Last week I did a radio interview with my friend Gregory Berg on The Morning Show at WGTD in Kenosha. The topic was how to survive the holidays. I thought y’all might appreciate the interview. It’s about 50 minutes or so. Enjoy!
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[I posted this originally at http://lutheranlogomaniac.com, but I think you might find it of benefit as well.]
December generally stinks for me on a personal level. I know, that’s not a really chipper pastor admission to make, but there you have it. Kathryn and I have had two miscarriages during this season, and December serves as a foreboding for January. Nearly bad memory I have about depression has its triggers in December and January. So for me, December always creates a longing to get away, to escape from my memories and to try and find someplace better. I want it to be better. I want to embrace the joy of the season and be happy, but it doesn’t play out that way very often.
That is why I love the collects, or short prayers of Advent. Each one of them has its own emphasis, but the first one really wraps it all up for me. Here it is:
Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (LSB, Collect for the First Sunday in Advent)
What I so often forget is that in many ways I am my own worst enemy. My sinfulness is always at the door, always creeping around and trying to draw me into the traps which only Satan can lay for me. And tragically all too often, I succumb to those traps and temptations.
We don’t think of sin really as dangerous or or destructive, but it is. It threatens our relationship to God, to one another, and seems into every facet of our lives. Satan and sin are always at work, always trying to figure out what and who they can devour next. I don’t say this to cause fear, but first of all as a warning. We should never be surprised when sin messes things up. It is what sin does, and worse.
What this collect (prayer) reminds me of so beautifully is that God’s protection rescues me from my sins. No matter how badly I have screwed up. No matter how much I have contributed to all of my own problems, God is there for me. We pray that God would stir up His power to rescue. And God loves to answer prayers more than anything else.
He will deliver you from the threatening perils of your sins. He will deliver you. Perhaps one of our Advent Psalms puts it best, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)
This Advent I would encourage you to sit back, recognize your own weaknesses and shortcomings and sinfulness, repent and receive God’s gracious word of forgiveness. But also recognize the weakness and sinfulness of those around you. They are trapped just as you are. God can use your forgiving words to make a difference in another hurting sinner’s life. What could be a better present than that?
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Come quickly, make haste to deliver me. Amen.
+The Lord be with you+
Lutherans are often portrayed as being a “Lent” sort of people. Somber, slow chorales. A generally dark disposition. Anyone who looks too cheerful and happy must be a charismatic or something. Yet, if anyone is too sad or (ahem) depressed, they must not know Jesus loves them. Sometimes it’s hard being Lutheran
Yet in comes the season of Advent! Advent, which it’s joyous and hopeful hymnody, yet penitential character, seems to me to reflect perfectly the paradox which is Lutheranism, and dare I say Christianity itself. We receive the Gifts now, but they are not here in their fulness. We look for the coming of the Savior, but we do so with both repentance and joy. Our readings for the season do not reflect simply a period of pre-Christmas. Rather, they focus on Jesus entrance into Jerusalem to die, his return in glory, and the preparation of repentance preached by John and all the prophets.
So as a Lutheran pastor who suffers from clinical depression, I find a great deal of joy in the season. In a chemically toned down sort of way, of course. The season reflects perfectly what it means for me to be a Christian today. I am torn between rejoicing in God’s gifts now and wanting it all to be over so we can get to the good stuff.
For most people suffering from depression, we are entering into the darkest period. It is winter, so less sunlight. It is the “holiday” season, so we have extended interaction with family, and all the conflict which inevitably ensues. For pastors, this is the start of the 3-4 busiest months of the year in terms of preaching and catechesis. EVERYTHING happens from December to early April. I always feel like I should get a medal after Easter.
Yet there is hope in this season. It stands in stark contrast to the fake and plastic joy of our culture. The hope which Christ offers is real, not contrived. There is an end, there is joy now, and Christ Himself is coming.
Be at peace, brothers and sisters. Our Lord is coming. Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus!