Dear Fellow Children of God,
A number of years ago I was golfing. (It is fun to think about golf with snow on the ground and temperature below zero.) One of those golfing with us was not part of our regular group. This man hit a bad shot and some “colorful” language filled the air. But, then the man remembered hearing that I am a pastor. He looked at me and apologized, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that with a pastor around.” I accepted his apology, but thought about the implications of what he had said. I thought to myself, “So, if I wasn’t around is that language acceptable then?”
God has given us His law, His commandments, guidelines for his children to follow as they live. However, God does not intend for His people to keep His commandments only when they are in a church building or in a worship service, or only when they are in the presence of a pastor or other Christians. God’s law is good and healthy for us at all times. He wants us to live for Him in all we do, all the time.
You see, it’s not like that golf game, where the pastor may be there one day, but he might not present for the following day. There is never a time that God is not with us. Jesus told His disciples that “wherever two or three are gathered in His name, there I am in your midst.” (Matthew 18:20) As He prepared to leave this world physically, Jesus told His disciples, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Jesus is always with us!
God comes to us through His Word and through the Sacraments. God comes to us by His Spirit, come to us in Jesus who is “Immanuel,” “God with us.” God is present in the people around us.
So, if we watch our language at the times when we are with the pastor, how do we watch our behavior during the time that God himself is with us? Remember, God is present all the time!
I talk about God’s presence because this Sunday is the beginning of the season of Advent. Advent means coming. Advent prepares us for God’s coming in our lives. The season of Advent helps us prepare to celebrate God coming to this world as a man that first Christmas to be our Savior. Advent also reminds us that Jesus will come again on the last day as Lord and King and Judge of all. But Advent doesn’t just remind us that God did come, or that He will come. Advent reminds us that God comes to us and is with us every day.
That is why as John the Baptist prepared people for the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, the Son of God and the Messiah, we are told. 1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"
Think of it. How would you live if you knew God was here watching? But, God is here, and He is watching. John called for repentance. I’m sure all of us have more sin to be sorry for and more sin to turn from than just a few colorful words. In each of our lives there is pride in which we put ourselves ahead of God, and selfishness in which we put ourselves ahead of others. Yes, repentance is a good way to prepare for the coming of the Lord. And, now is a good time for that repentance since God is with us right now.
But, God’s presence is not just like having a policeman around. God comes as the Good Shepherd and as our Savior. Jesus is with us always to love us, and care for us, and protect us, and to forgive us.
This Sunday begins the season of Advent. We prepare for Jesus to come to us, but we also remember and rejoice that Jesus has come and is with us right now. Now that you remember and know that Jesus is with us, how does that change and bless your life this Advent (and Christmas) season?
A Child of God, Thankful that God is with me, right now,
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . . Or, if you know someone who would like to receive one of these e-mails, please send me their e-mail address.