Advent and Christmas blessings to you.
There are two journeys from Nazareth I want to tell you about; one ended in Bethlehem and the other in South Dakota.
Remember the journey? The journey taken by a young couple from Nazareth to a dirty barn full of animals in Bethlehem is the beginning to the story we know best about how God works His plan in His way. God uses sinners like me, like you, like Joseph, like Mary. How arduous that journey must have been on Mary, so close to giving birth, along dusty trails to the ancestral home of her husband, a place she may have known very little about! Can you imagine the questions that went through her mind?
Although they may have been anxious about where they would stay or whether she would give birth away from home, God directed their journey. He was in control, providing everything that was needed to secure mankind's salvation and to proclaim that salvation to the world. We proclaim that same Good News as baptized believers, in our life together as the church. Together, we make a difference.
Here’s the second journey, which was a little bit longer in miles.
When Nabil (Na-BEEL) Nour (right), a native of Nazareth in modern-day Israel, immigrated to the United States alone at the age of 16 with no English-language skills, he had no idea what God would do with and in his life. Although he was raised Catholic, Nabil recalls that he had never even opened a Bible before setting foot in America, and he had certainly never heard of the Lutheran church.
Then while attending college in South Dakota, Nabil met and married a Lutheran woman, Jean, his wife of 36 years. Together, they attended Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregations in Huron and Sioux Falls, S.D. Somewhere along the way, he became a confessing Lutheran.
“All along, people were encouraging me to become a pastor. I would not accept that because I thought God could not use a sinner like me," he once told me.
By God's grace and through the encouragement of the baptized, Nabil did become a LCMS pastor. He has been serving Redeemer Lutheran Church in Armour, S.D., since 1994. More recently, he has served as a circuit counselor and as second and then third vice-president of the LCMS South Dakota District. At our Synod's convention this past July, Rev. Nour was elected fifth vice-president of the Synod.
"Here I am, a little boy from Nazareth, yet God calls me to be a footwasher to feed His little lambs. I have to laugh because God chose a Palestinian to do His work. He takes us from where we are and uses us in spite of ourselves," he says. What a marvelously humble witness!
What’s your journey like these days? You may be in the midst of a joyful season, gathering or preparing to gather together with family and friends. Or you could be facing uncertainties with your family, your spouse, your job, your health or perhaps even in your own congregation. You might even be grieving the recent loss of a loved one. You may be asking yourself, "Where is God taking me? How will this all work out?"
As the president of our Synod, I am asked those kinds of questions all the time. “Where is God taking us? What will our future be?”
In those moments of confusion, remember that the Lord always blesses, and as He does, we pray regularly for our Synod and for God's wisdom and direction. As a church body, we have a clear path laid out for us in God's Word, come what may. To help stay the course, delegates to this past summer’s Convention committed to six very specific mission priorities that explain our way forward.
- Plant, sustain and revitalize Lutheran churches.
- Support and expand Lutheran theological education.
- Perform human care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministries.
- Collaborate with the Synod’s members and partners to enhance mission effectiveness.
- Promote and nurture the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of pastors and professional church workers.
- Enhance early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and youth ministry.
And the Lord invites you – yes, YOU – to again walk with us on His journey!
That is why I fervently ask you to consider a gift of $50, $100, $300 or as you are able to the Global Mission Fund today. God has entrusted you and me with the precious Gospel so desperately needed in the world! Through our witness, mercy and life together work both here in the U.S. and overseas—the activities and efforts made possible by your donations—you are connecting people with our Word-became-flesh Savior, Jesus!
Where are we going? Today, as He has led His people throughout all time, God is leading you and me and all in our beloved Missouri Synod to the foot of the cross, where we find His abundant, overflowing grace and mercy. No matter what the world throws at us, no matter how uncertain the future or how challenging it is to live as a child of God in this day and age, have no fear, little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you His kingdom!
It is God's Word manifested in that little baby of Bethlehem that brings salvation, hope and LIFE to the world. Please give a gift today, sharing God’s kingdom with those who do not yet know our Savior! I pray you will. I know you can.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
PS. Please help us share this glorious and joyful news with the world through a special and generous year-end gift to our Global Mission Fund.