God’s Beloved People,
We began a new church year together on Nov 27th, the first Sunday of Advent. Last year was largely Luke. This year is mostly Matthew. In other words, most of our Sunday gospel readings this year are from Matthew, with some generous servings from John. “Advent” means “the coming: the arrival”. We often talk about the 3 advents or the 3 comings of our Savior Jesus. Jesus’ first advent is his birth as a human being in Bethlehem. This has already happened, of course, and we celebrate big time Jesus’ birthday at Christmas time. There is Jesus second coming: his final advent which will bring God’s reign of love, joy and peace to completion. We have no idea when this will happen and trust God’s timetable. And we speak of Jesus’ constant advent, his constant coming among us now through worship, bread and wine, water and the word, and through Christian community.
Since it is the year of Matthew, here are some things to watch for as we read this gospel. Matthew has more quotes from the Old Testament than the other gospels and Matthew is keen to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah from OT scriptures. Matthew is the only gospel to call Jesus “Emmanuel”, which means “God with us.” Matthew is the only gospel to use the word "church”(eklesia in the Greek). In Matthew, Jesus is very much the teacher. The gospel is basically organized around 5 sermons or teaching sessions of Jesus, like the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is the teacher, but living the faith, according to Jesus, is more about what one does, rather than what one says.
Only Matthew and Luke mention Jesus’ birth. In Matthew, we don’t hear about shepherds and a manger. Instead we hear about Joseph wrestling internally with how to relate to his pregnant fiancée Mary. The angel tells Joseph in a dream to marry Mary, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. And we hear about wise men (magi) from the East bringing gifts to the child Jesus and avoiding a jealous king Herod who has cruel intentions for any rivals to his throne.
May Jesus’ first Advent among us a human baby born in Bethlehem bring us joy as we welcome again God’s gift of a Savior to us. May Jesus’ final Advent, his second coming, give us faith and hope that God will bring his peaceful reign of love to completion in God’s good time. And may Jesus’ constant Advent among us now as Emmanuel (God with us) give us faith, hope and love to live lives dedicated to loving God and loving our neighbors in need as ourselves.
Joyous Advent and Merry Christ-mas to one and all,
P.S. December Challenge—read through Matthew’s Gospel (you can skip the genealogy in Chapter 1 if you like.)