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A Time for Angels

Special service honors lost loved ones

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Rob Gunderson lights the candles of remembrance at A Time for Angels at St. Olaf Lutheran Church on Sunday afternoon.

The sanctuary at St. Olaf Lutheran Church was filled with friends and family remembering their lost loved ones on Sunday afternoon.

For the last 24 years, Gunderson Funeral Home has hosted A Time for Angels remembrance service in December to provide comfort for those who are grieving a loved one during the holiday season.

“Simply defined, angels are messengers and guardians of God’s presence,” said Phil Gunderson, co-owner of the funeral home. “Angels are messengers of comfort, joy, courage and hope. They’re also messengers of blessings and freedom. … The presence of angels is especially evident during the Christmas season where we prepare for and celebrate the birth of Christ.”

The messages of hope and comfort were shared by the Rev. Emily Sauer, of St. Olaf, and Monsignor Kevin McCoy, of Holy Trinity Parish.

“It was just one week ago that we entered into this season of Advent,” McCoy said. “We greet this time of the year with joyful expectation, but this here is perhaps different for most everyone here because we come to this sanctuary today bearing the memory of a loved one who has passed from this Earthly dwelling.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Rev. Emily Sauer, head pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church, gives a sermon at A Time for Angels hosted by Gunderson Funeral Home at St. Olaf on Sunday afternoon.

McCoy noted that whether a loved one’s loss was sudden or expected, that loss can still feel greater during what’s supposed to be a joyful season.

“Come to me all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,” Sauer read from the book of Matthew.

“Have you ever noticed that the holiday season tends to highlight what is most broken in our lives?” she asked the congregants. “Our families, our bank accounts, our dreams, our friendships and even our hearts. During this season, many of us feel inadequate, lonely, overwhelmed or just plain blue.”

Sauer said that most people respond to grief and pain during the holidays in one of two ways — fight or flight. Fighters may try a little too hard to gloss over the broken parts of their life and hearts. They’ll put on a joyful facade to hide the hurt within.

“They buy too many gifts hoping to find Christmas spirit,” she said. “They wear themselves out with all the frenzy they create around them and attempt to create the perfect Christmas.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Phil Gunderson, co-owner of Gunderson Funeral Home, gives the welcome message at A Time for Angels at St. Olaf Lutheran Church on Sunday afternoon.

Fighters are harder to identify, Sauer said, because they look happy and they sound happy.

“But underneath all the ribbon and frills, there’s a different story,” she said.

The flighters, however, she said are easy to identify.

“They’re Scrooge,” Sauer said. “No celebrations, no merriment, no decoration … but often the flighters are more than just grumps — they are also brokenhearted and in need of the Christmas spirit.”

Sauer told those in the pews who are feeling those feelings of grief and brokenheartedness that they are not alone and they don’t have to try to be a fighter or a flighter. “What if this Christmas, we didn’t give into this fight or flight?” she asked. “What if instead, this Christmas, we rested? What if we were able to rest in God’s love? Rest in his hope, in his peace, his joy?”

After the messages, Gunderson Funeral staff read the names of those in the area who have died over the past year. Dozens of names were read as other Gunderson staff handed out keepsake angels to the families.

Additional angels are available for purchase for $15 at Gunderson Funeral Home, 1615 N. 15th St.

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