Jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect? The Entire Series.

This year’s Advent series at Godspace has been the richest and most prolific ever. And it isn’t over yet. Tomorrow I will post the reflections for this week’s synchroblog Jesus Came Did You Get What You Expected?

However I want to take this opportunity to thank all who submitted posts as well as those who have followed faithfully what we have written. Now that Christmas is over some of you may have more time for reflection and like to look back over the entire series. may you enjoy a God blessed Christmas season and you read and savour what God is saying.

Jesus Is Returning…Today by Jeremy Myers

The Night Before by Joel Boehner

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The Wait is Over – Advent Reflection by Dave Timmer

Have We Lost Jesus at Christmas? by James Prescott.

Virgin Mary &The Bible’s Answer to Human Trafficking by Rev. Rajkumar Boaz Johnson

Come Spirit Of Advent – A Prayer of Hope and Expectation by Sally Coleman

Remember Our Story by Ellen Haroutunian

May Salvation and Righteousness Sprout Up Together

A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #1 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Parousia: Perchance to Dream #2 by Melanie Clark Pullen

Getting Ready for the Baby by John Leech

Expecting the Unexpected by Liz Dyer

Jesus Is Coming What Do I Want To Be Open To? by Kathy Escobar

Expecting Something That Matters by Sarah Styles Bessey

Simplify and Celebrate – What Makes for a Better Christmas or a Better World?

You Can Smuggle God into the World This Christmas – Edith Yoder

A Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent 2011

Jesus is Coming – I Expect More Time by Ed Cyzewski

The Best of Gifts For Christmas by Steve Wickham

Jesus Is Coming – Did You Hear the News by Paula Mitchell

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent 2011

Advent As A Mirror of Possibility and Expectation – Dave Perry

What Are We Waiting For – Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent by Dave Hens

Expect the Unexpected by Tracy Dickerson

More Resources for Advent 2011

Jesus Is Coming Will I Get What I Desire? by Dave Wainscott

First Monday of Advent – Advent Re-imagining Everything by Ron Cole

The God Who Would Be Friend – Theresa Froehlich

Advent in Two Minutes – An Introduction to the Season

Advent is Near – There’s A New World Coming

Jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect?

In spite of the fact that Advent was four full weeks this year, I still ran out of time to post all the Advent reflections that were submitted either to me or to the Advent synchroblog which launched this series. Here are some other reflections you may like to dig into.

 

Liz VerHage at Living Theology

Glenn Hager – Antithetical Advent

Tammy Carter at Blessing The Beloved – His Gift … the way of escape!

Carol Kuniholm at Words Half Heard – What I’m Waiting For

Mihee Kim-Kort – Advent Expectations: Keep Awake

Wendy McCaig – We’re Expecting A Baby

John Reid at Blog One Another – Undiscovered Advent: The Second Coming of Christ

 

Jesus Is Returning…Today by Jeremy Myers

Today’s post in our series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect  is from author and blogger  Jeremy Myers. It was first posted on his blog Till He Comes as Jesus Is returning Today. This is the last post in the series. I hope that you have enjoyed our journey through Advent. God bless and have a wonderful Christmas celebration.

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Jesus is returning

Jesus is returning

No, I’m not pulling a “Harold Camping.” Though I do believe that Jesus will return to earth literally and physically at some time in the future, I am NOT saying that today is the day.

But I am saying that Jesus is returning today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And every day from now until He actually returns.

Confused yet? I am saying that Jesus returns daily until He actually returns.

The Daily Return of Jesus?

I think that as Christians we have often taught and thought about what Scripture says concerning the future return of Jesus Christ, while ignoring and neglecting what Scripture says concerning the present and daily return of Jesus Christ. If you didn’t know that such an idea is taught in Scripture, then you have proved my point. Most people don’t know it, which is why most people don’t live for it.

Yet the idea of the daily return of Jesus Christ is quite prevalent in Scripture. Jesus talked about it in Acts 1 before He ascended into heaven. Paul talks about in several of His letters as does Peter, James, and John.

Loving and serving others like JesusDuring His three years of earthly ministry, Jesus served others by healing the sick, providing for the poor, loving the outcast, teaching the masses, feeding the hungry, delivering the captives, eating with sinners, partying with prostitutes, and in general, showing people what it looks like for God to be ruling and reigning on earth.

And then, after Jesus died and rose again from the dead, He basically told His followers:

You are my witnesses, my ambassadors to the world. The things you have heard my say? You now say similar things to the world. The things you have seen me do? You now do similar things, or even greater things. The people you have seen me hang out with? You now hang out with them.

As you say these things, and do these things, and hang out with these people, know that I am there with you, in you and through you, saying these things and doing these things and loving these people all over again.

If I stay, I am only one person. But if I go, I can send my Spirit into each one of you, so that I can multiply myself in each one of you, and in you, be the voice of God, the touch of God, and the love of God to all people.

Many people today are hoping for change. Hoping for corruption to end. Hoping for greed to cease. Hoping for equality, mercy, freedom, and justice. And a large segment of people who hope for these things believe that such things will not happen until Jesus Christ returns.

Such a view is right, but it is also wrong.

It is true that such things will not be universally practiced upon the earth until Jesus Christ physically returns to rule and reign over the entire earth. But this does not mean that we, as representatives of Jesus on earth, cannot begin to practice equality, mercy, freedom, and justice right now.

