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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