December 2018

Post date: Nov 28, 2018 7:57:5 PM

The second verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” says:

O come, O Wisdom from on high, embracing all things

Far and nigh: in strength and beauty come and stay;

Teach us your will and guide our way. Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

Yes, Emmanuel (which means “God with us”), come among us this season and teach us your will and guide our way. Starting on Sunday, December 2nd, we are into the season of Advent, which merges into Christmas. Advent means “the coming” or “the arrival”. We are, of course, preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ our Savior. During Advent and Christmas we can actually talk about and celebrate three comings, three arrivals of Jesus Christ.

We prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming among as a child. This is Jesus’ soft and sweet coming as a human baby. This coming already happened more than 2000 years ago, so we are actually celebrating Jesus’ birthday, rather than his birth. Nevertheless, Christmas is the miracle of God in the tender flesh of a newborn: the incarnation of the Son of God for us. During the four weeks of Advent we prepare our hearts and minds to receive again this miracle of God’s love and grace for us.

The Sunday Bible readings in Advent actually concentrate more on Christ’s second coming: his return as Savior and judge of all humanity at the end of time. We read some apocalyptic (end time) verses urging us to watch, prepare, and be alert at all times (Luke 21). We hear the voice of John the Baptist calling us to repentance and crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Luke 3:4.

During Advent and Christmas we also celebrate Christ’s “third coming”. This is Jesus’ constant presence with us in the here and now: in worship, in bread and wine, in Christian community and in our hungry and needy neighbors, whom we reach out to in love and caring. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20. Jesus also says, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40.

On Sunday December 2nd, we begin a new church year: the year of Luke’s Gospel. Last year our Sunday gospel readings were mostly Mark. This year is largely Luke, rounded out with some readings from John. It’s a three year lectionary cycle. The idea being that we hear most of all 4 gospels over the course of 3 years. Luke is often referred to as “Good news to the poor” and the “Gospel to the Gentiles”. (If you are not Jewish, you’re a Gentile).

Some major themes to watch for as we read through Luke this year are the journey, salvation, the Holy Spirit, hospitality and food, women, the socially marginalized and the here and now. In Luke, Jesus does major teaching on his journey to Jerusalem and he is nearly always “on the road”. In Luke, salvation is more than forgiveness of sins: it is liberation from oppression, the reversal of status and full restoration of life. Jesus is always eating with people in Luke and relationships take shape as hospitality is extended. In Luke, “disciples” is a big group and includes women. Elizabeth, Martha, Mary and others are women of great faith. In Luke, Jesus reaches out to and saves widows, Gentiles, tax collectors, poor people and the physically challenged. In Luke, salvation does not happen just sometime in the future, but takes place “today” and discipleship is a daily reality.

And of course Luke gives us the beloved Christmas Gospel. “And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

“O Lord, how shall I meet you, how welcome you a-right? Your people long to greet you, my hope, my heart’s delight! Oh, kindle Lord most holy, your lamp within my breast to do in spirit lowly all that may please you best.” ELW 241

O come, o come Emmanuel, Pastor Dennis