First Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A: The Gospel Passage – Reassuring Nurturing

Now after they [the Wise Men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13)

When I was a young child grow up, and growing up in the faith, one of my favorite parts of the story was when the Wise Men came. When I set up the nativity scene (even as a adult) I decided each year where I would place the Wise Men. Sometimes right next to the manager and other times some ways off, as if they were not sure they were in the right place and if they should disturb the “tableau”. I have heard of a tradition that the Wise Men are placed in another part of the room and each day towards Christmas they “journey” towards the manager. I love also the Christmas hymn “We Three Kings of Orient are.” In the church I grew up in, there were a number of good male singers and I looked forward to that part of the Christmas worship service. I also like that the Christmas season can be extended when the nativity story says the Wise Men came later.

“Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Verses 14 – 15)

Men can feel strongly about carrying out a parental role despite the fact that it is not their biological children that are in need of care. In this way mothers are not different than fathers in protecting the young and vulnerable. As I child I liked that Joseph protected baby Jesus, and as an adult I appreciate the fact that Joseph must have known Mary was deeply attached her to child and did not see Jesus as a Divine baby but as her offspring and flesh of her flesh. But as both child and adult I am saddened that Jesus’ birth was the catalyst for the death of so many innocents.

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Verses 16 – 18)

The nativity story, beloved reader, is not just fresh hay in a manager and shepherds being called in from peaceably tending their sheep. The birth of Jesus was a messy and painful event that burst into the history of the called and chosen people. Wasn’t the Messiah, they may have thought, to come as a conquering hero to liberate the faithful? What was a “mere” baby supposed to do?

“When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” (Verses 19 – 23)

We have been talking for some time about reassurance. When we lay down the ground work of peace, hope, and joy – what we find is a sense of reassurance that all will be well. And while I may bristle a little at simple declarations from prophets major and minor being turned to prophecy, it is reassuring to know that some aspect of Jesus the Messiah’s coming was foreknowledge in the minds of some. Or more correctly, that what had been said in the past became a bridge to the present – that is, Jesus’ time on earth. While the called and chosen people of God may have had a very rough time of it, the sense that the Divine had something good in store and waiting for them is reassuring. Or at least it would be if there was not the nagging sense the past was recast to fit what happened in Jesus’ life.

However, the Lord God did protect baby Jesus. While the Lord God might have sent Jesus into the world as a helpless baby, the Divine did not leave things to chance. Joseph was directed and guided in watching over his adopted son. And Mary was given the strength and wherewithal to guide Jesus from infancy to young adulthood. The Lord God nurtured Jesus through earthly means so that Jesus could bring us into relationship with the Divine. So through Jesus, the Divine was setting up a way to nurture us. Have you, beloved reader, not had people in your life who have nurtured your faith? Has not the Divine set before you a path to get you from where you were to where are today?

Back to my question from earlier, “What was a “mere” baby supposed to do?” Well, baby Jesus did not do much. But he was a model of growing into faith. He did not do it alone, however. His parents did what their faith dictated in raising him up. While Jesus would probably have grown up to be the Messiah anyway, the Lord God picked parents that would be model and exemplars of Christian nurtures.

The growth and development of Jesus tells us and shows us it is okay to start out small and undeveloped in faith. That as Paul says, we go from drinking spiritual milk to chewing spiritual meat. There is questioning and learning of faith (Jesus in the temple as an adolescent boy), accepting faith and the new way of living (Jesus being baptized) and being strengthened and refined in faith (Jesus being tempted in the wilderness).

There is still more to come in the story of Jesus’ infancy. And more to discover in that story. But let us rest for now, and that about what we have learned so far. Selah & Shalom!

Christmas Season 2019, Year A: The Old Testament Passage – A History of Reassurance

Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6 – 7)

The Bible traces the lineage of Jesus back to the earliest history of God’s called and chosen people. That lineage also includes a long line of reassurances that stem back to Abraham. At times the called and chosen people hung on tenuously to that reassurances, keeping it in the forefront of the minds as they kept in front of the scripture passages on scrolls, rolled and unrolled on special occasions.

