Dec 15, 2017

The Savior Comes

By Leah Sherman

Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes!

So begins another Advent. Another season of waiting and preparing; decorating and baking; shopping and wrapping, all to make our homes and hearts ready for the advent of our King. What a marvelous thought--the King is coming!

We begin our preparations, keeping at the forefront of our minds what we ought and ought not do. We ought not be stressed as we set up the tree and hang the lights. We ought not be impatient with cashiers ringing up our purchases. We ought not let the pressure of hand-addressing our Christmas letters allow us to lose sight of holiday spirit. We ought to smile at the workers stocking the shelves, we ought to take cookies to the shut-ins, we ought to share a kind word with grouchy neighbors--all to spread a little Christmas cheer. But if we believe Christ came solely to make the season merry and bright, we make Him out to be nothing more than a jovial spirit. Indeed, He becomes indistinguishable from the jolly Santa Claus bringing gifts and wishing all a good night.

Christ was not incarnate merely to make our holiday shopping less stressful, or our winter season jolly. Christ was incarnate because of the total depravity of our lives and hearts. Our sin tears apart our lives, our relationships, and our joy. We live in a deep, unending darkness that threatens to smother us at any moment. “Sin’s dreadful doom upon us lies; grim death looms fierce before our eyes” (“O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide,” Lutheran Service Book (LSB) 355, st.  6). Unless God comes to save us, we are lost eternally.

Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes!

This child who came is God made flesh. God, who plagued the Egyptians to free his people from slavery; God, who led his people through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night; God, who drove out the nations from Canaan to give his people an inheritance. This God was born a child not to be a reminder of sweet bygone times, but to bear the weight of the world’s sin and die in shame, nailed to a cross, for the sake of His people, His chosen ones.

With Isaiah, our prayer this Advent is that God would rend the heavens and come down. “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. . . . Behold, please look, we are your people” (Isaiah 64:4, 9b).

At His coming, sin, death, and the power of devil are put to flight, for “He comes to judge the nations, a terror to His foes” (“O Lord, How Shall I Meet You,” LSB 334, st. 6). “He comes the prisoners to release, in Satan’s bondage held . . . He comes the broken heart to bind, the bleeding soul to cure” (“Hark the Glad Sound,” LSB 349, st. 2, 3). “He comes to make His blessing flow far as the curse is found” (“Joy To the World,” LSB 387, st. 3).

Christ’s coming is so much richer than any sentiment that could be written on a bumper sticker or hung in a window. Christ’s salvation is so complete, so full, so everlasting, that our hearts are moved to a joy beyond comparing. “He comes for you, procuring the peace of sin forgiven” (“O Lord, How Shall I Meet You,” LSB 334, st. 5). “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:10).

As you prepare this Advent for the coming of your Savior, ponder the words of the Scripture readings and Advent hymns. See in them all the fullness of the joy that is yours because Christ has come for you, and will come again for you.

Fling wide the portals of your heart;
Make it a temple set apart
From earthly use for heav’n’s employ,
Adorned with prayer and love and joy.
So shall your Sov’reign enter in
And new and nobler life begin.
To God alone be praise
For word and deed and grace!
(“Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates,” LSB 340, st.4).


Leah Sherman is a pastor's wife and homeschooling mother.  She and her husband have struggled with secondary infertility, but are constantly reminded of God's great blessings through their son. She lives in Gordon, Nebraska, and enjoys reading, gardening, and sewing.

Dec 12, 2017

The Waiting Place

By Cheryl Magness

The Dr. Seuss classic Oh, the Places You Will Go! includes a description of a place most of us can easily recognize. It’s called “the waiting place":

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place . . .  
for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break,
or a string of pearls,
or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls,
or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places where the Boom Bands are playing.

There have been times when my life has gotten so complicated (too many Boom Bands all playing at once!) that I have craved “the waiting place.” But more often, I find the waiting place extremely challenging. It’s hard to wait, and it seems that I have had to do a lot of it the last ten years.

Yet I guess our whole lives are to some extent one big long wait. We wait for birthdays and holidays, for weddings and births, for graduations and job offers, for college acceptance letters and ACT scores, for college kids to come home, for paychecks and home sales, for diagnoses and cures.

Sometimes we end up waiting, unfulfilled, for a very long time, as the job goes to someone else, the home doesn't sell, the apology doesn't come, forgiveness is not offered, or we are told there is no cure.

I am not sure, though, how to be at peace with that sort of waiting. I can't seem to do it. I wait and worry and obsess and cry and ask, "How long, Lord? How long?"

If you are currently in the waiting place, take heart. As we enter the season of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for the coming of the Christ Child, we are reminded that while this world is one big wait, the kingdom of God is not. We may seem to spend our earthly lives waiting for temporal answers, but we can rest in the truth that Christ has already come in the flesh to redeem us, that He continues to come to us daily to deliver His salvation, and that He will come again in glory to take us home. On that day there will no more waiting, since there will be no more past, present or future, only the ever-present reality of communion with the One by whose hand we were made.

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”

(Ps. 39:4-7)


Cheryl is Managing Editor of Reporter Online for The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. She blogs at A Round Unvarnish'd Tale and has also been published by The FederalistAmerican ThinkerOnFaith, and Touchstone magazine. Cheryl is married to a Lutheran cantor, and they have three children.

Dec 8, 2017

Like Little Children

By Hannah Stuckwisch

"Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

In many ways, marriage and family are pictures of our relationship with God. This is explicitly described in the New Testament in places such as Ephesians 5 and Matthew 7, and is understood even from the name God the Father, and from the frequent description of Jesus as the heavenly bridegroom. Many times since Nick and I were engaged and now that we are married I have thought about how this picture goes both ways. Just as Jesus and his Church can teach us much about marriage, so also marriage teaches us about Jesus and the Church. The unconditional love that a husband shows to a wife, even when not deserved, gives a glimpse into the perfect unconditional love that Christ has for us.

As we are now very close to the arrival of our first child, it has struck me how pregnancy is also a great picture of our life on earth and relationship with God. An unborn child is completely and utterly dependent upon his or her mother. If separated from her, he would not live. Everything he has and is comes from his parents, just as everything we have and are comes from our Father in Heaven. Whether or not that child understands this doesn't matter. A mother continues to nourish her baby regardless of what that child understands or believes about her, and even when that child is being troublesome and causing her pain. During the nine months the baby spends in his mother's womb, the parents eagerly prepare for his arrival, setting up a nursery and getting clothes and diapers and blankets for him, just as our Father in heaven prepares a place for us even now.  The baby doesn't know when he will be born, and often the parents don't know either. Rather, we live in the day to day hope of an event that we know is coming eventually.

The long months of waiting, especially now when we have reached the "any day now" point, remind me of Advent and of waiting for the last day. All we know is "soon." The day and the hour of both events is still hidden to us. While we will have to suffer through literal labor pains before meeting our baby and figurative labor pains of the ending of this world before Christ returns, we know that much better things lie ahead than those we will leave behind. We can be just as certain that Christ will return as we are that eventually our child will exit the womb.

Finally, an unborn baby cannot live by sight. He cannot see his parents, or know them by sight. But little babies can and do recognize their parents by their voices, just as we recognize our Savior by his voice. When the baby is born and finally can see his mother and father face to face, he knows them even though their sight is unfamiliar because of their voices. What a great picture for us, to remind us that there is much much more than what we can see with our eyes, and that even when all we see is darkness we are still in the loving arms of our heavenly Father who promises us that the day is coming soon when this world will pass away and we will be able to see him face to face.

Dec 5, 2017

An Advent Sonnet

By Caitlin Magness

How could that city have gone on sleeping

beneath the stars hung by your mighty hand?

How could the shepherds have gone on keeping

their watch, not knowing that what you had planned

had come to pass? Creation now is lifted,

assumed into the glory of your Head.

The tides of entropy now have shifted,

fullness of Being in a manger bed.

How could I not have realized you were here

with me, as surely as you reign above,

calling me out of nothingness and fear,

back to the contemplation of your Love?

All that I see here now reflects your face

and sings back: All is grace. All is grace.


Caitlin is the daughter of a family of Lutheran musicians and church workers. She is an aspiring novelist, college student, and thinker of too many thoughts. She lives in Oklahoma with her family.

Dec 1, 2017

So Happily Situated: Natural Propriety and Liturgical Living (from our Archives)

(Note: This piece first ran three years ago, but it's a thought-provoking reminder of the importance of seasons--especially relevant as we begin the season of Advent).

By Heather Smith

Elizabeth was delighted.
She had never seen a place for which nature had done more,
or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.
Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 43

Mrs. Gardiner:  How do you like the house, Lizzie?
Elizabeth Bennet:  Very well.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place so happily situated.
Pride & Prejudice BBC miniseries, Episode 4

Until I visited Mount Vernon, I had never really thought about Elizabeth Bennet’s comment that Pemberly, Mr. Darcy’s great house, is “so happily situated.” Standing on the porch of George Washington’s home, gazing across the lawn to the steep banks where the Potomac embraces the estate, I immediately comprehended what Lizzie felt.  The house and outbuildings and gardens and all the manmade elements were magnificent in themselves, but what made them utterly enthralling was how perfectly they fit with the land.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a place so happily situated.

Ever since, I have been alert to the ways in which buildings suit their places, or, more often, to the ways in which they do not.  It is ironic, in a country with as much land as the United States, that so many structures are erected with complete disregard for the grounds on which they stand.  In the past, necessity or poverty may have driven such decisions, but today it seems most people have simply lost the aesthetic sense of what we might term natural propriety.  That is, we have numbed our sense of what is proper according to nature. Constrained by neither poverty nor circumstance, we choose to build sizeable houses with all the amenities Martha Stewart would recommend on tiny plots sardined against their neighbors.  Few of us would give up these middle-class mansions for smaller homes carefully situated in concert with their natural surroundings. 

Nov 24, 2017

The Paradox of a Mother's Time (from our Archives)

Note: This piece first ran in the spring of 2016.

By Anna Mussmann

At night, I complain to my husband that all I want is time. Time to type the thoughts in my head and the novel in my notes, time to sew the projects I’ve pinned, time to organize the clothes. Time without a baby in one arm and a toddler industriously undoing my every-second action. He means so well, that kid. It’s a good thing he is also so darn cute.

Some days I claim that I failed to get anything done at all. It makes me restless, as if life is flowing by irretrievably and I am too bogged down with the weight of childcare to accomplish anything. Soon my time will be gone.

Yet in another sense, being a stay-at-home mother means that I have all the time in the world. My children force me to experience the minutes and seconds in a new way. We make granola together, and it takes forever. First, I wait while the toddler fetches and gathers the measuring cups. Opening the drawer requires deliberation. Selecting the right items is not swift when he must stand on tip-toe to peer in. Later he must, of course, do the stirring. That takes a good long while. Even clean-up is not hasty, because who licks the molasses off the spoon in a hurry? Molasses is good stuff.

The things we do are done together, and that forces me to wait and watch and think. The socks are put away individually. The yard work is done in brief spurts while the baby is willing to sit on a blanket. If an adult without children lived at the pace of my life, she would no doubt be on vacation in the Bahamas. I try to remind myself that I live a life of leisure.  

In the midst of this paradox of having all the time in the world and yet not nearly enough of it, the real issue is whether or not the things I do matter. If the clock stopped ticking, would my work--my tortuously leisurely, child-smudged labors--have been worthwhile enough to compensate for the more adult things I never managed to do?

Nov 21, 2017

How We Celebrate Advent at My House (including links and resources)

By Anna Mussmann

I love Christmas, but I’m glad that my husband has always insisted we celebrate Advent first. He and I quibble sometimes about the details. We’ve disagreed about when it’s appropriate to hang lights on the porch or decorate the tree (he says on Christmas Eve). I’ve complained once or twice that he’s a stickler, but overall, his influence keeps me from missing out on a beautiful season in the church year.  

Advent makes Christmas feel more like it did when I was a kid, back when the wait and anticipation were big deals. But Advent isn’t just about refraining from rushing Christmas. It is special in its own right. It heightens my awareness of little details as we participate in Advent rituals like lighting candles and counting days. It’s a reminder that the mundane--a cup of tea in a pretty mug, a child who does his chore, a friend who always laughs at one’s jokes--are good and beautiful. It’s also a reminder that we are waiting. We live in a world that holds as many wrongs and griefs as it does good cups of tea, but we wait in hope for the Savior who rights all wrongs. It makes it easier to remember why we really celebrate our Lord’s birth.

Advent isn’t something I grew up particularly aware of, but I love the customs and traditions my family now practices during this season. Here are some of the ideas that we find helpful.

Nov 14, 2017

What We're Reading (November)

Every now and then, we share what some of the SDMW writers have been reading lately. What about you? Do you have any titles to recommend? 

(NOTE: speaking of books, there is still time to sign up for the SDMW Advent book exchange!).

Nov 10, 2017

Join Us for another Advent Book Exchange

Hi Everyone!

We all need the humanizing influence of good stories, and once again, SDMW will be hosting an Advent book exchange. Join us if you would like to share a favorite book with a fellow Lutheran lady (and receive a book in return!).

Like last year, the rules are simple; but we’ve tweaked them a bit. Here is how to participate:

1. Fill out the participation form at the end of this post no later than November 23rd

2. I will email you with your recipient’s mailing address and her comments about her favorite types of stories. Choose a story-driven book (i.e., novel, memoir, or nonfiction narrative) that is in good reading condition and reasonably cheerful (avoid anything excessively disturbing. The overall message should be hopeful even if the characters experience suffering). Feel free to include a note explaining why you love this book. 

3. Send a book to your lovely recipient no later than December 9th (you will have two weeks in which to do this). You should include your email address with the book so that the recipient can let you know she got your gift. 

Are you in? It will be fun!

Here is the form:

Nov 1, 2017

Talking to Children About Death (Podcast Episode with Allison Kieselowsky)

Living Our Vocations, Season One, Episode 4: "Talking to Children About Death and Loss" with Allison Kieselowsky.
Recently my son asked me, "But Mommy, what did Jesus save us from?" It's a tough question. The answer doesn't make any sense unless I talk to him about death. Yet death is a very uncomfortable subject. In this episode, Allison Kieselowsky--a pastor's wife, teacher, and mom--shares some wonderful, theologically-driven examples of how she talks to her kids about death and loss.

You can listen-in here in this post or head over to iTunesLibsyn, or Stitcher. As always, we are grateful for reviews (more reviews on iTunes will allow more people to find our podcast). 


Singing About Death

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