The birth of a child is a tender, precarious, and magic moment. I love the way this and the care for children is dramatized in the BBC TV series “Call the Midwife.” Jesus’ birth, and the caring life he lived, is the beating heart of Christian faith. This is God’s love revealed. It’s at the heart of every congregation that seeks to live out such love revealed.
Holiday cheer can be forced and turn a blind eye to the suffering in our lives and in our world. But, according to pastor Barbara Gerlach, “There is another joy—deeper than the good times and bad times that life metes out, stronger than our best attempts and sorest failings—a joy that lifts us when we cannot lift ourselves.” This is the kind of joy expressed by Isaiah and Paul. Such joy is my wish for us and our church during this Christmas season and beyond.
Couldn’t we skip the lectionary focus on John the Baptist during this Advent season? John has this penchant for making comfortable people like me uncomfortable. Why is it that God’s word bypasses civil religion, heads out to the wilderness, and seizes a man like John? John’s call to repentance involves more than personal piety and morality; he’s calling for the world to change spiritually, economically, politically, and socially.
The first Sunday of Advent is a time of waiting and hope. Our Scripture readings portray a tenacious hope in God’s deliverance in the face of evidence of God’s defeat. In response to the chaos and suffering of our time, we look for the smallest signs and actions pointing to a coming dawn. This is one of those times in history for us as a people and for our American churches to make a decision for truth over falsehood.
Pilate’s question to Jesus, “So, are you a king?” is arguably the most instructive political encounter in the Bible. Yes, Jesus is a king but not according to the standard hierarchical political system of violence and patronage. He, instead, turns leadership on its head. Accordingly, “the free movement of gifts—in a nonhierarchical way—is the very heart of Christianity.”