Every year in church we light an Advent wreath to “count down” the weeks until Christmas. There are two common ways to celebrate each candle: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Light. We are reminded when we light them of what the Baby Jesus brought into the world, into our relationship with the Divine. Here are the words for this second week, Peace:
Prepare for Jesus comes to save
In Jesus we are all children of God
As Jesus cured the sick, so too will we be offered healing
Our souls long for Christ’s salvation
God’s glory will soon be known
Reveal to us, O Lord, Christ and set us free
Good News of peace waitsWe are prepared for the wonders of peace
Matthew 3: 8: Bear fruit worthy of repentance
Today we mark Peace in our Advent journey (hope, peace, joy, love, light) and what better way to begin that discussion then in Matthew 3, before this statement by John the Baptist, John is calling the Pharisees and Sadducees out with some harsh words. And he gives this warning: Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Throughout our Gospels we hear about bearing fruit – we are called to bear good fruit. To bear good fruit we must live with intent. We don’t have to be perfect, God isn’t asking that. John doesn’t warn: bear good fruit always and never have a bad grape! No, John says bear fruit worthy of repentance. According to Strong “repentance” here means “a change of mind of something one has done.” Bear fruit worthy of repentance. We are being called out by John here to not only live our life with intent and responsibility but live it showing to others that when we do make mistakes we learn from them and change. We do this by making amends and righting our wrongs. Let us remember that we are called not just to change in our hearts but for all to see. To let our relationship with the Divine change us. Think Mr. Scrooge.
Day 9 Psalm 21: 13 Be exalted in your strength, LORD; we will sing and praise your might.
Indeed we are called to sing God praise. We are asked to worship God. God has indeed asked this of us. In this passage, the psalmist is asking God for something “be exalted in your strength;” another way to say it would be “rise up in might.” They are in the psalm encouraging God to deliver a King and thus they will offer sing and praises. Here it is a give and take: I will worship you if you show your worthiness to the world. What an interesting thought. The psalms are full of interesting thoughts. But haven’t we all been there? Oh God please do this…and I will forever do that… A common bargain tool we use. Yet our relationship with God isn’t a bargain or a give or take. Our relationship with God is meant to be a foundation, one in which we are held accountable, not in which God is held accountable. But that is why we love the psalms, the go places that only humans can go; they show us the vastness of human emotion and selfishness. Today let us praise God’s might for all that God has already done in our lives – asked and not asked. Let us look at our relationships with humans and see if there is someone who we have treated this way – only cared for them when they did for us or perhaps we feel they only care for us when we do for them – let us pray differently today for that person and that relationship. Let us take a moment to pray to God that more come from that.
Romans 15: 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God (NIV)
In another translation this reads: I have reason to boast for my work for God (NRSV). This is not simply Paul giving himself credit for all the good he is doing but instead he is giving credit to God. Not taking credit ourselves is hard but remember to give credit to God is harder. One church I knew spent a good portion of their time working hard out in the community but they didn’t tell anyone who they were with or where they were from. Once they started wearing a logo shirt with the churches name on it, people started talking. Why were they not glorifying God in all that they did? Think about it, most people are simply good people; that doesn’t make you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is that when you do these works, you do them in the glory of Christ Jesus.
Matthew 12: 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
Yup we are back on fruit. For a tree is recognized by its fruit. If you were walking down the street and found two apples on the ground and looked up and saw three apple trees you would compare the fruits still on the other trees to find the tree the apples came from. What type of fruit we produce matters in the world; if we are doing good or bad people can tell. Yes we are called not to judge one another; but we are reminded throughout the Bible that God will judge. Focus on doing good in the world and spreading that good in all you do and you will bear good fruit. God isn’t asking each of us to change the world or do something grand; God is simply asking you to be the good in your own world, your own community, the people no matter how many that you greet every day.
Psalm 146: Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. ×
References for Psalms 146:5
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. ×
References for Psalms 146:6
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free
What words of comfort for us. Blessed are we who seek the Lord. Blessed are we who ask for help from our God. For God sets us free! Our hope is in our Sustainer. WOW. This is the season we seek comfort: through food and clothes; through family and familiarity; and yet this is also the time of year in which comfort escapes us. That is because comfort is not found in the earthly; but in the Godly. We are offered assurance in our faith that no matter what around us changes, God’s love remains the same and constant. We find God because God is the familiar, God remains faithful forever. This Advent, as you prepare for the birth of Christ for this familiar holiday in which family traditions remain strong think on your familiarity with God. What ways do you see and feel God’s comfort around you? What are your traditions in meeting God?
Day 13: Psalm 146 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. ×
References for Psalms 146:8
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked
Another passage of comfort; but as we reflect on peace this day I would like to point out the theological impact of this passage. The Lord loves the righteous is one line pretty much no one would debate. In this passage we hear this idea that despite human inadequacy we should trust God. That all are welcome to trust God, even those outside the “norms” of society. People who were blind or widow were in Biblical times seen as outsiders. They often were left to beg on the streets or at outside the city gates. Yet, in this passage they are lifted up and invited to trust in God. Further it states the Lord will sustain those who are “less than” in society even the foreigners! Such a big statement for a Hebrew; and for us! Here we are at a point in our nation that we are questioning the “values” of our country and pointing fingers at those we deem as “others.” We are defining people as “outside the norms” or “outside our society.” We are often doing this with undertones of Christianity. Yet, that is not what our Bible asks us to do. Instead countless times, OK 5 times in the Psalms alone, we hear the words “justice for the oppressed/ food for the hungry.” God is calling us to doing better by others, God isn’t asking us to judge them but instead trust our Lord and allow all those who trust to have a relationship. All are worthy of a relationship with the Divine.
Day 14: Luke 3: 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
This is the season of giving. As we approach Christmas we see advertisements to give all around us. There are trees with names of Children in need; there are Salvation Army pots with ringers encouraging everyone to drop a few cents; there are churches pushes stewardship and of course there are stores asking you to “add a dollar” or “round up your bill” to give to whatever charity they are working with. Although many of this might seem like ways to exploit you and the Scrooge in you may want to take hold, we are reminded in this passage why we give. As Christians we are called to give, although not just once a year. We are called to be aware of the people around us who may not have and do for them. We are called to care for one another. Although a relationship with God is personal. Many passages in our NT call us into community with our Christians to care for each other. This season we are reminded of those communities we belong to and are encouraged to care.