“I want you to know you are welcome here. No matter how you vote, who you love, or what your family looks like, you are welcome.”

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These brief words stretched across the country, from Anchorage to Boston, and spoke to me on this first Sunday of Advent.

If you know me, or if you know my church, you will know how much I love it. Saint John UMC isn’t just the place I was raised, the building I went to Sunday school at or the sanctuary I preached at. This is a congregation of love, a true picture of what community can be. As I opened up my laptop this afternoon to stream the 11:15 service, I was reminded again how privileged I am to belong to such a community.

Within moments, I found myself recognizing people by the backs of their heads. I worshipped with the band, laughed along when mistakes were made, and celebrated the joys of my church family in our home.

There’s something about choosing community that makes my heart full. Whether it be a church, a gym, or a busy Target store, making the choice to be with others who have a goal or desire similar to yours is important and it is holy. Being a part of a body who doesn’t have to agree, and who knows they as individuals are not even close to perfect creates space for love to happen.

The love I have experienced at Saint John could go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyways. Saint John agreed to raise me since the day I was baptized. My Sunday School teachers told me stories about the life of Jesus, and encouraged me to live a life like his. When I was a brat in high school, people bought coffee from me at Beans from Above. In college, I received cards, filled with notes of encouragement. I was welcomed, a teenager with no Biblical training, to come to the pulpit preach on more than one occasion. Time after time, year after year, I have felt the love of Christ. Love has happened, and it is good.

Living in this space, a seminary student who exists and worships alongside incredibly brilliant people, I forget that the message God brings isn’t strictly about history or philosophy. Sure, that stuff has its place, but the message is so much greater than that, or maybe less than that, depending on how you see it. As I grow into my theology, I am noticing how much more condensed it is becoming. Even as I cram this information into my brain, what I know is much more specific. God loves me, and God loves others.

It is my job, not as a future minister or a seminarian, but as a Christian, to show people they are loved, just as others have shown me. It is my job to be welcoming, and to allow others to feel welcome in this world.

Let it be so.

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