“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures….” (Romans 1:1-2, NRSVue)
Advent and Christmas are filled with hope as we await the fulfillment of the prophecies stating God would send a Savior into our world torn apart with hatred and division, oppression and domination, selfishness and self-serving. The people of God in the 1st century lived with an occupying force that squeezed the life out of them. Some, like the zealots, thought a revolution was in order. Others, like Herod the Great, thought appeasement and collusion with the emperor were the answer. Most people, though, were resigned to accepting their plight and simply trying to find a way to survive another day.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome to encourage them in their struggles. He begins his letter by reminding them that the Good News, the gospel, assures them that God actively engages with them despite their troubles. God is faithful in fulfilling the promises the prophets spoke about him, so they should remain obedient to God’s law to ensure their readiness for his return.
In some ways, today’s world is both better and worse than that of the 1st century. The standard of living we enjoy far exceeds that of the average person in Rome, and life expectancy is far longer. War is not as common now, although we’ve seen our share of military conflicts over the last several decades. Other than the attacks of 9/11, most of these wars have not been on American soil. But there is still angst and uneasiness tearing through the fabric of our nation, leading us to live with fear and anxiety, waiting for the proverbial “other shoe” to drop. The uncertainty of this time challenges our security and causes alarm and worry about the future. As people of faith, we need to heed the promises of God’s salvation—not just for ourselves, but for all of God’s creation—and trust that God will come through.
As we think about giving presents this Christmas that fulfill the hopes of those we love, let’s also think about receiving the gifts God provides us through his Son, Jesus Christ—gifts like hope, peace, joy, and love. Our faith is not in revolutions, political leaders, or even our ability to find a way to survive these troubled times—our faith must be in Jesus Christ, who is the ONLY Savior capable of saving us. Join us this Sunday as we explore awakening to God’s Christmas gift for us. And don’t forget to invite a friend.
— Senior Pastor Dale Cohen
Postscript: If you have not submitted a pledge for 2023, doing so would be a tremendous help as we plan our ministries and budget for next year. You can call the church office and speak with Stefanie (256-764-5072) to submit a pledge, complete a pledge card, drop it by the church, or drop it in the offering plate on Sunday. Thanks for your generous support of our church!