Week of Christmas, Proper II: Come see what we have waited for!

Today’s scripture passage is taken from the grouping of scriptures in Proper II. The other scriptures are Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, and Titus 3:4-7 – all good scripture passages. But I have chosen the Nativity story.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7)

When I think on this passage, the first thing I think of is Mary giving birth in an unfamiliar town in rough and unwelcoming conditions. The event she had been waiting nine months to come to pass was here. Giving birth is not easy; and certainly not easy when you are young and away from home. The book of Luke makes it sound so easy; it was time, she gave birth, and wrapped him as was the tradition. And then I am sure she looked at the child she had been waiting for!

Our wait, beloved reader, has been much easier. Oh, we say it is hard to wait. Especially after so much hurry and preparations. It is my hope that now that the waiting is just about done that we will take time to consider, and appreciate, what we have been waiting for.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

The opposite of waiting, beloved reader, is not being aware of what is coming to pass. There was a time, a couple thousand years ago, when people lived without knowing Jesus Christ. (Of course, in a sense, there are still people in this day who do not “know” Jesus Christ.) To them there were all types of people (Jews, Romans, Greeks etc) and each group had their own God and worship practices. Little did they know that the coming of the child, this Savior Messiah was to change forever they way people believed.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:13-20)

Suddenly! The wait was over! In one instant everything changed! The shepherd saw it. The wise men saw it. And from that point on, people who saw, meet, and came to know Jesus (int all sorts of ways and meanings) saw that things had changed.

But, you may say, it is the same decorations, the same celebrations, the same traditions from year to year. What has changed for us? Indeed, beloved reader, what has changed for you? We have “waited” through four weeks. Has anything changed? That is the challenge. To not just go along in our same old paths, doing the same old things, but to find fresh and new God and Jesus Christ in our life and in our world.

This season of Advent and Christmas has been the opportunity to see things new and fresh, to renew and recommit yourself to our Lord God who so desired that the world knew their Lord that God sent the God-self as a child into the world.

I wrote this to be posted the day before Christmas so that you might be reminded of what the waiting has been for. It is my hope and prayer that the actual day of Christmas will be filled with the joy and love of family and friends, and the presence of God and Jesus Christ in your hearts and spirits! Selah!

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REWARD OF THE PIOUS . . . Celebrating the infant Jesus and looking forward to the Lord’s return

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Reference: Revelation 21:2-4 )

There may be thematic appropriateness for these verses being used for this day, the day of Christmas Eve. (Five years ago I was more sure than I am now. This actually a re-working of my thoughts from December 24th 2009.) According to anecdotal stories, Jesus was born early Christmas morning when the star of Bethlehem was at its brightest. This same light could be re-imaged as the light of the new Jerusalem. And these verses also talk about the Divine coming to humanity again as it happened that early Christmas morning – the infant Jesus born in a stable growing to be the Messiah that these verses say said will come again along with the coming of God and the Holy City. Yes, these verses could be a good fit for a Christmas Eve day that anticipates the coming of light from heaven.

It is intriguing to have juxtaposed the coming of the infant Jesus with the coming of the Holy City as a bride to the now grown Christ – if it were not for remembering that the coming of God and Holy City in Revelation means the end of this world. If one were to forget that the coming of God in these verses is the time of judgment. If only one could forget or put aside the images of the battle in heaven and the vengeance of the Lord, the coming of the Holy City could be serene and pastoral.

The world forgets however, at its peril, that the coming of the baby Jesus started a chain of events that the world has not yet seen through to completion. The coming of the baby Jesus is a soft and pastoral scene. And the final day of God when the new Jerusalem, the purified and Holy City, comes down is a day of joy and looking forward to a new way. But in-between there is still mourning, crying, pain and death.

I think this is why, beloved, during Christmas we are encouraged and we encourage others to set aside animosity and hostility, and to focus on love and compassion. It has been a time when nations lay down their military arms and remember our connection to one another. We remind ourselves and others that God sent light to the earth in the form of the baby Jesus. And that some day the Lord will return to complete what was started so long ago.

But that day, I do not think, is this day. This is a day spent waiting for Christ Jesus, who in his tiny hand is clutching hope for the world. May you spend Christmas Eve in joyful wonder and hope, with family and/or friends waiting for our savior to be born anew in our mourning and pain filled world, and in our hearts. Selah!