Today’s readings from both Luke and Matthew's gospel speak of our ability to notice God in our midst. God is abundant, providing hints and revelations everywhere, but do we have senses to notice? If we can notice God in a Bethlehem baby, perhaps we can notice God in all things, and all things in God. Perhaps, if we train our senses to discover God’s presence, every cup of coffee will become, as Joyce Rupp suggests, “the cup of life.”
This Sunday we come together to hear the story from so long ago. We will see Mary, riding a donkey, accompanied by Joseph, making their way to Bethlehem to be counted. It is here that they end up staying in the only place available to them, a stable where Jesus is born. Angels appear and summon the shepherds, who come with their offerings of sheep and other animals. Then wise men follow the star that was over the very place where this child had been born, bearing gifts for the child. Come and be apart of this magical performance of the story being told. Our pageant this year is sure to be a special treat, make sure to tune in to our 10 am service.
This week we turn to Luke’s writing which is an account in two acts: the Gospel biography of Jesus and then the story of the early church–the “Jesus community." Whether you were a Jew or Gentile in those days, deciding to become a part of this illegal early Christian movement could bring punishment for your allegiance. Surely the message in both Luke and Isaiah that the downcast, lowly, and oppressed would rise up is a welcome and inspirational account. Like the Jewish exiled people of Isaiah’s time and the early Christians, we also sometimes wonder where God is in our suffering. We long to hear the promise that a reason for joyful praise is the good news on the way!
“Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel (‘God with us').” (Mathew 1: 23 and Isaiah 7: 14) In both the Gospel of Matthew and Isaiah, a messenger appears as a sign from God, heralding a new era. In each passage, the words “do not be afraid” appear... offering a clue that the messenger–whether prophet or angel–was referencing something that induced fear in the recipient. A new way of being, of relating and loving takes courage– eschewing the present order of things so that a new and better day can be born.
“Prepare the way...”
“Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news.” “Raise your voice... raise it; don’t be afraid”
(Mark 1: 1-15 and Isaiah 40: 1-11)
This Advent, we are looking to hear some comfort, some challenge and some good news. The prophet Isaiah and the four Gospel authors were writing in a time when people needed desperately to hear all of these as well. This first week, Isaiah and the gospel writer who published first–Mark–reassure the people that good news is beginning and yet they both say, “make yourself ready!” Raise your voices, change your hearts, get ready to be transformed, because now is the time. Have hope that we can do what needs to be done to bring more light into the world.