Pastor’s Corner

PC - 1 Corinthians 3.10

Pastor’s Corner 

This is the final Pastor’s Corner before the end of the year! With each new year, Christmas takes on a more meaningful perspective. Unlike many things that change in life, I don’t feel a loss when Christmas changes. Instead, each year builds on the last, adding depth and meaning.

As a young child Christmas was all about family gatherings. We would frequently jump in the motor home and travel across the country to be with my cousins. I couldn’t tell you one present I got at any of those Christmas gatherings, but I could tell you about memories on the trips and with my cousins all day long.

As I got older, we didn’t travel to see my cousins, we travelled to see my sisters who had moved away (they are a LOT older than me!). We only did that a couple times, because pretty soon I had moved away and now would go “home” for Christmas. Mom and Dad would sometimes put up a tree and sometimes not. It didn’t really matter as long as we were together.

Soon, the nieces and nephews started showing up at Christmas. They were the youngest and got most of the attention I used to get. I didn’t mind too much since they were so cute. The next thing I know I’m married and now have children of my own and now family travels to us on occasion. Those children of mine aren’t as young as they used to be. I know it isn’t long before things change again. But, I’m sort of looking forward to it.

Life has a way of being both joyous and sad at the same time. It isn’t about avoiding change or holding onto the past, it is about embracing the journey that God leads you on. We still get together with family at the holidays, but now there is “framily” (friends that are essentially family) and church family to add. There are also MANY family members along the way who were once part of Christmas that are no longer walking this earth. Some older, some much too young, but one thing remains the same.

At baptism, I became part of a family that will never end. I am a descendent of the baby born in the manger and an heir to the family fortune. With each passing Christmas this reality grows in importance. Each memory and each relationship matters more than ever before because eternity is at stake.

I pray that for each of you who know the Lord, that you will have a blessed 2020. I pray you will have peace knowing you are the Lord’s forever and have the strength to overcome each challenge. With each change, I pray you will trust in the Lord that He is building on a firm foundation to prepare you for His work. Finally, love your family and all that you encounter. Truly Love them to the Lord because it matters and it is the only thing that does.

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

“By the grace God has given me I laid a foundation, as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.” 1 Corinthians 3:10

Pastor’s Corner

Galatians 4-4-5

Pastor’s Corner – In The Fullness Of Time

Christmastime often meant packing the car for a road trip to see my extended family.  Since it was Christmas, we not only had the usual clothes and accessories, we also had all the presents for all the relatives.  Frequently, our trips were several states away so, of course, I needed things to do, food to eat and drinks to keep me hydrated–but not too hydrated.  With all that distance and all that food, I certainly needed a pillow and some blankets to keep warm; it was winter after all.   By the time it was all said and done, the car was filled to the brim.  Before we would take off, I remember my folks asking, multiple times–do we have everything and everyone?   I don’t think we could have fit one more thing in that car.

The car was full.  It was full of stuff and full of people.  The car was also full of anticipation about the trip and the family reuniting for the holidays.  It was full of wonder over what might be in those presents for me and if our cousins would like what we got for them.  If one more thing was added to that car it would burst, literally and figuratively.

Paul writes about how the first Christmas was similarly “full”.  In Galatians 4 it reads “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son”.  The phrase “fullness of time” is a bit of a loaded term, pardon the pun.  It is easily overlooked as a figure of speech, but it is far more than a passing thought.  The phrase is intended to evoke images of a fully loaded ship with its cargo, crew and passengers.  It is frequently used in connection with women on the verge of giving birth.

The first Christmas occurred in a very unassuming way.  A baby being born in the chaos of a nationwide census is easily lost in the hustle and bustle.  Nobody had time to notice; their schedules were too full to add one more thing on their plate. But, this babe was born at just the right time, in just the right place and to just the right people.   This babe born in a manger would grow in a political and religious environment so filled with tension it could burst at any moment.  And then it does.

Scholars, historians and theologians have examined the world and culture into which Jesus had found himself born.  Political Scientists and Economists alike have been amazed at the social environment of this important time in history.  The baby who had grown into a man took the fullness of His day and transformed the chaos, disorder, tension and political unrest into a miraculous time in history that we still celebrate today.

Many former unbelievers who now follow Jesus point to the amazing moment in time into which Jesus was born as a testimony to God being at work in the world.  I pray that your faith might grow as you consider this reality as well!  I also hope that you see the parallels to the fullness in your own life.  Yes, it is better to clear the plate and to make room in your life to follow Jesus.  But, also remember that it is in those most full moments in your life, when you are about to burst if one thing gets added or one more thing goes wrong, that God shows up and accomplishes His miraculous work in our lives.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”   Galatians 4:4-5

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner – Delusions of Perfection

Christmas Perfection

Pastor’s Corner – Delusions of Perfection

“I’m dreaming of a….”  I know, and now the song is stuck in your head!  The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with anticipation of the “perfect” day.  I remember a coffee commercial from when I was a child.  It started with a young man sneaking into a house on what was clearly Christmas morning.  He had his luggage with him and began to brew a pot of fresh, hot, coffee.  Soon the whole house was awake and joyous as we discovered this young man was surprise visitor; back just in time to make things right for Christmas.

