Derek Johnson Muses

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Tag Archives: Repentance

Christmas is Coming…Wait, that Sounds Foreboding

DSCN9632

3 hours into first big snow fall of winter 2012-2013

I am grateful I went advent service this morning instead of tonight-well, I couldn’t have gone this evening anyway, given that the first big snow of the year has started. As of right now, I’m packed in; time to get a photo show ready for the Noyes Focus room in February.

In the business of Blue River Hybrids, Christmas is time to close the office for a week and take a break from the fall test sample-grind. In my world, the only luxury of the Christmas season are the Starbucks seasonal lattes I enjoy. The world’s Christmas, for the most part, is a world that I am oblivious too. Every couple of years, I jump on a sale or two, but sales are for suckers.

It’s not intentional. For the most part, I lead a modest life, and the season of Christmas doesn’t alter that. I will buy gifts for my immediate family at the gallery (plug-Noyes Art Gallery offers a number of great gifts, and they are all originals), and I’ll give some people my pictures as presents. But if you were going to give me a gift and can’t decide, donate the money to a charity that helps needy families or feeds children, or to a missions society in my name. Tom Unger, you may have Christmas solved.

And I don’t care for how Christmas always seems to be celebrated two weeks before it actually happens. While it hasn’t been as bad this year, the networks have been trotting out Christmas programming the day after Halloween over the past five years. With school programs being moved up to December 17, Christmas feels over before it even arrives at times. Please, everyone go to Facebook and like Occupy Advent.

Over these next couple weeks, my family will eventually come back and leave. I’ll make some cookies and few other good meals. My father’s two brothers will cover for a meal, or we will go over there. We’ll exchange gifts, and may have some extra snow. At church, I’ll have some extra duties for Worship Committee, as we will be down to one service with few ushers over the next couple of weeks. Christmas doesn’t feel huge for me; it just feels like a big message in a small world.

In mid-December, I choose to live in Advent rather than look forward to Christmas. The picture in my mind isn’t garlands or trimmed trees, but of repentance. We studied Philippians 4 this  past Sunday in Bible class, and two words struck me: Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice” and his commendation of peace to the believers. At church this morning, Pastor Bruick finished our advent series on notable births, including Benjamin and Obed. Both themes welded themselves together: every birth is a time to rejoice and a time for peace, how much more so the birth of Christ! Thanks be to God!

(Christmas meditation)

My Ash Wednesday, and Lenten Repentance

I went to church Ash Wednesday at 10 , and after I got there, I wondered if I should grow up and start going to the seven PM service, where the adults with kids go. (Gag). But seriously, as long as I have flexible hours, I’m happy to Advent/Lenten services in the morning, with all the old people and a handful of college students.

St. John does the imposition of ashes before we enter the service, instead of during the service. I find this a bit weird, although it does give me a minute for personal reflection before I go into the sanctuary. Given that we also celebrate communion during Ash Wednesday, it helps to receive the ashes first.

I honestly am not sure why we do the imposition of ashes (if any of the pastors who read this blog know, I would like to hear why), but I try to take as I take Holy Communion. Jesus didn’t have to institute the summer, but He did so His church would be feed with His body in a way they could see. So I take the imposition as a visible sign of Christ’s sacrifice and my own mortality in this life, although not commanded by Christ, but as a good human tradition.

My other favorite part of this past Ash Wednesday was using the service of corporate confession and absolution at the beginning of the Divine Service. I had only participated in corporate confession service one other time, at Christ Academy in Fort Wayne, the evening before communion, where we each went forward to receive individual absolution. We didn’t do that at St. John, but corporate confession is the perfect way to reflect on Christ’s mercy for us.

It has been hard growing up in the Lutheran Church to see Lent as anything other than depressing regurgitation of wallowing in our sin. But as I’ve grown as a Christian, what I have learned is that repentance isn’t something that we necessarily have to come to in self-pity or despair. Not that we shouldn’t be sorry for our sins, or that our sins shouldn’t trouble us; they should trouble us, for they should trouble us greatly. The purpose of coming to Christ in repentance is that we do live with our chests puffed up, glorying in our own righteousness. No, the point of repentance in Lent is that we remember how Christ still bears the brunt of our sins and that we must return to him in sincere faith, acknowledging our sins, and doing the good works He has called us to do in faith. Amen, and amen.

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