“The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.” (Verses 8 – 9)

This is a poignant reminder for the Israelites what their ancestors suffered through, having the fruits of their labors and efforts taken by others. However, if one would trace back forward from the time of the writer of Isaiah I suspect that their food and wine was taken from them at least once more after this was written. Even more so as the years and generations rolled towards our modern times.

“Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. The LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, “See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” They shall be called, “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD”; and you shall be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” (Verses 10 – 12)

What is it that reassures humanity the most? The tangibles of possessions and resources? Or the promise that humanity is not left alone in this world? The writer of Isaiah would have us believe that eating the food and drinking the wine that you have gathered and harvested for yourself is a sign of reassurance. And maybe for the Israelites that was so. But we go to the corner store (or its “box-store” equivalent) to buy goods that we have not harvested with our own hands. Is it then having the resources to buy what you need? Maybe for previous generations having buying power was a reassurance. But social conscience pricks modern humanity, and provisions are made for those who have little financial power, and their needs are taken care of.

So maybe it is, really, being watched out for. Having the sense and reassurance that our deepest needs will be taken care of. Verse two of this passage urges the reader to pester the Divine until one’s needs are taken care of. There are those for whom a kind word offers more reassurance the greatest of gifts – well, you know what I mean. We all (or at least a good portion of us) dream of a world where there is no want or need, but that all things are taken care of. Some, politically speaking, are afraid of such a social system or conscience. If the impetus is to provide for all comes from compassion and care that is sparked by the Divine, I do not think such fears are warranted. But that is me. And . . . I digress.

When the Lord God called Abraham out of Ur, the Divine made a covenant with Abraham. It took many years of traveling and patience, but the promises of the Divine came to pass. The Divine also promised humanity that a way would be found to enter into deeper relationship with the Lord God. And that too found it fruition. Now, the onus is on humanity. We must reach out and claim believe in Jesus the Christ and in the Lord God who sent Christ. Have you, beloved reader, claimed such relationship? If not, how much reassurance do you need? And if the relationship has lapsed on your side, how much reassurance must be given until you return to the Divine? In the immediate wake of Christmas will you not renew the relationship. “Demand” that the Divine establishes you in the family of God! Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A: The Epistle Passage – Moving on but still reassured

The implication is, having come to the first Sunday after Christmas is that we are to move on from the birth event to the life and purpose of Jesus Christ. And there is no one better to do that then the apostle Paul.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:10 – 13)

To best understand what Paul is saying, and what he is explaining what Jesus might have/did say, image that “Your Name”, “You” and “Him” refer to the Lord God, the One that Jesus calls “Father”. It also helps if you consider “Pioneer” capitalized as well, signifying Deity and Divinity. It further helps if you set aside your expectations that Paul does not understand inclusive language.

“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.” (Verses 14 – 16)

That is us, beloved reader. Whether spiritual descendants or direct descendants, we are the ones that Jesus the Christ came to help. And so we are moved on from Jesus’ birth to Jesus’ life, and because puts such an accent on it, Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yes, definitely being moved on.

It is a good moving on though. Because Paul also gives reassurance that while Jesus might have been Divine, he was also kin to us.

“Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Verses 17 – 18 )

This reassurance was planned from the very beginning, as if the Divine would know some time down history humanity would need something or Someone to get them/us out the difficulties that we in the history of humanity had gotten into. Not that the sins of the past have been visited on the present; but simply that the nature of humanity in each generation is to “mess up.” It is from the scripture passages that are noted for the Advent/Christmas season that Paul’s writings are also used. From Christmas Season 2019, Year A: the Epistle Passage we read,

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.”
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:1- 12)

I am not sure how reassuring it is to be likened to a rolled up cloak; but the fact that Jesus was sent to save, redeem, and change us like old clothing that is exchanged for new should reassure us that humanity has value. Whether our distinctiveness is retained has been a question in my mind for many years. But here and now is not the time to explore that. But it is an indication that my thoughts are indeed moving on! Shalom!

