Isaiah 63:7-9, Hebrews 2:10-18 and Matthew 2:13-23
December 25 for most people (not all!) is a day of rest filled with festive moments of gift sharing, fellowshipping with family and friends, some quiet moments, and multiple meals. There is activity but a certain “staying in place” seems to be common.
Not so the days following. Back to being “on the go!” Work beckons, people have to travel, routine demands kick back in. And for some, challenges unexpected emerge.
So it was for Mary, Joseph, and infant Jesus. King Herod wanted no contender for power and authority, so he sought to kill the newborn King. The holy family were angelically advised to flee to another country. Off to Egypt! There was little time to enjoy the gifts and visit of the Wise Men. Was the gold used to help pay their moving and Egyptian housing expenses!?
So it is for us. A thousand reasons appear on December 26 and we have to keep moving on whether old routines or new challenges.
We will hear of both from God’s Word this Sunday on worship: that which is good about routine and that which says something “new” calls us forth. The life God has given us cannot be complacent nor “put on hold.” We move toward God’s unveiling of what is next in our lives both personally and together as a faith community. Pack your luggage!
This Sunday’s worship service, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, will be led by our children and youth as the message of Christmas comes to us all once again. Delann Harris Dunbar has written a creative program and will include choir and congregation as well.
Christmas is hardly Christmas if we are not involved in some life of faith. We ARE participants in this story of God with us. We are all at the manger along with the shepherds, sheep, angels, and Magi from the East.
Prayerfully anticipate this Sunday and the week to come!
At the very least, family members will send Christmas cards to each other. At the most, families will gather in groups from 2 to 200 or more! And if there be few family members, friends like family come together to enjoy each other’s company.
Our two New Testament scriptures for our Third Sunday in Advent have two cousins speaking and asking questions about the overlapping work of God in their lives. Mary and second cousin John the Baptist both declare that Jesus is special. Jesus does not hesitate to say they are correct. Even so, Mary and John the Baptist ask questions of Jesus and have their moments of uncertainty and deep suffering with their beloved family member. Sounds like family doesn’t it?!
For all the joy that Mary has in her bearing the Messiah, she faces what we all face as followers of the Lord: the cost of discipleship. A wonderful and abundant life, but still challenging spiritually, emotionally, and for some, physically painful. John will be executed. Mary will suffer as a mother when her Son is also executed.
The family story is deep and wide, full of life, full of sorrow, and costs everyone something as they stay family for “the long haul.” God’s story is “family” writ large from beginning to end.
This Sunday we will celebrate the joyful journey that we, today, continue that Mary and cousin John participated in generations long before us! A good group of relatives to be a part of!
I’ve never been much for being hollered at! We had very few ministers in our small town UMC who were given to shouting or calling the congregation a “brood of vipers!” Being yelled at by a coach or even parents was one thing, but the preachers I knew were not that way…for the most part. Even one of the Baptist preachers just across from our Methodist church was not much of a shouter. His name was literally “Bro Love.” A very warm and caring pastor for my Baptist friends. Not much of a shouter. But, here and yon in our community churches…there were shouters!
So, we do have in Matthew 3 John the Baptist, a fairly stern prophet who minces no words about the locals! But our other prophet, Isaiah, in chapter 11 seems to quietly point to a coming peaceable kingdom led by a child. Even animals, predators and prey, will get along! And Paul in Romans goes on about being in “harmony” with one another and then about “peace and joy.”
We might ask, “Does John the Baptist shouting in the wilderness have any peace within himself or does he even expect peace in God’s coming reign as King?” Lots of upheaval to say the least?! Looks like a lot of finger pointing for those within range!
One way to address this tension between high drama against sinners and a peaceable kingdom about to appear is to realize the Bible reflects virtually every human emotion and feeling, every depth and height of human experience. What do WE feel and experience when the whole range of the Word of God comes to us on any given day and hour?
This Sunday we will explore John’s prophetic voice as well as strive to see how John might have also had a peace about him even as he draws close to execution. We’ll see what comes of this prayerful effort during this Sunday’s worship on the Second Sunday of Advent. Peace and joy to all you (us) sinners…..and dearly beloveds of Jesus Christ!