my miscellany

Christmas Day, 2016 — 25 Dec 16

Christmas Day, 2016

RCL Christmas 3
Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, Saint John 1:1-4

The Christmas Eve crowd is gone, with the children so excited and so eager for their presents, and I daresay that in many places the wrapping paper already has been consumed in the fire or is awaiting a similar end in the garbage.

But this morning’s reality remains the same as it was last night. God gives himself for us and for our salvation. But our perspective has changed overnight. Last night the Gospel had us look through a telescope and perceive a tiny baby up close as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We saw the very big in the very little. This morning the Gospel gives us the other end of the telescope to perceive the Word of God, life itself, through whom the worlds were made, as a tiny baby not two feet long. We see the very little in the very big.

The perspective is different, but the reality is the same. The Gospel today tells us that God, that the life-principle, the power of God to be life itself, was born in our flesh, in the form of a tiny baby. The Gospel tells us that the baby, being God’s Word, will, like light, never be overcome, never be extinguished, and never be redirected. As you heard in the Epistle, that baby is “heir of all things” and that baby “created the worlds.”[1]

The gift this Christmas God gives to us is God’s promise that our flesh and our souls, the worlds made through God’s Word, and everything that is are supported and everlastingly sustained by God. God’s purpose and God’s life will never be deterred and will never be taken off their tracks.

The only response, the only way to live, that makes any sense in the face of God’s Word is to be hopeful. It only makes sense to live with confidence in the newness and fullness of life and to await the completion of God’s purpose for all the worlds and all the creatures created by God’s Word. For our end is none other than Jesus Christ, God’s Word, the baby of Bethlehem, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and the one through whom the worlds were made.

The distractions have been swept away. Now the crowd is gone, and the gifts are all unwrapped. We can well and wisely rejoice in the goodness of God and the victory the birth of his Son promises and foretells. Our lives are not our own; they are God’s. And we can again rejoice that we have so great a God who gives us so great a promise.

[1] Saint John 1:2-3.

Christmas Eve, 2016 — 24 Dec 16

Christmas Eve, 2016

RCL Christmas 1
Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, Saint Luke 2:1-20

We’ve left home and hearth, food and fizz, to come out on a winter’s night to hear the old, old story. We’ve left those things so that the old, old story can become our story if it hasn’t become that for us already.

The old story of the Emperor Augustus and his tax; of a young couple braving travel and the dangers of the world to comply with the law, daring to suffer the pain of the birth of a child; of the shepherds minding their own business whilst a miraculous messenger declares to them the birth of a divine child and suggests they visit that child, born for them and all the people; of how they make that visit and find their hearts changed; and of how they return to their flock “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”[1] We’ve come out tonight for that same experience, of visiting a baby that changes our lives for the better.

To make the old, old story our own, we need to connect the dots, the dots between an infant and the Savior most of us know we need. The story tells us how the shepherds do it. They are told of the marvelous birth, and their curiosity takes over. That’s a good start for us, too, if our curiosity should take over and take us places we haven’t thought worthwhile.

For that baby, our Savior, found an obscure place among unheralded people to be born. If the old story becomes ours, our paths and steps will change. We’ll do what the Savior did. We’ll find the poor and serve them. We’ll find the hungry and feed them. We’ll find the hopeless and share our hope that our Savior was born two thousand years ago in Bethlehem and that our Savior is born again in our hearts every time we remember his Name.

We will associate that baby with our salvation if we do what the shepherds did: let our curiosity take over. We’ll find the glory of the Lord every time we remember his birth, every time we put ourselves in the safety of his hands, and every time we make room for him in our hearts.

For the old, old story is real. Not only is it real, because it brings us out on a winter’s night. The old story is real, because it has changed lives, hundreds of thousands of lives for the two thousand years since it happened. And you know that it can change your life, too. May the Lord Jesus be born in your heart tonight and forever more.

[1] Saint Luke 2:20.

Advent 3, 2016 — 11 Dec 16

Advent 3, 2016

RCL A Advent 3
Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146:4-9, James 5:7-10, Saint Matthew 11:2-11

In the Gospel today, John the Baptist is in prison, and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he is the one who is to come. The question gives Jesus the opportunity to comment on his own ministry.

Jesus tells John’s disciples that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.[1]

The point that Jesus is making is that his change is twofold. First the prophet Malachi had foretold that the one who is to come would bring with him fiery judgment.[2] This John had preached.[3] But Jesus brings healing, the reversal of blindness, lameness, leprosy, deafness, and death, and he brings good news to the poor—those whose entire lives contained no good news.

So, Jesus’ ministry redirects the prophecy of Malachi and, secondly, cures the genuine needs of the people who look for God. I think that’s very good news. The Lord’s ministry isn’t just the correction of what’s wrong. He brings with him what the people really need. Because Jesus brings not fiery judgment, John may have his doubts about Jesus.

But what Jesus says to John’s disciples overturns any doubts the people may have. Jesus brings what people really need.

What you really need and what I really need may be scarier that fiery judgment. When we look for a baby who is our Savior and Judge, we recognize that he being who he is requires us to change. We can’t just continue to be who we are or who we want to be. We have to take him as our pattern; we have to take with his redeeming and saving love a dose of what he wants us to be.

What John discovers is that to be all in for Jesus is to be all in for the possibility that Jesus wants for us something we may not want for ourselves. That is the risk we take when we seek to be Christ’s own forever. When we adore him in his crib, when we adore him on the cross, when we meet him in his resurrection, we should look also to what he asks us to do and to be. It may be different from what we expect as John found out. To be all in for Jesus brings us to a point of no return, the point where we are willing to give ourselves up for his glory. That glory shines from the crib and from the cross, and when it strikes us our blindness leaves us, and we are whole.

[1] Saint Matthew 11:4-5.

[2] Malachi 3:1-3.

[3] Saint Matthew 3:2.

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