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December 2023 Tidings from Bethlehem

A word from our Associate Pastor

December 2023

Dear friends in Christ,

Do me a favor one day this Advent and Christmas season. Read Acts 28:23-31. But save it for a day you’re at your wits end. All the planning seems to be thrown out the window. You can’t find a parking spot. It’s too cold. It’s too warm. The store doesn’t have what you need for the perfect meal. They’re sold out of the perfect gift. Someone cuts you off in the car. Your shoe keeps coming untied. It’s a bad hair day. Lines are too long. Someone bumped into you in the check out line. Another person is talking loudly on their cell phone. Someone just sneezed on you. And you’re ready to blow. Read Acts. 28:23-31. And maybe, release the pressure valve, just a little bit.

Here why these verses from Acts might help.

Paul is in Rome and many people are coming to see him where he is staying. He spends the entire day talking about God’s kingdom in order to convince people about Jesus. As anyone trying to persuade others finds, some people jump on board while others are still suspect and stay opposite Paul. So Paul makes one more argument and uses what might not be the best rhetorical strategy but one that is sometimes effective: insulting people just a little bit. It’s a little jarring because Paul is almost writing off the Jewish community but then we hear that he stays at his own expense for two years. This makes me hope that despite being a little salty at the beginning, Paul would continue to talk with and be present with those who did not believe so that with time, they might come to understand too.

This season, we might want to make our points with insulting people just a little bit as we feel pressure and get busy. Now I don’t encourage insults, but we all know the feeling of wanting to. When you’re feeling ready to shout, read of Paul’s experience where it takes two more years of patience to achieve his goal. Wonderful things take time. Perhaps you could keep the scripture from Acts in your pocket, take a deep breath, read it, and then move on from what is burdening you. Then, we can try to have more patience, even two years’ worth as we continue to proclaim God’s kingdom.

Holy God, help us through any stress or worry this season. Be with us when harsh words are on our tongues, that we may find kinder phrases and ask for forgiveness if that doesn’t happen. Give us patience in our ministering to your beloved people. Amen.


Pastor Ellen

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