Most nativity sets don’t include Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father), but the Christmas story begins with his silent waiting. He went nine months without uttering a word. Nine months of remembering, and probably regretting, his lack of faith.
The incarnation. Immanuel. God in the flesh, God with us. The almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, came to dwell among us in the flesh. The one who spoke galaxies into being, embraced infancy, that infants might embrace Him, humans might reach out and find him, know him, and love him.
Don’t you hate shopping for the person-who-has-everything on your list? Just when you think you’ve found the perfect gift, you discover they already own it. Or you know they have the resources to buy whatever they want and need already. I’ve advocated in many of my groups that we forego gifts and just spend time together instead.
Mary was undoubtedly overwhelmed by this immense responsibility the angel and God had given her. She questioned how it would be possible, but then seemed to accept it readily. There is no account of Mary arguing with the angel or lamenting this burden. She simply said, “I am the Lord’s servant." She surrendered to God's will for her life.
Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph must have wondered if they were worthy of such a gift as they were being given. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel insignificant in a world of seven billion people. I wonder how God can use someone like me. The world seems to revolve around power and prestige. Who am I in the midst of this big universe? What can I offer to God’s plan to redeem the world?
We often talk about Advent as a season of waiting. It is a time when we anticipate the coming of Christ once again. But many also refer to Advent as a time of darkness. Without the hindsight that we have today, the knowledge of Jesus, the people of God were still metaphorically in the dark. They were unaware of how God would make right all that was wrong in their world. They had long held a faith in this God, thousands of years, yet had not seen the promised restoration and redemption. I know in my own life, when I have to wait for God to act, especially if the circumstances are dire, it becomes a very dark time.
When Jesus was born, this new child not only changed his parents’ world, he changed the entire world. Like all new Moms and Dads, Mary and Joseph had no idea what they were getting into, but there was something remarkably different about this unique birth. This was God incarnate. God came in the form of a baby to be with us, to guide us, to give us the ultimate example of how to live, and to demonstrate power over life and death.
The first verse of this passage is probably the most quoted scripture of this century. It is used so much that we often forget the magnitude of the words. God loved the world so much that he gave his son. God loved. God loved us so much that the only gift worthy was the son. How is that kind of love possible? How are we to understand that kind of sacrifice?
Long before Jesus was born, God called Abram to be the father of a nation. Abram probably had a hard time believing he would be the father of anything, considering he was 75 and he and his wife Sarai had no children. And indeed, Abram and Sarai tried to manipulate their circumstances to accomplish God’s promise.
This song is referred to as the “Magnificat.” Named after the first line, “My soul glorifies (magnifies) the Lord,” Mary’s song is one of praise. She expressed praise to God for her blessing as the mother of the Messiah, but then extended her praise to how God has treated the righteous throughout the ages, and how God will vindicate the righteous fully in the future. Who are the righteous?
The season of advent is the Church’s way of marking the truth we believe that God came to be with us once, God is still with us, and God is coming again to set all things right. We practice waiting during these 4 weeks.
We are in the second week of the advent season. If you’re new to church traditions and “churchy” words, “advent” simply means “coming.” We call these 4 weeks before Christmas the advent season because we are awaiting the arrival or coming of Christ.
Mary sings a song about the Messiah she will raise as her son. In her words we see the prophecy will be fulfilled. Jesus is the one who will redeem us all. Jesus brings both mercy and justice, both grace and truth. He offers freedom from fear and the gift of peace.
Too often, in our consumer-driven culture, especially at Christmas time, we imagine that life and faith are primarily about us, about saving ourselves, about getting our needs met, about getting what we want. Rick Warren began his record-breaking book, The Purpose-Driven Life with one important sentence, “It’s not about you.” Well, Rats! Don’t you feel a little disappointed in that realization? We all like to think the world is here for our purposes, right?
Do you have anyone that just gets under your skin? When dealing with difficult people or strained relationships, bringing peace can feel impossible. Our defense mechanisms kick in, and we retaliate when provoked. Or if you are like me, sometimes you turn inward and shut down, not attempting to work things out. The good news however, is that I have access to God’s peace.