Sweden

Correspondent: Linda Johnson

December 23 – Erna Marie was her name. She was a playmate from childhood. Somewhere in the early years, she began to get sick. A lot of times she could only sit. There was no energy in her for anything else. But, she was always pleasant, and it was just nice to sit with her and do nothing.  

The years grew and the illness grew with it. It turned out to be diabetes, the kind that required a lot of care. In those days little was known about the illness and you were at the mercy of it. By the eighth grade it was common to wait for her after school and she wouldn’t show up. Running into the office to find out what happened, the message was usually the same. She passed out in class, the ambulance was called, and Erna was in the hospital once again

She didn’t go on to college. She didn’t have the strength. Instead she relied on God for all her needs. And He cared for her. Her life was a living testimony of grace under pressure. Who knows how many lives she touched.

Every year about this time I think about Erna. The last time I saw her she was in her 30s. I spotted the white cane and put my hand on her shoulder. “Erna, this is Linda. How are you doing?” My old friend was just like always. She touched me back. “Linda, I have good news.  ’m going home for Christmas. I won’t last out the year.”

A few months later I read in our hometown paper that she had passed. I think of her every year about this time and how glad she was to go home for Christmas. Someday, I’ll get to go home, too, Erna. Merry Christmas.

December 27 – The Christmas season has come to a close for another year. And, in our pastor’s usual fashion, he has completed the Sunday services set aside for the coming of Christ. Now, depending on how one looks at it, the first coming has been completed–the birth of Christ. Isaiah, Malachi and John the Baptist are prophets of old who set the stage for the coming savior of his people.

Isaiah 40:3 says “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord…” Malachi 3:1 states “Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way…”  And Matthew 3:3 concludes with “For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord…” From Old Testament times many were waiting on the appearance of the Lord. Is it any wonder that this is the most special time of the year for Christians?

The first coming arrived over two thousand years ago. And, even though it is still celebrated, there is a second coming to look forward to, the coming of Jesus Christ as Christ the King. That is the reason for the season. He will return. The first advent, which means “coming”, was a prophecy fulfilled. The second advent is yet to be.  

The four Sundays preceding Christmas day are special times for Christians all over the world to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. This is the long-awaited savior who came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The four Sundays of Advent cover hope (promise), preparation (waiting), joy (peace), and love (adoration). All are reflections of what was accomplished in the first coming and preparation for the for second coming. May the coming New Year find you safe and secure in the arms of Jesus the Christ, savior of the world.

Pastor Strong can be  heard on our radio program which is on KKOZ 92.1 FM at 8:05 a.m. Sundays. Or, come and hear Pastor Josh live on Sunday mornings. Service begins at 11 a.m. (Sunday school is at 10 a.m.) and evening service at 6 p.m.  Bible study is Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. Sweden Church is east of Ava about 10 miles on Highway 14 and then left onto 14-219 a quarter-mile.