Christmas Season 2019, Year A: The Psalm Passage – Reassurance comes!

O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” (Psalm 98:1 – 3)

Reassurance comes, many times, when we recognize what the Lord God has done for us. Just today (that is the day I wrote this, and not Christmas Day) I received reassurance from the Divine that despite the problems and worries that are before me, I am cared for. It was a very good feeling. The psalmist must have seen something too that reassured him that the Lord God was ever present and involved in the lives of the called and chosen people.

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” (Verses 3 – 9)

At Christmas time bells and other musical instruments are used to lift up praise to the Lord God. Even in some of the more “quiet” and traditional faith/worship circles, Christmas is the time of year when joyful sounds are welcomed and encouraged. I remember from my childhood going to Christmas concerts and being overwhelmed with the music and accompaniment. The worship circle of my childhood relied mostly on the sounds of the singing voices in the congregation, and not all were accomplished singers! But praise is praise! So lift up whatever instruments and talents you have, and praise the Lord God! And spread joyful reassurance to all who will offer their ears, hearts, and spirits! Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A: The Psalm Passage – Singing of joy and reassurance

As I said on an earlier day, the days of this week must do double duty. But, Christmas Day is a good day to set aside time to praise. So let us praise further!

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” (Psalm 148:1 – 4)

I told you yesterday, beloved reader, the story of Jesus birth and the shepherds who came to worship the baby Jesus at the behest of the angelic choirs. I like to think that their song books were much like the praise psalms that the psalmist wrote. Who knows, maybe the psalmist was inspired by angelic choirs and choruses that the Divine placed in his heart.

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” (Verses 5 – 10)

I am reminded of the verses from the song “Joy to the world” where is sings “Let heaven and nature sing”. I have long thought that “Joy to the world” is a song that could be applied to other parts of the church year.

“Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!” (Verses 11 – 14)

Strictly speaking, the Lord God only came once; and in the form of a Son Jesus Christ. But . . . in a way, the Lord God comes to the called and chosen people quite often. Every call and choosing is like the Lord God coming to each individual person, and at a time when that person may most need the Divine. It is Divine reassurance that the Lord God comes when we call upon the Holy Presence. It is no less a thing when the Lord comes through the Presence of the Holy Spirit than when Jesus came to earth as a baby.

May you, beloved reader, this day celebrate the reassurance of the Lord God coming to the world whenever, wherever, and how ever the Divine is needed! Selah!

Christmas Season 2019, Year A: The Gospel Passage – Reassurance comes!

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.” (Luke 2:1 – 5)

There is an interesting story in our family. It happened like this.

I had just found out I was pregnant, with a boy. We were on our way to family in Pennsylvania when we had car problems – major car problems. The car won’t run problems. A nice state police officer saw us on the side of the road and made a special phone call to get us towed somewhere safe. It took some time because it was (wait for it) Christmas Eve. We and our car were towed to an inn in (wait again) Bethlehem, PA! But our family gathering was a couple of hours away, so we were stuck at the inn . . . . waiting. Christmas eve, pregnant with a boy, stuck at an inn in Bethlehem!

The Lord God protected us that day – that everything went smoothly and there were people there to take care of us and insure our safety. Our car was repaired so we can travel back home. It makes a wonderful story.

“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.”

Not as dramatic as the Christmas story. No herald of angels! But reassurance came to us. A sense of peace was around us, looking out the window of the motel that was not charging us to stay in the room – warm, dry, and safe. We did not know what to expect after being stuck out on a busy highway. But there was room for us in the Divine’s care. That care and reassurance is something I have felt over and over in the past years, and still feel now.

“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.” 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!” (Verses 6 – 14)

Fast forward some four years; I am sitting in a worship service and the Divine taps me on my shoulder and says, “I am inviting you to step forward into a deeper relationship with me.” Shades of Mary and the annunciation. I wish I could say I was like Mary and was willing from the first. But I was scared, unsure what this meant, and not sure I was ready. But the Divine did not wait, but gave me a very fast initiation into a deeper spiritual life. And it was, and is wonderful! Reassurance comes quickly when you (finally) say to the Divine, “Yes, I am willing.”
“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.” (Verses 15 – 18)

And when you have been reassured, it is easy to share that sense of peace and hope to others.