Traditions, hopes and expectations fill our wish lists this Advent season.  We have dreams of a nearly perfect time together with family or friends to celebrate this most blessed of all holidays.  It seldom happens as we had hoped.  Last year (if I’m remembering correctly), we had a white Easter and a warm Christmas.   Not exactly how we dreamed it!  We constantly have holiday plans go awry.  Family can’t make it, someone gets sick or an argument threatens the peace of the season.

This exact scenario is playing out for one of our Advent heroes John the Baptist.   To be fair, Mathew 11 isn’t a traditional Advent reading,  but it is a great reminder of what is so great about Advent and Christmas.  The account has John the Baptist in jail and questioning if Jesus was really the one they thought He was.   This makes me think of the times I‘ve asked myself “Why do we celebrate Christmas again?”   John had visions and dreams of what the savior coming would be like.  Victory over the enemies of Israel, unity for the family that had been so bitterly divided, healing for the sick and freedom for the slave would be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Then it all went wrong.  John is in jail, the disciples are being persecuted and the message of Jesus is being rejected.  Why are we doing this again? And is Jesus really the guy we thought He was?  Jesus’ answer to John, to His disciples and ultimately to us is a powerful reminder when things don’t go as we think they should. In short, Jesus says the things He promised are happening.  And, that teaching the world something different than it is used to always comes with resistance.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot create heaven on earth, not even for one perfect day out of the year.  We are sinners and our families are filled with sinners and the world is broken and cursed.   The Devil is actively working against God’s people.  Of course, there are going to be difficult times! But, our God is still at work and came to bring about peace.  Peace that surpasses human reason and peace that comes in the midst of adversity.

What God has promised is happening.  Our sins are forgiven.  Our resurrected Lord has paid for our sins.  Those who hear and receive the Good News of Jesus are healed and transformed.   In the end, it isn’t about the day or the season being perfect; it is about our ability to find joy in the good and allow Christ to cover over that which hurts.  When we allow God to be God, all our hopes and dreams do come true, regardless of what is happening or isn’t happening all around us.

“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the Good News is preached to the poor!  Blessed is He who does not fall away on account of me.” – Jesus –

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner – Advent and Christmas at Cross

Advent Wreath One Candle

Pastor’s Corner – Advent and Christmas at Cross

Christmas is a time filled with traditions and, as time goes on, the traditions need to adapt.  Sometimes a new tradition makes us sad we lost the old one.  Other times, the new tradition brings more depth and meaning to our current life circumstances.  This Christmas and Advent season we are trying a few new things because, well, time goes on and so should our celebration of the Lord’s birth!

One of the first things you may notice is that our Christmas Cantata is “Not-a-Cantata.” Instead, our Sanctuary Choir and its extended Christmas season membership are hosting a Christmas Concert and Sing-Along following the Saturday night Service on December 14th at 6:30 PM.  Please consider this new Christmas tradition as we hear some holiday classics performed by our choir and a musical chamber orchestra.  Then, join in the sing-a-long portion as we praise God and rejoice in this blessed Season.

The Christmas Eve worship services themselves will be slightly different as well.  Our service times remain the same at 3:00 PM, 5:00 PM, 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM, but this year, all our services will be in the sanctuary.  In the past, we would set up our gymnasium as an additional worship space.  There were many reasons for using the gym, but one of them was that, in the future, we were strongly considering moving worship services out of the sanctuary and into a new space.  Over the past several years, we have received increasing amounts of feedback that this was not a preferred solution.   So, when we are able, we will be utilizing the sanctuary and its overflow space for our larger services.  Join us in the sanctuary for all the Christmas Eve and Day worship services!

This year, we have added another worship opportunity at Cross.  Our Live Streaming services have been a huge blessing for many in our congregation.  We have approximately 25 households worshipping with us online every weekend!  We have decided to offer a few of our special services online this season.  We will broadcast our 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM Christmas Eve services. We thank our Cross Lutheran Foundation for providing a grant from the Expanding Ministries Fund to launch this amazing ministry in 2019.

This Christmas, we continue to praise God and to seek His leadership.  He humbled himself in the form of an infant.  He is a powerful God and at the same time a compassionate God. I pray this season that you will find great hope in His power and in His peace.  Have a Blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas!

In Christ,

Pastor Erik Gauss