NO MURMURING OR ARGUING . . . Silence before the Holy Child

“Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” (Philippians 2:14-15b from Philippians 2:12-18 )

More often in the past few days I have looked back to see what I wrote five years ago. I have done this somewhat with an eye to make sure I did not go “off course” in my interpretation and exegesis. Fortunately I did not. But when I re-read what I wrote for Christmas day five years ago [ “Christmas in the midst of fallen generations” ] I had to wonder how I was going to improve on that.

But what caught my eye this year was something different than five years ago; the writer of Philippians tells us to be “ blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish.” Well, that reminds me of baby Jesus. And all other babies I have seen – not just my own! Who cannot wonder and marvel at a baby. All the possibilities in the world rest in a baby. And none as much as baby Jesus.

With all that goes into the Christmas season, I have to remind myself to still myself and imagine baby Jesus at peace and sleeping. It reminds me that God that did not want to be at a distance from creation and humanity, but wanted to be a part of it and in the midst of it. What better way to do that then to merge with humanity and walk that earth that the Divine created.

May you gentle reader take time from your busy schedule to breathe in the wonder of the Christ child, silencing all the noise and distraction so that you might focus on the purity and innocence of the season. Selah! And shalom for your day!

Culmination of Advent – Christmas Day

I have heard a great deal from friends and family that they do not feel they are ready for Christmas. It is a common theme, and usually means they have not decorated, baked/cooked, and shopped in preparation for Christmas Day. But Christmas will come whether we are ready or not. And that is okay. Because the most important preparation for Christmas is readying our hearts and spirits, and not our home and hearths. That is what Advent is for, to ready our hearts and spirits for the coming of the baby Jesus.

Consider this; Mary was not very ready for the birth of this child. She had no secured and save place to be in labor. She did not have a female family member or friend to be with her. She laid her baby in a manager instead of a specially prepared bed. Luke 2 verses 6b to 7 says, “While they were there [in Bethlehem], 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.” That does not sound like very much preparation to me. And consider this, that while the world needed a Savior and Messiah, the world was not ready for that Savior to come in the form of a baby. No, NOT being ready for Christmas seems to be a tradition started long ago.

Christmas morning comes whether we have all the preparation done that we think we need to have done. And if you are ready this, it has already come! But there is still time to open your heart to the baby Jesus, and bid him welcome to your heart and soul. It does not take tinsel or tree, decorating or baking, nor even presents and wrapping paper. It only takes a whispered prayer and an open grateful heart. Merry Christmas gentle reader! Selah!

Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year A Hear Us Lord!

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalms 80:1-3)

In the scripture from the daily “Sip of Scripture” we read from I Kings chapter 8 where King Solomon is dedicating the temple. He is asking for God hear and heed the prayers of the Lord’s people. And the psalmist also asks that God her the cries of the Israelite followers of God. That it is King David – the father of King Solomon – who it is assumed is the psalmist, is just one example of scriptural symmetry.

So close to the Christmas event, the birth of Christ, our waiting has reached a fevered pitch. We are in need of a Savior, as much as the Jews were at the time of Christ’s birth. So much had gone wrong, and God’s people had gone astray or had been lead astray – again.

We may well join with our spiritual ancestors from the close past to the farthest distant past; “Hear us! Heed us! Come to us! Restore us!

Through the birth of your Son,
Who was, is and ever will be our Lord and Redeemer
Let your face shine upon us
As the star of Bethlehem shone down on his birth place!
Selah!”

Third Sunday of Advent – Year A Anticipation of Great Joy

All the passages for the third Sunday of Advent centre on recognizing who God is, the coming of Christ and who is, and what they mean for humanity.

The passage from Isaiah 35 celebrates the coming ofglory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” saying,

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool .” (verses 5 to 7)

Psalm 146 talks about the happiness that come from the Lord, and echoes the sentiments found in Isaiah 35. And Luke 1, Mary’s Song, is a praise and adoration passage to God and Christ. James 5 encourages patience for the coming of the Lord and uses the metaphor of the farmer waiting for the harvest which needs the early and late rains. And lastly, but certainly not least, we have the passage from Matthew 11 where John the Baptist is languishing in Herod’s prison and inquires of Jesus as to whether he is the one they have been waiting for. Jesus answers him by referring to the passages from Psalms and Isaiah.

The passage from Revelation, which is the “Sip of Scripture” for this day, works will with this theme, placing the Lord and Christ who we  celebrate this season, in heaven where they are completing the work that was started with the birth of Jesus.

May this third Sunday of Advent find you anticipating the arrival of baby Jesus, and looking towards the coming fulfillment of God’s work in the world. Selah!

Second Sunday of Advent – Year A The Epistle

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:4-7)

 

If Peter was one of the first apostles, Paul was one of the last. And just as Peter was straightforward, so was Paul direct and was not reluctant to speak his mind. I remember reading in Acts about some of the encounters between them. But both were devoted to Christ and our Lord’s ministry. But both also experienced some problems and struggles before coming to mature faith. It is good to focus on both of them as we live out our spirituality.

 

Here Paul, as Peter did in the daily “Sip of Scripture”, speak along similar lines (that is why I picked this passage from the four choics of Advent readings). Paul focues on the instruction portion and suggests this should keep the believer’s heart open to welcome others and live in harmony. Peter suggests that obedience to truth should lead to a deep mutual love. And who are we to say that one is better or more accurate than the other. May you gentle reader spend the second week of Advent listening to the Divine and loving your fellow believers.

First Sunday of Advent – Year A RCL The Response

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.” (Psalms 122:6-9)

I missed by one day, because I only realized this morning, that yesterday, Sun Dec 1, was the first Sunday of Advent. With Adventing come so quickly on the heels of Thanksgiving, it is sometimes hard to “shift gears”, moving from giving thanks to waiting in ancipation. We waited all November long for Thanksgiving, and now we wait again.

But if we consider these verses day, in conjunction with the admonition to tend to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we would do well. The prayer of peace in goes beyond simply words because verse nine says, “I will seek your good.” I hope and pray gentle reader that you have sought the good of your brothers and sisters this day.

Next Sunday I will pick another verse from the Revised Common Lectionary for Advent Year A.