December 11 - Third Sunday of Advent


Reflection by Elizabeth Ullery Swenson, MDiv Student at Bethany Theological Seminary and Planting Pastor of Wildwood Gathering in Olympia, Washington.


          In the TV series Gilmore Girls, Loralie Gilmore, the thirty-something single mom, has a knack for predicting snow. Waking up in the middle of the night, getting out of bed and opening the window as the cold Connecticut air rushes in, she says mater-a-factly, “Smells like snow!” It is her deep love for snow, and the magic that it brings, that has honed her detection abilities. Each year she anticipates that first snow and the unexpected magic. Each year through the true magic of television, as she says those three words and looks up, flurries start to fall. 

          As I refreshed the radar map on my laptop waiting for the blue blob indicating snow to arrive over my house, I wished for Loralie’s keen sense of smell. I wished for the magic of television. Snow in the lowlands of the Pacific Northwest is much harder to come by than in Connecticut, but that makes the excitement and anticipation all that stronger. Late in the afternoon as those first few flurries started to fall the whole world began to change. Later that night after several inches had accumulated the dog and I went outside to play in the snow. We bounced, ran, jumped and when she tripped me and I fell into the pile of snow I looked up at the flakes falling on my face. I prayed. Thanksgiving and anticipation washed over me as I reveled in the magic of snow, allowing the flakes to baptize me with pure joy. 

          We are in a season of anticipation, a season of waiting, waiting for birth, waiting for change, waiting for a new Kin-dom, waiting for peace and justice to break-through, waiting for God. Our finely honed senses aren’t going to be much help in alerting us to its arrival. We know that God shows up in unexpected and peculiar ways. Instead, we look to stories and prophesy. Words of hope that have kept generations attuned to God’s presence in large and small ways. In the coming weeks we will gather to celebrate the arrival of God in the brith of a child, truly unexpected and unplanned. As we sing songs, share meals, and revel in the joy of the season I challenge you to see God showing up in small, insignificant and unexpected ways. In warm hugs, kind gifts, twinkling lights, and maybe even in snow. 

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Ullery Swenson

Elizabeth Ullery Swenson is second-year MDiv student at Bethany Theological Seminary. She is the planting pastor for WildWood Gathering in Olympia, Washington.

About Wildwood

Wildwood Gathering ( is a new kind of church that seeks to create safe space to explore spitiuality, faith, and God. WildWood is church for people who have given up on church or who think it isn't for them. She is a church activist, working for full recognition and inclusion of people who are LGBTQ+, women, POC, and all those marginalized because she believes that God is most fully present on the margins. 

About Bethany Theological Seminary

Located in Richmond, Indiana, Bethany Theological Seminary is affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, a peace church. Bethany offers a host of opportunities for individuals interested in service, justice, and peace building, as well as a number of scholarships concentrated in these areas.

Bethany is recognized as part of Seminaries that Change the World: Class of 2016-17. To learn more about Bethany, visit their website at, or view their Seminaries that Change the World Profile.