Archive for category #advent
For Christians, Christmas Eve is a moment of open arms— as a midwife who extends her arms to receive the newly born child. As the church, we also extend our arms to receive Jesus once again, with all that he has to offer: an incomparable love, a huge smile, the smile of God over humanity and directed individually at every human being.
My left-handed catcher’s mitt is a bit of an oddity to most. Being left-handed in baseball, except in rare cases, means exclusion from the position of catcher. This is due in large part to the game’s counterclockwise flow. There have only been 30 left-handed throwing players who caught in at least 1 defensive inning. If you exclude the seven men who only caught in a single game, then you’re talking about just 23 players. If you count only those guys who caught 100 or more games in a career, you’re down to exactly five left-handed throwing catchers. However, if you’re only counting career catchers (minimum of 800 games caught), then you have exactly one and that is Jack Clements. To have a youth sized left handed catchers mitt is an invitation for someone to take on something miraculous.
Christmas Eve is a time of wonder, anticipation and glowing hopeful faces. Unfortunately, even on the night of Christmas Eve, there are thousands of people who cannot or will not smile back. In the first place, they don’t seem to see Jesus in all the festivities.
- Maybe what they truly capture is Jesus crying, as any other baby does throughout the world.
- In pain and in sorrow, throughout the world, there are precious little babies, precious elderly men, and woman, young people who are lacking food, shelter, jobs, loved ones; therefore, they are not smiling on Christmas Eve.
- Some carry the full emptiness of loss and grief that allow for now room in the inn.
- Still, in many of those places, because of deep faith, they also extend their arms to the arriving Jesus.
Both Scriptures for this day have the element of receiving. A baby has been born, and it has made an extraordinary difference. A variety of activities take place at church and home: Christmas plays, concerts, family dinners—all celebrating the birth of the Messiah.
43 The text from Isaiah 9:2-7 is a short poem full of hope, in spite of whatever days of suffering may have preceded. Christians see this promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (Lk. 2:1-20). The Israelites themselves went through harsh divisions between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. There are many other historical events behind this text that the preacher will most likely not have to time to address. Perhaps the most important aspect that needs to be underlined on Christmas Eve is the inauguration of a new day that is the centerpiece of the occasion. The Israelites heard from Isaiah of a new day after experiences of war, division, and captivity. Christians will hear a message of the birth of a baby that makes a difference in the world. Paradoxically, we still hear about wars; a great segment of humanity experiences hunger, strife, squalor, and poverty. But still, the message of Christ’s birth has resulted in schools, hospitals, orphanages, agricultural work, public demonstrations against injustice, corruption, and discrimination. Baby Jesus has been in the hearts of the innocent, the elderly, the terminally ill, and those who have just his followers.
There is much to celebrate on Christmas Eve. I can still savor the special foods shared by family and friends. I can picture a night of worship that included the choir and the drama team. Afterward, people went home to meet with more family members. In certain places, gifts will be opened on Christmas Day; but in others, right at midnight or before, while the children are still awake.
What an extraordinary event. And what a formidable opportunity for evangelization, the sharing of the good news. In both Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20, we are given the foundation for a message of hope through the coming of a very special baby. With the arrival of Jesus, there is the promise of freedom for those in bondage, justice on behalf of those who have been wronged, light in a world of darkness, deliverance from the rod of the oppressor. No one could stop God’s sovereign will, “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child” (v. 6).
God is in charge of history; no one can stop God from bringing redemption to the world. Galatians 4:4-5 has the same tone of an unstoppable moment, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”
That we are adopted and made part of God’s covenant people, that we have become sisters and brothers of Jesus, that we have the blessing to open our arms to the One who has arrived, is a fascinating message. Amid the powers that be to proclaim that the One who has come is at the same time, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting
44 Father, Prince of Peace, with an ever-increasing authority, with the promise of peace, and an agenda of justice and righteousness is at the same time good news and bad news —good news for those who long for deliverance; bad news for those who have placed the chains of oppression and violence on others.
