As we steadily approach Christmas Day are you caught up in the frenzy of the "Holiday Season"? Do you feel the need to buy, buy, buy and rush, rush, rush? Will Christmas Day feel more like relief then celebration? Take a few moments to reflect on the meaning of Advent: a period of waiting that includes anticipation. Are you a patient waiter (not a restaurant server) or a nervous waiter? Now take a few moments to reflect on the promise of God to all creation: redemption and restoration. Which bring us to our first lesson.
Isaiah 35 - The prophet sees the future coming of the Lord. All the earth will be sing out in joy. No one needs to fear; the blind will see; the deaf will hear; the lame will walk; the speechless will speak; and a highway will be built that leads to God so that all the redeemed will return. In the last part of verse 4 says "Here is your God. He will come with vengeance and with terrible recompense. He will come and save you." Our first inclination is to think that this is about dealing with the evil and wicked. But notice that it doesn't say that here. You can find that sentiment in last week's Isaiah reading (11:4). The vengeance and terrible recompense is about saving us.
Psalm 146:5-10 - This psalm is about trusting in God's providence and rejoicing in his salvation. This section is similar to Isaiah: God executes justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over strangers, and upholds the orphan and the widow
OR Luke 2:46-57 - This passage is known as "The Magnificat" which is the Latin word for "magnifies". Mary visits cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist. When Mary approaches Elizabeth, John leaps in her womb. At the end of her explanation, Elizabeth says, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." Mary then responds with this song of praise. The Magnificat is a beautiful poem that emphasizes the main points of Luke's gospel: God's concern with the lowly, hungry, oppressed, and disadvantaged. Do we see a theme developing in our readings this week?
James 4:7-10 - James calls his congregation to have patience while they wait for the Lord who is compassionate and merciful. This passage is more for Advent waiting then with the themes of the other readings.
Matthew 11:2-11 - (Please read the entire passage through verse 19) John the Baptist is in jail. He has been hearing about cousin Jesus' work and teachings. He is bothered about what he hears. Can this be the Messiah because Jesus is certainly not acting like a messiah/savior? Where is the outrage about the Romans? Where is his army? How will he set up God's glorious kingdom centered on Mt. Zion (Jerusalem)? John sends his disciples to question Jesus. Jesus basically responds by saying that he is fulfilling the words of Isaiah and the Psalmist: "the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed among the poor." All of these things happened in chapters 8 and 9. Jesus then proclaims that John is the greatest prophet but no more important then the least person. Take a look at verse 12. This is a very difficult passage to understand and many have wondered what it is all about.
Have a great week serving the Lord in all that you do.