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“Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee” (ELW 254).
From the voice of John the Baptizer crying in the wilderness to the angels bringing messages in song to unexpected parents and shepherds, we are in that wonderful season of Advent preparing the way for celebrating the good news of Christ’s birth at Christmas. I have found myself mulling over some images that link the two seasons together. These images are of waiting, watching, and rejoicing.
- In an effort to avoid the rush-hour traffic on the Northern 101 Loop, I usually travel surface streets. As I wind and weave my way down from my home in Glendale to the synod office in North/Central Phoenix I often drive by a Home Depot and notice the small huddles of men on the fringes of the parking lot. My imagination runs as I glance at these Latino men who have left everything behind in order to seek daily bread. Most live in nearby housing sharing space and expenses in an effort to be able to send a significant portion of the money they may earn back to families living in abject poverty in Mexico or Central America. As they stand outside in the heat or cold, each is waiting for an opportunity, any opportunity to work, even for less than minimum wage. They watch each vehicle as it drives by wondering if this is one who will invite them to work today. They rejoice when a truck stops and negotiations begin. They rejoice knowing that today they will have money to pay the rent, buy some food, and send some home to their families who are counting on them. They rejoice in the moment, because they know there is no guarantee of work today or tomorrow.
- Another image is that of Stella, a feisty and loving Chihuahua that resides in the Talmage home. If you have a dog or have had dogs you know the waiting that takes place the moment you leave home. We often find her in a pile of dirty laundry comforted by the familiar smell of her humans watching the garage door trusting that those who left her behind will come back to her. I sense a spirit of rejoicing when she greets you with such enthusiasm as you walk in the door. Stella loves to run as fast as her little legs will carry her and then she jumps up and down with the hope that you might scoop her up and let her formally greet you.
- In my call as bishop I often visit Sky Harbor Airport once a week. No matter what day or time I find myself returning from someplace, as I make my way from the gate through the security area into the public area there is always someone or often many who stand looking down the walkway. They are waiting and watching for that familiar face. Sometimes there are signs, or balloons, or flowers, most times there is just eagerness on faces of all ages. Soon those faces are transformed with radiant joy and beaming smiles as a sighting is made of the one whom they long-expected to see.
- In January a couple, in whose wedding I jointly-officiated with Pastor Pat Reed, is expecting their first child. There has been great anticipation on when to share the news of the pregnancy; watching as three-dimension sonograms provide images of the life developing within the womb; and rejoicing has erupted as the gender has been revealed, each doctor’s appointment offers encouraging news, and a baby’s room is carefully prepared.
As the days of Advent waiting and watching give way to the world’s rejoicing at Christmas, please know on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Grand Canyon Synod, I join with the staff in thanking you for your prayers, participation, and partnership in living out the Good News that the carols pronounce:
“Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere;
Go tell it on the mountains that Jesus Christ is born!
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born;
And God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn”
Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas,
Bishop Steve Talmage