In the gospel text, the newborn child disrupted— in a good way —the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and even the angels. The whole universe is engaged in offering praises to the One who is God’s best gift to the world. The angels sing, “glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favors” (v.14).
For the Sports fans: What has been a favorite play to watch? A quarterback has the game-winning ball and passes or throws it into someone else’s hands, they receive it and run with it. That is where Christmas Eve begins.
For those who run to mailbox: and find the long-awaited check, acceptance or notice of the final zero balance, that news confirms the efforts of the past and pave the way for a new beginning.
For those who have heard Good News this year: The beginning of
For those have received God’s Word in their hearts:
For those who feel that they have seen nothing God, or lost the hope, or were somehow left on the island of misfit toys: Christmas Eve is where the Good News Begins for us all!
God the Lord of all Creation has come to be born into our history, into our hearts, into our futures. Tonight we stand ready to receive Christ:
Now is the time to receive the package, receive the gift, Receive new life, renewed hope, new healing, new possibilities, renewed promises, renews covenants.
In Receiving Christ we take on the responsibility of caring for Christ throughout our lives and the places we go.
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. [NRSV:OT]
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV:NT]
Actions have consequences
- When we do what God asks of us to do God is revealed and order and justice follows.
- When we do not do what God asks of us we make God look bad, and chaos follows.
- And inaction neither reflects God nor ourselves.
- Key words: repentance, rejoice, festivity
This week in the Advent season is known as the Sunday of joy. The Pink candle is the interruption of “Joy” to remind us of why we prepare for Christmas.
Don’t rush ahead to the end of the story though, the Joy begins with God’s desire to love us, bless us, and to restore us from the chaos. Rather than only finding meaning at the end of the journey, it is important for us to cherish the joy found along the way.
Did you ever know someone named, Zephaniah? The prophet’s text promises that the people’s fortune and future have been changed from judgment to hope, from destruction to restoration, from oppression to liberation and from dread to praise (Zeph. 3:14-20).
This message comes in the process. Too often we are discontent and give up hope when the struggle is long, chronic and weary. Advent is our intentional infusion of joy into the journey toward Christ.
As those who know this hope in a 21st century world who is rushing toward winning, success and ‘profit’, little if any attention is give to the prophetic words of hope and joy before we arrive.
In the gospel text, John the Baptizer opens the curtains before those who seek to stop and thwart goodness and godliness of the coming of the One, the Messiah, who will bring a new act of salvation, (Lk. 3:7-18).
The festivity right now center on the “Doing.” God has promised to change the people’s plight from a world of corruption, misplaced faith, failed authority, captivity under an oppressive powers, and inequities and injustices severely affecting the whole community.
In the Old Testament passage we see the trouble when the spiritual folks, those concerned for holiness, worship, love for the poor, respect for God’s laws were all abandoned, and the prophet was sent to call the covenant people on it!
Eventually, God’s mercy is granted, and the promise expressed in the final chapter of Zephaniah’s divine oracle brings a new beginning. There is a song of joy in the air and a call to Do! This tiny word has a message of assurance and comfort.
“Do” implies that some action can help turn things around. In 3:16-17, we hear the prophet’s message: “On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: DO NOT FEAR, O ZION; DO NOT LET YOUR HANDS GROW WEAK. THE LORD, YOUR GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST.”
The DO is to a call to worship, to praise, to celebrate, to recall the words of promise, the remember God is for us, to remind one another we are called to love even though we have not always been loving. The results: “Loud singing, a day of festival, disaster removed, renewal in God’s love and much more” (Zeph. vv. 17-18).
In the gospel, What is the good news?
- God loves us even though some consequences we bring upon ourselves, and some are the ripe or rotten fruit of others. (My bee hive) (National politics) (trusting others to ‘do’ for us – user/consumer mentality) God still loves us, longs for our trust,
- The “DO” that we are beginning is in our 2Mile Ministry. [INTRO TO PREPARE FOR 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS] the work we “DO” now is in anticipation of the joy we will share.
