“He (Jesus) it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us.” – Titus 2:14
This verse from Titus is part of the appointed epistle reading for Christmas. Positioned with well loved words from the prophets and Luke’s gospel I imagine it often doesn’t get much notice. These words, speaking of what Jesus gave for us are central to what we are preparing for this Advent. God, in Christ, giving, or emptying as Philippians says, himself for the sake of joining us in human flesh.
Lent is typically the season we talk about giving things up for a season. To remind us of God’s giving up for us. But I wonder if that isn’t also something we should be thinking about in Advent. Gift giving is on many of our minds right now. So what if we added to those lists another question? What are we, or our ministries, willing to give, or need to give up, for the sake of the gospel?
In our synod right now we have many congregations and ministries facing these very difficult conversations. Recognizing that ministries they cherished cannot continue the way they have in the past. This may be as seemingly simple, and yet difficult, as deciding volunteers are too taxed to do the same Christmas program this year. It may also mean choosing to end Word and Sacrament ministry and repurposing assets to support new or different ministry. Our Synod Council has been engaged in those conversations as well as has the Briarwood board. Taking a hard look at the needs of the synod for office space in our new reality. Being honest that the projections for usage and camping that were assumed 10 years ago did not materialize. Maintenance projects that were deferred over the years now cannot be ignored anymore. Remembering and focusing in on our purpose.
These are not easy realities and questions and there are many different ways they get answered. But it is essential we consider what we can or should do to be faithful stewards and further the mission of the church. Being honest that sometimes the things we value deeply are in fact keeping us from accomplishing God’s mission in the world. I pray your congregation is engaged in this honest searching as well and my office stands ready to assist you in that work.
We have a God who in Christ gives/empties himself for us. And in so doing redeems us and sets us free. Recognizing this we can also see how in this life giving sets us free. Free to let go of our assumption of control and opening ourselves and the future to different possibilities. Trusting that God’s future, and as such, our future, is secure because of what God in Christ gave up for us. That we might be redeemed and united with Christ in resurrection. And that, regardless of the season of the year, is the most precious gift of all.
In Expectant Hope,