“If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness. He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him. For the wisdom of the Lord is great, and he is mighty in power, and beholdeth all things: And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and he knoweth every work of man. He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man licence to sin.” (Reference: Sirach 15:15-20)
A paraphrase – according to me:
“If you have the will and intent, keep all the laws and precepts that God has established from the time of the first calling of God’s people up until and including what Jesus made known. And try to keep with good intentions and determination as you can. God has placed before humanity two options – fire and water. Reach for whichever seems to suit your intentions. Before all of humanity is the choice of life and death; what people strive for, that is what they receive. Remember, the Lord’s wisdom is great, and the Lord is mighty in power, and sees all things. God’s eyes are on those who fear the Lord (and those who don’t.) He knows what everyone does, and is capable of doing. The Lord God has commanded that no wicked thing should be done, and has not given any permission to sin.”
I have not said much about the fact that we are in the third week of Advent. I have posting along side the daily blog Advent themed postings. There has not been much overlap between the two. That is not surprising because the themes of historic Anabaptists don’t have much overlap between themes of Advent and Christmas. It was the Roman Catholic’s intention to appropriate Christ’s birth and secular winter celebrations. And since the historic Anabaptists did not have much use for the state-run Roman Catholic church, I imagine that during that time there was not much overlap of Advent themes into their Anabaptist households. At least I have not read accounts where their would be.
Over years the Anabaptist/Mennonite faith has picked up Advent and Christmas themes, using them in worship services and other times of fellowship. I remember Advent candles playing a part of worship services, and we had yearly Christmas programs. And of course we sang Advent and Christmas hymns. And Christmas was celebrated in every Anabaptist/Mennonite home.
You may ask why I am writing along this line. Humanity has the choice, and has always had the choice as to how they celebrate Advent and Christmas. Whether they “stretch out their hands” to the commercialism of Christmas or the sacred/religiousness of Christmas. Whether the focus is on the bottom of the Christmas tree or in the stockings hung up in waiting. Or on the nativity scene and the baby Jesus. And those choices, it seems to me, might be reflected at other times of the year. We choose and reach out our hand to what is important in our life. God watches us. And in the fullness of God’s time those choices will be repaid. So, what you choose now will determine what you receive later.
It is my hope and pray in this Advent season, which is the beginning of a new church year, that you will choose will. And will continue choosing well throughout the year. Selah!