- We need Folks to share gifts to our neighbors through 2mile to show love without cost, hospitality of grace and the welcome of Christian community.
SIGN UPS: 2mile and 12 Days of Christmas for our neighbors…. anticipation of the hope to share!
Key words: hope, redemption, alert
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” [NRSV: Jr 33.14-16]
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [NRSV Lk 21:25-36]
Today we begin the four-week journey toward meeting Jesus, born anew in our lives, at Christmas. We call this time of preparing our ADVENT of Christmas. This is not Christmas, it is the anticipation and journey toward Christmas.
Advice: Don’t be in a hurry for Christmas, we might miss Christ when Christmas Day arrives.
Our first call is to Seek God’s Righteousness/Goodness
The Prophet Jeremiah pronounces that there is a coming of the Lord’s Righteousness and the world will see Justice and God’s understanding of what is Right and Wrong.
Frances has a wonderful opportunity through school to be an exchange student. She will be living in South Africa this summer and her new friend Amy will come to live with us this fall. So as any family would, we have been learning a great deal about that country. For all the faults that every nation has, 80% of the country is Christian and of that significant portion, 80% attend church regularly. Why is church more popular in that part of the world? They have issues of justice that the nation continues to struggle through. I am interested to learn how God is showing up to help bring peace and safety, which we all seek.
The prophetic work in our weeks prior to Christmas come as an opportunity to study and practice what it means to live in AND show the world God’s righteous way of thinking, behaving and believing.
Jeremiah speaks of the work of a singular, tender branch keeping the family tree’s promise alive. God is not measuring us by volume, rather by faithfulness. POINT: Have Hope that God will use us, even in our weakest moments, by directing ourselves toward God.
Turn and Stand Up
Jeremiah invites us to TURN our minds to God in Advent. The Gospel reading from Luke challenges us to STAND UP. Don’t be a “pew potato”. Don’t think it is someone else’s responsibility. Don’t wait for wind to blow your sails, move yourself into the blowing of the Holy Spirit.
This season is a time to begin the journey by Standing Up. The work of witnessing Righteousness and caring out Justice are the journey.
The first action of every journey is to get up and prepare to move, prepare to take action, prepare to face the apparent overwhelming odds that nothing will change for God if we sit here and wait until we die. Stand up! is the call.
It is in Luke’s gospel that we hear Jesus tender sprouts of the fig tree that will bear fruit even though it has been dormant and lifeless. This is much like the prophet Ezekiel call to preach and prophesy to the valley of dry bones calling for them to prepare to form and army, prepare to have the breath of God in your lungs and hearts.
Jesus tells the disciples that terrible signs and calamities will surround us, but this will be the best time to see Jesus showing up. When you know Jesus is near, STAND UP, life up your heads and follow.
The crisis times in our lives and in the life of the church are the very times that we prepare to TAKE A STAND, prepare to lift up our heads and affirm JESUS’s presence and hope for the world.
In a world divided by fear and ideologies, take action, and take action in the strength of Christ.
Thank goodness Advent is a time of preparing because we are not collectively ready to advance. But we are at the moment of standing up.
The opportunity of showing up! C. S. Lewis is quoted saying:
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis
- TURN TOWARD GOD
- PREPARE TO STAND UP
- LIFT UP YOUR HEADS
Third: starting this Advent Journey requires HOPE.
The challenge given to us by the world, by our denomination, by our community is to be the presence of God’s HOPE for those who are in our circles of influence.
SIDE NOTE: Our circle of influence is not only those that we come in contact in our daily living, but also those whom we could be in contact with in each day.
We begin Advent as a quest to find Christ in our own lives, but committing/recommitting our attention toward God, Begin my taking the first step toward God, and carrying the flag of Hope for a world that is looking to ideological approval, material feed happiness and lost in raging waters of despair, grief, doubt and fear. Yuck!
Pray with me:
Lord Turn my heart and mind and soul toward you.
Give me your strength to move from this stationary place into living that is fueled by your power.
Keep your hope in me that I might shine that life and light for someone else.