“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Verse 19)

Some things, though, are too deep and wonderful to be spoken out loud. However the heart and spirit praise the Lord God the Divine in silence and wonder.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Verse 20)

This Christmas season, beloved reader, I hope and pray you have your own reassurances from the Divine – whatever the circumstances may be. And may you give voice and tell others, in our own way, what the Lord God has done for you. Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A: The Old Testament Passage – For this season and beyond

I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:7-9)

Because Christmas comes mid-week, and this coming Sunday marks the first week after Christmas which means the scripture passages more on somewhat from the nativity event, this week needs to do double duty. So I am faced with needing to include two RCL sets of scripture passages. I have tried to interweave them, joyfully noting Christmas by telling the story of Jesus’ birth and reflecting what had been said about it before and after the event.

As you have been reading, the theme that has arisen is the reassurance that comes from Christ birth. And that his birth brought hope, peace, joy and love to the world. But that we are to embody all three, and then share it through the living out of our lives.

I felt this Old Testament Passage embodied that sense of promise and hope that will come in the future for the called and chosen people, but also includes us in our current day. You should note that it is the Old Testament Passage for the first Sunday after Christmas, which means its purpose is ongoing. The Lord God has been there for all who have believed, believe now, and those who will come to believe in the future. Let the season of Christmas come!

Advent Season 2019, Year A – Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Psalms Passage – Pleading for reassurance

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.
O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:1 – 7)

Considering that this was written a good while before Jesus came to Bethlehem, you can imagine that by that time the Hebrews who became Israelites who eventually become Jews under Roman authority were down to their last breathe and bit of strength.

“But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” (Verses 17 – 19)

I have a good idea of how they might have been feeling. At the time I was writing this, I had gone through some very tough days- tougher days than I have ever had. Or at least up there with the other tough ones! It was hard to think about sitting down and writing on a psalm passage. Thankfully it is a psalm of petition and intercession – just about where I am at now in my own life. I have never shied away much from allowing scripture to inform and reflect on my personal life. After all it is our faith life that gets us through our day to day. That parallels the Divine helping us get through our day to day. And I have been relying on the Divine very heavily in the past few days. However, beloved reader, by the time you read this the worst may be over for me – at least that is my hope and prayer! Selah!

Advent Season 2019, Year A – Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Gospel Passage – Patiently waiting for reassurance

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18 – 21)

I want to proceed delicately with my comments on this passage. In the usual Advent story of Jesus’ birth certain things are emphasized and other aspects are glossed over. First, there seems to be a some leeway in Jewish life at that time about when a couple started living together. An engagement or betrothal was as official as the actual wedding, so Mary and Joseph were considered as being married – therefore pregnancy might come before the official ceremony. So once Joseph took Mary as his wife, he was in a sense admitting that her pregnancy was his doing. And once married, Mary and her pregnancy were accepted. The angel reassured Joseph that Mary was as pure as he had previously believed her to be. And think too of Mary’s reassurance, that Joseph protected her from the possible repercussions of pregnancy outside of marriage.

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Verses 22 – 23 [Emphasis mine][)

Way back at the beginning of the week, and way back in the story of King David’s descendants, we heard/read about Ahaz who did not want to presume on the Lord God asking for a test that things would be well for the kingdom. The Lord God, through Isaiah, gave him a reassurance anyway. The implication was that things were be sorted out before an unborn was much out of toddler age. The writer of Matthew is telling us know that reassurance is only coming NOW some generations down the road, when the family of King David is no longer the ruling authority. That is some wait!

