Immanuel Lutheran Church
                     of Almelund, Minnesota


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Advent Reflections

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

December 2, 2018

Judges 13:2-14 & 24

A woman with no name, but she’s a woman of Advent. How similar she was to Elizabeth: they were both barren, yet an angel said that a son will be born. Before they were even conceived, they were part of God’s plan.

A woman with no name. It could be any one of us as we journey through Advent. We were born as sons and daughters of God. We are part of God’s plan.

Advent is a season of hope. Advent is a season of anticipating new life. Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for God’s life-giving work among us. Advent is a time of reflecting on God’s love come to earth in the form of a son, Jesus of Nazareth.

Each child that is born is a blessing from God. Each one of us has our own stories to tell about how we came into the world and how God works in and through us to accomplish God’s holy purposes.

This past week in Confirmation class we were studying the 4th Commandment – "Honor your father and mother." You may remember that this is the commandment that comes with a promise "that all may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." Living in tune with God’s commandments brings God’s blessings. As we thought about what it means to keep this commandment, we shared our birth stories – all that we know about the day we were born. What a sacred time! What a joyous time, reflecting on stories that were unique for each one of us. As we think about our birth stories it gives us clues to God’s special purposes for us. In a moment I’ll give you a chance to share your birth story with someone near you.

As a way to get started, I’ll share my birth story with you. I was the first-born child in my family and came 10 days later than expected. My father was away on a business trip. He had planned to be available on the due date but when the birth took longer than expected, he had a trip to take. While he was away on this trip, he bought a rattle for the baby that was to be born. There were no cell phones back then, no way to get ahold of him. Little did he know that he was buying that toy for daughter who had already entered the world. I was born at Marinette 2

General Hospital in Marinette, Wisconsin where my mother was on staff as a nurse. My grandparents were with my mother at the time of my birth. Since my dad’s job involved a lot of traveling, my mother and I lived with my grandparents for the first six months of my life. My grandparents played an important part in shaping my life and faith.

So, what about you? What do you know of the events surrounding your birth? If you’re sitting with somebody who already knows your story, I invite you to get up, move around and find someone to share your story with who hasn’t heard it before. Or maybe you are sitting with a family member and can tell them things they don’t know about their own birth and yours as well. I invite you to find a partner to exchange birth stories. We’ll take just a few minutes for this time of sharing.


Wasn’t that interesting? Each of us has a story to tell. No two stories are quite the same. Each of us is unique. Each of us is a beloved child of God, named and claimed by God for his purposes.

Advent is a time for listening for God’s word to us. Advent is a time of noticing ways God seeks to work in and through us to be his agents of love in the world.

Samson was created for the purpose of freeing the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines. God equipped him for this purpose by giving him great physical strength. In order to maintain that great strength, he was set apart through his diet, through his hair style, and through his "rule of life."

In our scripture the angel speaks to Manoah, Sampson’s father, to prepare him for the birth of his son. Manoah asks, "Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life; what is he to do?" Manoah trusts that God is at work in and through his son, and he wants to know how to best support God’s purposes for his son. One way to do that is through establishing a "rule of life" for his son that supports God’s plans for the child.

"Rule of life" is an interesting phrase. I recently attended the last in a series of nine retreats as part of a two-year program on spiritual growth for pastors. The focus of that retreat was developing a "rule of life" that sustains you in your relationship with God. For me that rule of life involves taking time daily in prayer 3

to tune in to what God would have me do – not just to ask God for what is needed for me and my family and this congregation, but to listen for God’s answers. In the midst of a busy life, that rule of life invites me to slow down, to intentionally take time to listen to God. It involves taking time in community to notice how God is at work so that I can cooperate with God’s plans.

The same is true for all of us. God calls each one of us to be his people in the world. God equips each one of us with the skills and abilities and passion to do particular things in service of God’s purposes. We need to notice what God is calling us to do, where we are to invest our time and energy, what we are to say "yes" to and what we are to say "no" to. It is so easy to over-burden our lives by doing too much. That is especially true during this season leading up to Christmas. Establishing and maintaining a rule of life that allows for sane rhythms of work and rest is essential for having the energy you need for the things that matter most.

Sabbath is an important part of a rule of life for all of God’s people. As God commands us to "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy," it is an invitation to take time each week to rest from our busyness and to be with God. In this 24/7 culture, Sabbath rest is hard to find. There are so many things coming at us each day that it can be difficult to take the time we need to rest and recharge. That makes it hard to hear God’s voice calling us, guiding us, showing us the path he would have us follow.

The season of Advent is designed to give us the time to prepare our hearts for God. It is to be a time of noticing God’s presence coming near, bringing life in new and wonderful ways. In our culture it is so easy to fill this Advent time with shopping, and baking, and decorating, and card writing, and attending programs , and doing, doing, doing to the point of exhaustion.

But you were born for a purpose. You were set aside to be God’s person in this world. To live into God’s purposes for you, it is important for you to have a rule of life that gives you space to listen for God’s voice.

So, as we begin Advent, I invite each one of us to join with Manoah and ask: "What is to be my rule of life? God, what do you want me to do?" As you listen for God’s guidance, as you discern the things that are most important, you have the permission to say "No" to the things that clutter up your life and distract from what matters most. You have not only the permission, but also the responsibility 4

to take time to rest, to take care of your body, to attend to the relationships that matter most, and to nurture your relationship with God. This allows you to give your best attention to the particular things that support God’s plan for you. When you are living your life in accordance with God’s will, it is not a burden but a joy.

God doesn’t want you to be worn out and over-extended. God wants you to be happy and healthy and fulfilled by using your energies for the things that he created you to do. As you connect with God’s purposes, your life will flow in ways that bring happiness and satisfaction and real joy to you and to those around you.

May God richly bless you this Advent season with his hope and peace and love and joy.