Martin Luther described the Holy Bible as the "cradle of Christ"...in other words: The Manger.
Not only at the Christmas stable, but all year-round,
God's people are fed at this Holy Cradle.
We are nourished at this Holy Table.
We are watered at this Holy Font.

This blog is a virtual gathering space where sermons from Bethlehem Lutheran Church (ELCA) and conversation around those weekly Scripture texts may be shared.

We use the Revised Common Lectionary so you can see what readings will be coming up, and know that we are joining with Christians around the globe "eating" the same texts each Sunday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 2 -- First Sunday of Advent

I came across a great story this week:  “During the colonial period in American history, an eclipse of the sun caught members of a New England state legislature off guard. In the midst of general panic a motion was made to adjourn, but one of the legislators stood up and said, ‘Mr. Speaker, if it is not the end of the world and we adjourn, we shall appear to be fools. If it is the end of the world, I choose to be found doing my duty. I move you, sir, let candles be brought.’” (story appeared in The Christian Century, November 17, 2009)

Advent is the season for candles to be brought, it is the season for hopeful expectation, and it is the season for doing our duty in the face of chaos and even eclipse.  So get ready, travel light, and lift up your heads because our redemption is drawing near!  

This is a strange and abrupt gospel text for kicking off our new church year and the first Sunday of Advent.  Did anyone else wonder about this?  What about texts with Mary and the angel visiting?  What are we doing in Luke 21?  Or why don’t we just skip all the build-up—whatever the meaning of these text are—and just get on with Christmas readings, Christmas songs?  That’s what everyone else is doing.  Wouldn’t you like to interview those who put together our assigned lectionary readings and ask them “what were you thinking?”  [pause] I do know this — every single reading we hear aloud in church is chosen for one reason:  every one of them is a powerful proclamation of the Good News of God, alive in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, for the redemption of the world.  Do we see that here?  Absolutely.  And while there are terrifying images once again, which only reflects our own experience in our time, we mustn’t get caught up in the fear and loose sight of the promise.  Lift up your heads, dear friends.  

Our salvation is not a matter of choice.  God is good all the time.  So God’s going to take care of that.  What is a choice is how we respond when salvation comes knocking:  “I choose to found doing my duty.  I move you, sir, let candles be brought.” [pause] Hope and joy are ushered in with the light.
Our brother in the faith Martin Luther, would agree with the good senator because, as I shared before, Luther reportedly once said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree today.”  Hopeful expectation.

What a terrific idea and a powerful text on this New Year’s Day!  We live differently, people of God!  These are chaotic, anxious, stressful, frightening days, so much busy-ness everywhere—people going, going, going all the time, running themselves into the ground, chasing after what?  Money, security, success, raising healthy kids, status, beauty, longer life, a sense of meaning or the desire to leave our mark/legacy…I don’t know, what do you chase after?  Often it can keep changing as we age.  How easy is it to loose our direction?  Do you have direction?  Vision?  Do you know where you should be headed and why?  [pause]  We need ultimate/ending texts like this one…[pause]…at the beginning of our days.  We need to glimpse the gracious and glorious end of days now—the Son of Humanity flying in on a cloud to make everything right again through God’s reign of justice and love.  We need a picture like that here at the beginning, because we’re about to get a picture of exactly the opposite, and it’s easy to loose our direction.  We’re about to get a picture of an un-wed pregnant teenager...drunk, smelly, immigrant shepherds...and while there is there is great meaning and power in those stories as well, it’s easy to wonder: “Where’s this all going?”  This is “all going” to our redemption drawing near.  That’s where “this is all going.”

Live in hope, people of God.  Joyful expectation.  We’re going to sing “Joy to the World” this season every Sunday after communion...because it is an Advent hymn. Ponder the words as we sing.  

Luke’s Gospel is arguably the most literary and artful of the gospels, so it seems appropriate on this New Year’s Day where we are introduced again to Luke, that we usher Luke in with some poetry.  Gary Snyder, recipient of the 2008 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, captures our themes for the day with his poem entitled “For the Children”:

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

When we have direction, when we know where we are headed and why, we are able to do our duty right smack in the midst of chaos and confusion — whether it’s planting an apple tree, or working for equality and justice, or teaching in the schools, or healing in the hospitals, or sewing in the churches [or voting in the congregational meeting ;) ] — when we have direction we are able to do what God has called us to do because we live in hopeful expectation, in the full assurance of God’s love and Christ’s coming.  We live differently, people of God, Christ is stirring up some power in us and Christ is on his way.  So bring on the candles!  This is the season to work with less, to “go light.”  This is the season to “learn the flowers”…and this is the season to “stay together.”  Strip away all that is clouding your vision.  Today we start anew…because you know what?  Our redemption is drawing near.  Lift up your heads and praise God! These are good days.  AMEN.

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