“When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.” (Verses 24 – 25)

Joseph also had to wait a comparatively long time to be reassured that his wife Mary was truly is consummated wife. This is part of the delicacy that I referred to earlier; and part of the Advent story that is not overly dwelt on. Part of Advent is about patiently waiting. Mary waiting to see what Joseph would do. Joseph waiting and considering carefully what he would do about this situation. King Ahaz potentially waiting beyond his life span to do what would become of his kingdom. (By the way, this is one of the reason I bristle at some event in the Old Testament being remade into prophecies concerning Jesus – it just does not make sense.) The family of King David waiting for the prominence to be reviewed. And Joseph again waiting until the plans of the Lord God were made manifest. (Was I delicate enough?)

The point I am trying to make is that the time between the first Sunday of Advent and Christmas can seem tremendously long. But in the grander scheme and timing of the Lord God, the wait is hardly anything at all! So beloved reader, when you are impatient and waiting for what good things may come – remember those who have patiently waited on the Divine. And how their wait was rewarded! Selah!

Advent Season 2019, Year A – Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Epistle Passage – Bestowing reassurance; or more aptly, a promise of compassion from the Divine

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” (Romans 1:1-6)

One of the “cloaked” mysteries of the New Testament is why the Lord God sent Jesus the Messiah. The gospel of John states it quite clearly – “for God so loved the world.” If you know the gospel of John, you know that clear speech is rare – cloaked in mysticism as it is. And Paul, the supposed writer of Romans, is brisk and abrupt – hardly ever shy about speaking his mind. Much of his letters emphasis the responsibility of believers to live transformed lives in response to salvation and redemption. I had hoped to hear, through the scriptures this week, more “tender” words. According to the pattern of meaning of the Advent candles that I have been using this season, the fourth candle is to have the theme love.

Maybe I need to remind myself, and in the process beloved reader remind you, that love is not always “warm” and “fuzzy” but stalwart and enduring. It was the love or compassion that the Divine had for humanity that prompt Jesus Christ to be sent. A reassurance that humanity and creation is still and will always be forefront in the plans and consideration of the Divine. And a promise that anyone who believes with sincerity and authenticity is a child of God. This why – because of Divine love – Yahweh desired to assure King Ahaz, that while things looked grim he could set aside his worries for the present and focus on working towards a better future. That is a good message for us too, beloved reader.

“To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I has said over the past few weeks of Advent that first we must have hope – a hope that is found on unshakable faith. Then next we have peace – because we know our deepest hopes will be fulfilled. With peace, we can feel joy – and spread the joy to others. And with joy in one’s heart love can take root. As you go through this week, beloved reader and into the time of Christmas, I hope, pray, and encourage you to show love – both tender love and resilient love to those around you. Selah!

Advent Season 2019, Year A – Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Old Testament Passage – Looking for reassurance; or more aptly learning to rely on the Divine

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” (Isaiah 7:10 – 11)

King Ahaz had plenty of troubles. As descendant of King David, he was the ruler as the nations surrounding Judah were eyeing Judah and Jerusalem with covetousness. The Lord God had not yet totally “abandoned” the called and chosen people, so there was some hope that the nation would emerge intact and whole from this latest battle. The Lord sent Isaiah to reassure the king. But while King Ahaz may have been a king of faith, he did not rely heavily on Yahweh.

“But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” (Verse 12)

Quite honestly, beloved reader, I do not understand this. At this writing I am still thinking back to the trying and challenging week that I had, and looking toward a new week that has unknown challenges. I would love to ask for a sign that the coming week is survivable!

“Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.” (Verses 13 – 16)

It is a strange trait of human behavior that while we may fear the coming disaster, we are often slow to ask for help and assistance from the Divine. It took me more years than I am comfortable confessing to for me to ask for help when difficulties come. I used to think it was a sign of weakness to ask for help; and that one should trust that the Divine has already equipped you with all that you need. What I had to learn over and over again is that the Divine never intended us to live through our lives on our own.

We forget that the Creator loved to walk with Adam and Eve each evening in the Garden, listening to how their day was. Remember that part of their sin was hiding from the Creator, and fearing their imperfections would be exposed. And if the Divine were to be wearied, I have no doubt it would be weariness from our trying to hide our fears and concerns. And why would the Divine be so concerned about us? That, beloved reader is a topic we will discuss later in the week. Shalom & Selah!