There’s nothing ‘ordinary’ about the Savior’s love

The Mayans were wrong. Go figure! We did not fall off the fiscal cliff. It was impossible from my grandfather’s perspective, “You can’t fall off the floor.” Our world is inundated with bad news and we seem to relish it. Why else would we, as a nation, be drowning in reality television?

There is good news and in case you missed it we just spent several weeks retelling and relishing anew the good news of Emmanuel God with us. It began with this simple prayer on Dec. 2: “O come, thou key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” That prayer led us into the glory of the Christmas story. Not one single day, but 12 days of celebration.

I pray you enjoyed the days of Advent and Christmas. There is such longing and hope in this season. We were able to celebrate as family in person and by Skype (technology can be good). We were able to enjoy holiday traditions such as watching “White Christmas” on Christmas Eve and watching “The Sound of Music” during the Christmas celebration. Sister Maria reminds us well when the “dog bites and the bee stings, I simply remember a few of my favorite things.” That is what Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are really about remembering, being lost in wonder, being thoroughly reminded that we are loved.

If you would allow me, I would like to do some remembering of my favorite things from this season. I love watching movies (classics) with my family; eating leftover pie right out of the pan for breakfast; driving through the Badlands at sunset on Christmas Eve; seeing my 83-year-old mother playing Fruit Ninja on Kinect; enjoying Christmas brunch with my church family; and hearing the Prairie Pastor Mark Narum call the unnecessary stress on lower income families in Western North Dakota simply the work of greed.

Oh, you say this nice letter suddenly turned snarly not at all. Everything above is connected to my hope in Advent. I believe in praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I love being able to enjoy my family but never at the cost of being forgetful of how blessed I am. And never at the cost of forgetting that in the midst of such prosperity in North Dakota, many suffer without a voice. But God is ever mindful and the God who hears our prayers, hears the prayers of the oppressed. The last word is never the Mayans, or the fiscal cliff and I would pray for those who have voice in the church that greed would not be the last word in our land.

We have just celebrated the marvelous truth: “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory. The glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Emmanuel God is with us. Christ in us is the hope of glory. We need to love our families and relish in the celebrations of the season and we must love our neighbors as ourselves. We move into a season of “ordinary times” but there is nothing “ordinary” living out the extravagant love of our Savior. May the days ahead turn into extraordinary days of amazing grace and mercy flooding the hills and plains once again.

The Rev. James Shackelford is pastor of Grace Fellowsihp Church in Burlington.