Dear Bethlehem People,
Greetings to you this Advent season. We are in a time of holy anticipation of the birth of the Christ child in our midst. I write this letter from my father’s hospital room at Green Hospital. His room overlooks the ocean; its beauty a stark contrast to those in pain on the other side of the glass. But then again, maybe that is as it should be – a reminder that God’s grace is always present, even in difficult day. Every Good Friday is accompanied by an Easter sunrise. Every dark night accompanied by a rising dawn, and in this season, a bright star in a darkened sky, reminds us that God has come again to be with us. Emmanuel, we are never alone. We are never absent of grace.
Like the shepherds and the Magi, in this holy season, we are, all of us, seeking Bethlehem. Seeking the place of our hope and joy. Seeking the warmth of a place where we might be welcomed in grace and find the peace for which we yearn. I saw a facebook video this week of prayer quilts from all over the ELCA, being handed out to CLU students. They called it project “Wrapped in Love”. So is the promise of the birth of the child. As the newborn child was sheltered from the stable’s chill in a blanket, so too are we wrapped in God’s love. We who journey to the manger. As members and friends of this church community, we are more blessed than most, we do not have to go far to find “Bethlehem”. At Bethlehem, we experience God’s love in the beauty of last Sunday’s choir concert, in the upcoming Comfort at Christmas Service on Dec. 18 for those who are grieving, as we carol to the homebound on Dec. 9, as we feed the hungry with St. Andrews, as we gather on Christmas Eve to hold light in our hands and welcome the child.
We don’t have to go far to see the Holy Child among us already. We see him in the faces of the hungry people we feed, in the faces of children receiving Christmas presents this year because of our partnership with Es Por Los Ninos, in the faces of families receiving food, clothing and gifts, from the Holiday Baskets Project of the CRC. We see him as we worship together, sing together and pray together each and every week.
“Come to Bethlehem to see
him whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord the newborn King.”
Come as you are. In your joy and in your sorrow. In your uncertainty and in your exultation. Come if you are afraid, come if you are wiping away tears. Come if you want a place to experience joy or community. Come if you are wearing shorts and a t-shirt or your finest Christmas sweater. Come for the music, the candles, the Word and the grace. – Come, because there is no better place to be at Christmas, than Bethlehem.
All are welcome. A blessed Advent to you all.