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Extending Comfort as God Comforts Us

A Holiday Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving in Germany

December 2017

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Write to Alethia White

Individuals: Give to E200500 or Ryan and Alethia White’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507565 for Ryan and Alethia White’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery


Psalm 146:2-5 Tuesday Psalm
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
Blessed are those whose … hope is in the Lord their God.

Advent has always been a time of waiting and anticipation for me. When I was young, we would use the advent wreath to mark the weeks before Christmas, and each newly lit candle represented one week closer to the highly anticipated Christmas day! Christmas scenes abound with animals standing watch over a baby in a manger, as we remember the birth of Jesus in lowly accommodations.

It wasn’t until later in life that I remember the connection being made in Advent between the first coming of the Son in Jesus, and the second coming. The passages aren’t always as easy to preach during Advent. The Christmas stories are nostalgic, and in many contexts expected, but the intention of bringing together the two “comings” in Advent is always helpful for me. Because these passages remind me that our hope is not in ourselves, it does not lie in our leaders, but it is grounded in God alone.

Looking out at our world, we can see that we live in tumultuous times. But this has always been the case and will remain the case until God comes again. We live in the time between Jesus’ birth and the second coming of God when all will be made right. For the people in the Iranian Presbyterian Church, there is a real sense of living in these in-between times. Most of the people in the congregation are somewhere in the middle of their asylum process. They left their home countries months or years ago, traveled the long distance to Europe, and have begun to try to piece together a life here in Berlin. They have all experienced the challenges of living in government-provided housing, learning German, and understanding German culture. Some have successfully found an apartment, which brings a huge amount of peace and stability. Many are progressing well through German and studying diligently for their language proficiency exams. Others are even finding internships and job possibilities. All pieces that help bring stability to the chaotic and stress-filled life of a migrant.

The paradox that I find in Advent is that we are directed to put our hope in God, and not in human endeavors. Psalm 146, which is the Tuesday Psalm in the liturgical daily readings, speaks to this idea. And the Psalm continues to speak about how God, the maker of heaven and earth, is the one who upholds the oppressed, feeds the hungry, and watches over the foreigner. But while we are directed to put our hope in God, this does not mean a call to inaction. In the words of Teresa of Ávila, we are Christ’s hands “through which he blesses all the world.”

There can be many different emotions associated with this time of year. For some, it brings warm feelings and fond memories. For others, it can bring up grief and the reminder of the loss of relationships. Some of us may feel alone when others are gathering together. The Isaiah 40 passage from the second Sunday of Advent says, “Comfort, comfort my people” and ends with a beautiful metaphor of God as a shepherd gathering up lambs and holding them close to God’s heart. Indeed, God is the one who offers us comfort, who cares enough for humanity to enter into our reality and be with us in the person of Jesus. And yet, often this comfort comes through each of us extending this to one another. The reality that God is active in our world and promises to come again does not allow us to remain inactive, rather it is a call to see where God is working and how God is calling us to be agents in this work.

There is a great mystery to this. Similar to the great mystery of God coming to be with us in a baby born in a stable 2000 years ago. The shepherds who were diligently caring for their sheep when they heard the announcement of the birth of a king, said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Let us too watch, not only for God’s coming, but how God is calling us to be a part of extending comfort to one another in this time. This incredible time of waiting and anticipation.

At this time of year, we also want to take a moment to extend our gratitude to you all who support us through your prayers, communication, and financial gifts. You have chosen to be God’s hands and feet to us and to the Iranian Presbyterian Church. Your commitment and action is a blessing to us and many others, and for this we give you thanks!

We wish you all advent greetings in the name of the God who came to be with us, who offers us comfort now, and in whom we place our hope.

Ryan, Alethia, Ariella and Laila

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