Happy New Year!
(Updates for "Preaching & Pondering"
will return in early January. For now, it's time to snuggle down and read a good book!)
People in need in every society hear a blessing in this canticle. The battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food on the table or without even a table, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded—all who are subjected to social contempt are encompassed in the hope that Mary proclaims. (Truly Our Sister, p. 269)Such words just before Christmas ask us to be mindful of what this holiday is all about. It’s not the tree and the merriment (though they are delightful traditions). We are coming to Christmas Eve not necessarily for the Christmas carols we can sing without opening the hymnal. We come to reaffirm our faith in Jesus, the son of Mary whose birth is part of the greater story of his life, death and resurrection. From this faith, we hear the good word rising up to encourage those who despair and those who hunger, those who have no welcome and those who yearn for even a taste of God’s good and just world that is surely coming. And in hearing this good news, we dare further to let it transform how we live out the faith of Christ, born in lowly circumstance and yet the One who rules in ways that the world has yet to match with all its vast empires and aspiring potentates.
We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good his promise by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari, doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together
in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.
The primary focus of Advent is on what is popularly called “the second coming.” Thus Advent concerns the future of the Risen One, who will judge wickedness and prevail over every evil. Advent is the celebration of the promise that Christ will bring an end to all that is contrary to the ways of God; the resurrection of Jesus is the first sign of this destruction of the powers of death, the inauguration and anticipation of what is yet to come in fullness. As such, the opening Sundays of Advent bring to sharp focus themes that in the lectionary system have been accumulating for some weeks; for as the lectionary year closes, the Gospel readings, in particular, deal with signs of the end. (Calendar, p. 121).For many in worship this Sunday, it’s the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Or, worse, it’s the Sunday when the local church should be just like the local radio station, expecting to open the hymnal to the “greatest hits”. Indeed, a liturgically observant worship planner comes off like Scrooge himself, explaining (hopefully patiently!) that the most popular Christmas Eve service hymns are indeed only for then. For now, enjoy the pondersome somberness of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, for “the primary focus of Advent” is about “signs of the end”.
|Members of the congregation gather around|
to lay hands and bless their newly called lay pastor
at the South New Berlin Baptist Church (NY).
|A few saints never make the official lists|
yet keep the Church and even you and me
honest before God and neighbor alike.
|Michael Rosenbaum memorably portrayed|
a young Lex Luthor in TV's Smallville series.
Truly a "rich young ruler" in need of Mark's gospel!
|Pondering the faith|