This year was the fiftieth year of the Gavlebocken, a massive straw Advent goat in Gavle, Sweden. For fifty years, a rivalry has played out between the people in town who love the Gavlebocken and want it to survive until the New Year, and the people in town who hate it and actively try to burn it down every single year. I’ve talked about my love of this goat before; I probably will again. It’s a ridiculous, joy-filled tradition. I was once retweeted by the Gavlebocken account, and it made my life last year.
This year, 2016, the Gavlebocken was burnt down on day one. And if that’s not an appropriate symbol for the challenges and extremities of this year, I don’t have a better one.
2016 has been rough for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. There’s been recovery and recuperation, reclamation and release, reconstruction and a ton of resurrection. And all of those, especially the last, are really hard to do and embrace and participate in. So it’s been a challenging year. Sometimes, the goat gets lit on fire.
But, we have to remember, in the words of the Gavlebocken (or at least its Twitter account): “Oh no, such a short amount of time with you my friends. But I shall rise again from the ashes and see you next year!” Time marches forward, and so do we, called by a God who breaks death, liberates the oppressed and calls us to abundant life, and we do it together. Our God has done marvelous things in us, through us and for us this year, and I know 2017 is going to be the best year yet. Because we get to do this crazy work of ministry together.
This Sunday, we are finishing up the Advent season, celebrating the fourth Sunday, Love. On the 21st (that is, a week from today), we will have a Longest Night service in the chapel at 7:00 p.m. for those who need time and space to reflect on the challenges of the season. And on Saturday next, we’ll be having Christmas Eve. The family will be all together. And all of this will speak to the resurrected and resurrecting Jesus Christ, who knows us, loves us, and takes joy in us. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.