This post first appeared on Christmas Day, December 25, 2020 on the Nebraska Synod Blog.
Merry Christmas, People of God!!!
What joy it is to think about God’s presence with me and with all of you on this most holy of days. Admittedly it’s been a hard year. It’s been a weird year. It has not been one that anyone could have dreamed of, imagined, or hoped for. But all that said, God has been present in it and continues to be just as God always is- Emmanuel, our God with us. Our God who has come into the world yet again as we celebrate today, and will continue to celebrate in the rest of the twelve days to come. Our God who comes and is with us who opens hearts, hands, minds, and our very own imagination.
Seeing God at work in the world is one of the true gifts of serving on synod staff. I witness God’s activity in, around, under, through, and for all of you every day. In processing this witness, I often share with my spiritual director about where I have sensed God’s presence and movement, and what God sightings I have had in the past month. In non-pandemic times, often they come through drives in the country, in-person visits to congregations around the synod, and through quiet times of sitting down behind a piano or the organ to sit, play, sing, and be with God.
In these different times, I have seen God in these ways, but also through each of you in new ways. This year I have witnessed God show up through the love of neighbor- by people wearing masks, physically distancing, and staying connected. I have witnessed God show up in the way congregations have adapted and enhanced their ministry- walking with God’s people in new and important ways. I have seen God through the generosity of God’s people who have helped launch new leadership initiatives for the sake of raising up new leaders for God’s work, and through the beginning of a new mission start in our synod this year. And I have seen God through the way deacons, parish ministry associates, pastors and all the disciples of the church have looked out for one another and found ways to be God’s people together, now.
Today I see God too in the joy of the promises and claim made in baptism. Amid this hard, anxious, and trying year; my wife, the Rev. Allison Siburg, our daughter Caroline, and myself welcomed our newest family member. Our daughter Cora was born on Reformation Sunday two months ago today, and today she is marked and sealed and claimed as Child of God. What joy. What beauty. What wonder. What hope. What promise. On this Christmas morning, Cora was baptized and became the newest member of the Nebraska Synod.
Through that joy, and through and for all of you- God continues to do God’s thing. God shows up in the Water and the Word. God shows up through the Meal. God shows up in the People of God as we gather in new ways online, and through old ways too.
Christmas might look and feel a little different this year than in other years. But that doesn’t mean anything has changed about God. God is here. God is with us. God is for us. And God loves us. This has always been true, and especially so in this hard year.
As we move through these twelve days and enter a new year in a week’s time, let us lean into the peace, hope, love, and joy of this season. Let us glean moments of wonder like that of a newborn or toddler staring at Christmas lights. Let us take time to be with one another through the wonders of technology; to pray, to recommit, and to yet again affirm the promises we made and were made for us in baptism.
May the peace and hope of this season fill you. And may this new year to come, 2021, be a time of leaning in. May it be a time of growing deeper as disciples and stewards. A time of walking with, and making time to listen, sense, and see God with us, for us, and loving us.
Like I said, I have seen God in you, in the sacraments, and in the hope of the past, present, and future. May you see God too today both in the form of a tiny little baby Jesus, and in the growth, questions, and learning of the days to come.
Merry Christmas, and thanks be to our God who is with us always! Amen.
p.s.- If you missed it, please check out Bishop Maas’ Christmas Message too.