First, here is something that came to my inbox today. The author is unknown and the story may be not be true but the sentiment it expresses is what Christmas is all about.
WHO STARTED THIS CHRISTMAS THING?
I recently heard a story on the radio of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.
She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season... overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.
Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot."
From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, "Don't worry, we already crucified Him."
For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.
This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. We are waiting . . . . “Waiting for what?”, you may ask. Christmas, Jesus, a star, calm, peace, love, hope, joy, sleep? Maybe we are waiting for a sense of belonging and a sense of meaning. Advent is waiting.
Our scripture lessons for this week are:
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 – In Luke 4:16-30 Jesus visits his synagogue in Nazareth and is asked to speak. I asks for the scroll of Isaiah and he reads the first couple of verses from Isaiah 61 (leaving off the vengeance line). What is Isaiah saying to his people and to us? Are we a part of the hope for a future in which there will be honest, fairness, and justice for ALL peoples? Do you see in the world, despite all the injustice, war, violence, Ebola, poverty, etc., that God is causing “righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations”?
Psalm 126 – I think that the old Gospel Hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves” is partly based on this Psalm. On the one hand the Psalmist speaks of God having restored the people and nation of Israel so that the people rejoiced. On the other hand, the Psalmist asks God to restore their fortunes so that those who cry will become joyful. “They shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying (bringing in) their sheaves.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 – How are we to live lives as Christians in a world that seems to be dominated by so much evil and suffering? Paul is succinct: “rejoice always, pray unceasingly, give thanks in all circumstances, do not quench the Spirit, listen to the prophets, test everything, keep what is good, and abstain from evil.” Seems a bit hard, but I think the key to all of this is not quenching the Spirit. Let the Spirit guide you in all that you do and the Spirit will show you these things. Paul also asks God to “sanctify us entirely” so we may be blameless when Jesus returns. Finally, it is not about our faithfulness but is all about God’s faithfulness. “God will do this.”
John 1:6-8, 19-28 – Wait one doggone moment! Where’s Jesus? Why are we reading about this John guy again? Isn’t this Christmas? If you are asking these questions you stand with millions of Christians who go to churches that follow the Church calendar and the Common Lectionary, as we do. It is all about Advent, waiting, and preparation. This John guy (the Baptizer or the Baptist) was the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. John’s ministry, in the Christian view, was all about Jesus although there we many of John’s followers who thought otherwise (some of whom pop up in Acts). As we continue to prepare for the coming of Christmas and the next coming of Jesus, how are you preparing? John tells the Pharisees that there is one standing in their midst who will change everything. This Advent time, do you see the One standing in your presence who will change everything? Do you see Jesus in the lowly, left-out, least, and last of people? How will you respond?
May the Spirit of God lead you into entire sanctification and may you see Jesus in the people you encounter this week.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor