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!

Week of Christmas, Proper I: What have we waited for?

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

The Revised Common Lectionary does not differentiate between years A, B, and C for the readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are, however, three different readings (called Propers) that can be used for these days. I have chosen the scripture passage for today from Proper I. The other possible passages were Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14 & 15-20.

Why this one then? It accesses an old theme for Advent – coming out of darkness and unknowing into light and illumination. Or, more keeping with the theme of Year B, having been lost but finding one’s way back out of darkness into light.

“You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.” (Isaiah 9:3-5)

The writer of Isaiah was writing for and about a people who had suffered. Who had lost their homes and their way of life. And when this suffering came to an end, there was great rejoicing. The people praised and celebrated their deliverer. Praise and poems were written in remembrance, sometimes to be used against the day when suffering came again. To remember that suffering and oppression does not last forever.

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

It seems natural to think of this passage as foretelling the coming baby Jesus, and Jesus the Messiah. But when the writer of Isaiah wrote this, Jesus’ coming was far off in the distance. A distant hope born of dreams and aspirations of a desperate people. Some commentators say that this passage was to foretell the coming of human and purely mortal deliverer. And from an understanding that human endeavors and military might would secure the people’s freedom and fortune.

What do you wait for, beloved reader? What do you need deliverance from? We humans often do not know what we need. We want and want. We claim to suffer in varying degrees. We think we know what we need, but often when we have that we discover that we need something more or different. And with each round of suffering and misery what we believe would end it changes each time.

When we suffer, we may very well feel that we live in darkness. A deep darkness that takes away our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I believe we are living in such a time. We need to remember – maybe remember again – that the light did come. In the innocuous form of a baby. What this baby grew to be was not what we may have expected. But I believe it is what we need.

May you beloved reader see the light coming and may you celebrate it in your life with joy and thanksgiving. Selah!

The Third Week of Advent: Our Response

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

There are many things to do during the season of Advent; planning, shopping, decorating. And then more decorating, planning and shopping! It seems like a whirlwind of activity, especially as Christmas day draws nearer and nearer! But do not, beloved, forget to do the same thing with your soul, spirit, and faith! Plan each day to spend time in scripture, meditation, and prayer. That is like planning, decorating, and shopping for your faith. And since this Advent season has the theme of re-commitment and renewal, it is especially important.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

The whole over arching theme of Advent and Christmas, regardless of the lectionary year and theme, is that we are not alone! God saw humanity’s despair and sent Christ to renew and redeem all people. While we talk about “waiting” for Advent and Christmas, we really are not waiting for Christ at all! We are just remembering how alone we were before Christ. And we wait for the moments to celebrate what has happened. But as the writer of 1 Thessalonians tells us, there are many things we can do now without waiting, and God will gift us now and in the days and weeks to come. May you find balance, beloved, in the waiting and anticipating and in the doing of spiritual practices now! Selah!

The Second Week of Advent: Being Patient for Whatever Will Come

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. ” (2 Peter 3:8-9) 15a)

I have often thought that there was a good bit of time between Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden, and the coming of Christ. Many years also between Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Many years until Moses was called out. And many years of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. And yet the writer of 2 Peter says God is not slow.

And think about all the years from Jesus until now. Have any arisen like the Bible “heroes” we know of? It might seem like the Lord is slow – ever so slow to take more action in the history of humanity. Each year more humanity is created, and more that the Lord is “not wanting any to perish”.

These are some ponderings to have during Advent, when we are thinking “what are we waiting for?” It is more than just thoughts about the baby Jesus; it is thoughts about who we are as the Lord’s people, and our growth and development of our Christian faith. Especially in the Advent year when the over all theme is coming back to renewal of faith and devotion. Sometimes we come back because there is no where else to go.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.” (2 Peter 3:10)

We may wait for Advent; but just as the writer of 2 Peter tells us the Lord is not slow, we are also told that the Lord will return at the most unexpected time. And we may very well want more time then!

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (2 Peter 3:11-13)

Our Advent wait is part of the longer wait for the Lord Christ to return. Unlike when Christ came a baby with much heralding and foretelling, the writer of 2 Peter says there will be little warning. And it will not be the gentleness of a baby, but the fiery return of the Almighty.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Peter:3 14-15a)

The way we wait, beloved reader, is as important as what we wait for. This is one of the things we can learn during Advent – to wait, and to wait wisely for what we know will eventually come. May our Lord blessing your waiting!