Advent devotion: Second chances

News | December 22, 2017

During the four weeks that make up the Advent season, the days get shorter and the nights get longer. To help compensate for that darkness, people put up lights and displays to help celebrate the Christmas season. I decorate my own house with outdoor lights and wreaths, and Christmas trees with decorations as old as childhood. There are many Santas and reindeer on display, as well as the nativity set my parents gave to me.

Even with decorations, not everyone is filled with the Christmas spirit. It is a time of melancholy. I know that for me, Christmas has not been the same since my divorce and parents’ death. Even with children and grandchildren who fill the house with laughter and joy, it can also be a time of sadness.

I experienced a long period of darkness before and after my divorce. I walked away from church because I believed I wasn’t worthy of any kind of forgiveness. In a lot of ways, I put that light of Christ under a basket. I went a long time thinking about how much I hurt my family and others when I put myself before them. Those thoughts made it much more difficult to come back to church.

I went 10 years of wanting nothing to do with church or Christ. But there was always the thought in my head: “Remember your baptism.” The roots of my Christian faith began to grow. I went to a Good Friday service where I sat in the darkness and realized I was a sinner Jesus gave his life to save. I was ashamed to set foot in church because I felt I was not worthy. I sobbed during the service. I made it back to church on Easter Sunday, and the church was beautiful. I looked at the empty cross and I realized church was where I absolutely needed to be. I have tried to attend church every Sunday – rain or shine – ever since.

I am a sinner, but because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, I am forgiven because of Christ’s unlimited love and mercy. I have tried to share that love back to others by driving older members to church when they are no longer able to drive. I have found that ministry to be so very rewarding. I have become friends with all of my riders and look forward to when it is my turn to drive again.

I am so very grateful for St Paul and the community of saints who are members there.

I am so very grateful for second chances.

When we think of Advent and Christmas, we think of the star that marked the stable where Jesus was born. That star gave off an amazing light that guided the shepherds and wise men to Bethlehem. It is the same holy light that is present every day for those who look to find it.

At St. Paul’s Blue Christmas worship, those who just aren’t in the Christmas spirit can sit in the darkness and reflect on Christmas past, loved ones who have gone on, missed opportunities, or destroyed relationships. It is also a service that offers hope and peace. Christ’s love radiates in the darkness. So whether you will celebrate Christmas with family and friends or just by yourself, remember that God’s love shines through the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

Bill Baltimore has been a member of St. Paul Lutheran church since 1963. He is the proud father of four children and five grandchildren. He works as a logistics management specialist at the Joint Munitions Command at the Rock Island Arsenal. In his spare time, he is involved in his grandchildren’s activities, loves watching old movies and baseball (River Bandits and New York Yankees). He tries to get a little exercise from time to time, mostly mowing grass and raking leaves.

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.