God is up to, to be a part of God bringing about something new. To be a part of Christmas, to be a part of the real spirit, not just of the season, but of the Spirit (you know, the Holy Spirit?) and the work of the Child, the Child who makes all things new!

OUR SAVIOR’S LUTHERAN CHURCH

359 N. Leonard
West Salem, WI 54669
Phone: 608.786.0030

ELCA

 

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.

John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness...

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 10:9

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Matthew 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son...

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.