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Tidings from Bethlehem January 2024

From the Pastor's Desk

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter." ~2 Thessalonians 15

On December 9th Bethlehem Lutheran hosted a beautiful memorial service for one of our pillars, Georgeanne Mitchell. At the end of the service, Ethan Bice (Georgeann's grandson) sang "Auld Lang Syne." Ethan offered one of the finest renderings of that song I have ever heard. The tenderness in his voice moved everyone present, it was a truly powerful moment.

"Auld Lang Syne" often accompanies powerful moments; the tune can be heard at funerals, sometimes at graduation celebrations, and we most often hear the song on New Year's Eve. I have a deep affection for the tune because it was written by one of my favorites, Robert Burns. "Rabbie," Burns was a poet of great significance for the Scots. In fact, if you need an extra holiday to get you through the post-Christmas blues, you might want to think about attending a "Burns Supper," these are usually held on or near January 25th. The feasting, toasting, and reading of poetry is a great way to renew your spirit in these depths of winter. And at that dinner, you may hear "Auld Lang Syne." And if you do, now that what that phrase means, loosely translated from the Scots dialect, is "for the sake of old times."

Yes, the whole glorious poem and tune, is a call to value and treasure the past appropriately. I know that in the New Year, we're typically trending in the other direction. We're making resolutions, renewing gym memberships, and looking forward to warmer brighter days. That's all well and good, but please know, our past will always be shaping our future to one degree or another. This is the case to such a degree, that I can almost assure you that in just about a year, on December 31, 2024, if you happen to be at a New Year's Eve party, guess which song you'll likely hear?

Those kinds of traditions help keep us rooted in something bigger, broader, and more expansive than our own experience and passing preferences. As you can guess from the Bible passage that tops the page, early Christians were deeply committed to passing along a tradition that would shape the faithful indefinitely. This tradition was not held to, simply because the first apostles lacked creativity. The traditions we hold dear connect us with those who have gone before us, offer a sense of identity through shared experience, and -get this- have the power to shape our future in meaningful ways too. Lutheran Christians have often been criticized for "not liking change." I resemble that remark! All kidding aside, I am not sure it's that simple. I think the reality is that we, like Ol' Robert Burns, understand that some of what has happened, when remembered, continues to enrich our lives. So, speaking of suppers, how about the Lord's Supper? Instituted by Christ in the past, remembered in the here and now, to encourage our lives of faith in the days to come.

Sincerely, I pray your new year is filled with innovative adventures and miraculous discoveries; I hope you have the opportunity to try a bunch of new stuff (maybe haggis if you have never had it before, trust me, you will love it!) But amid everything "new" in this new year, remember the old times, tell the old stories, because it seems to me, the folks that can value the past appropriately have a keener appreciation and appropriate enthusiasm for what's taking shape on the horizon.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dan

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