We must not wait for governments to enact the change, or presidents and congressman to make laws about it, or bank presidents and company CEOs to suddenly change course. If we wait for that, we will truly be waiting until return of Christ. No, we must get out there and put into practice NOW the things we long for, wait for, look for, and hope for.

We must be Jesus to the world.

You and I are Jesus to the World

The return of Jesus is in our service to others.We are Jesus Christ to the world, the Body of Christ that is physically present on earth, being the hands and feet and voice of Jesus to a world that without light and without hope.

So this Christmas season, as we remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, and as we look forward to His Second Coming, also remember to look for ways on how Jesus Christ can return today, in and through you, to someone who needs His touch and His voice in their lives today.

Until the day Jesus returns, He returns today in you.

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

This morning’s post is a second contribution from David Perry. The powerful images that he incorporates into this reflection spoke deeply to me as I read through it this morning. It was first posted on his blog as World, Life-space and Enlightenment. Dave is a Methodist Minister in Yorkshire England. He enjoys fell walking, rambling, running, reading, art, photography, model railways, red wine and watching movies on DVD. Dave is married to Sue, who is Deputy Head of Dietetics for the Hull and E. Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust. They have two daughters, Bekki (online merchandising designer) and Judy (final year Communication and Media student).

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To Christian eyes the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, provides a wonderful insight into the sheer expectant joy which Advent promises. The shapes of being he crafts deliberately speak into the body and soul of humanity.  This intention is apparent as we look at and through the mesh ‘portraits’ of the two girls Nuria and Irma who live near his home, or in the close-up photographs of one ‘person-space’ in the dual figure work ‘Spiegel’, which is formed from the letters of eight different alphabets.
These remarkable artworks display the contours of our being and becoming; they invite us to see the meanings which define us and which shape our day to day experience of being alive. The interior space of our personhood is revealed and becomes accessible. Light, space and meaning show us who we are, and in the act of understanding we connect with our deepest longings and our darkest fears.

And as we do this in Advent, God’s word in Christ becomes the open life-space of love which enlightens our being, just as the warmly vibrant colours of sunset seem to bring Plensa’s rooftop children into a cherishing focus of pure wonderment. Born from stardust, the light enlightens the truth that our transient lives are suffused by and eternally held within the love-light of God’s presence, the one who is, as we see here, closer to us than our own breathing. The true light gifts this intimate life-giving truth that the love which is at the heart of the universe invites us to inhabit the life-space of grace shaped by love’s meaning.

Word became flesh

Word became flesh - by David Perry

And the joy of Advent arises from God’s enlightening word which became flesh in Christ Jesus, the one who beckons us to enter within the freeing Godspace of humanity which his life defines. Plensa’s ‘Spiegel’ speaks to me of how the word embodied in Jesus uniquely reveals to us the image of an authentically God-shaped life. The gospel alphabet of forgiveness and compassion graces us with the promise that everyone can enter into this precious experience of Christ-likeness and make it their own. Jesus was born into our humanity; Advent promises us that we will be reborn into his divinity, and there become really and truly human in nothing less than the image of God.

As night took hold Spiegel was illuminated from within and began to draw a steady stream of fascinated visitors. Some stood outside and beyond and gazed. Others were more adventurous and entered within the enlightened life-shapes. With the eyes of faith this was such a beautiful sight to behold. All the expectation of Advent is held for me in this one image. Standing within the tangible promise of the word’s beautifully enfolding truth and love, our intangible yearnings are illuminated and transformed by a gift-space we neither expect or deserve.

Living within the Light

Living within the Light - David Perry

The Wait is Over – Advent Reflection by Dave Timmer

nativity - Lu Lan China

nativity - Lu Lan China

This morning’s post comes from Dave Timmer who works with A Rocha here in the Pacific NW . He also manages Five Loaves Farm in Lynden WA

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We’re bombarded with tradition at this time of the year.  As I get older, I think back on the advent traditions of my church.  There was a time that I didn’t think my church really dealt with advent.  That mostly came out of familiarity – traditions often become so second nature that we don’t even realize they are traditions.  It also came out of spiritual immaturity.  Christmas was about presents under the tree and the church rituals were just a sideshow.  Furthermore, and this still happens, my postmodern mind tends to get frustrated by the tradition battles that take place every year.  The fights over which decorations are appropriate in the sanctuary, or the ridiculous “War on Christmas” that a certain cable news station likes to invent.  Now, I see greed creep into my five year-old’s mind as he looks through a Christmas Lego magazine.  This is frustrating.  So, rather than enjoy this time of year, my jaded mind would rather just skip it.

Because of this, I need to remind myself that there are some advent traditions that are good to remember.

Every year, four Sundays before Christmas, the music changed in church.   The kids jockeyed for position to be Mary or Joseph in the upcoming play, not just a stoic shepherd or, even worse, a sheep.  And each week, a church family was responsible for lighting one more candle in the Advent wreath.  Of course, adding a candle each week dramatically increased the odds of lighter malfunctions.

This is probably my biggest advent memory – big brother (who is just old enough to be responsible with fire) is desperately clicking the unresponsive lighter and with an increasing amount of panic, he gives it a bit of a shake before finally making eye contact with dad.  Dad is nervously watching, mulling over his options of how to help.  Then just as dad is about to move, the lighter miraculously ignites and a soft chuckle rises from the congregation.  Big brother redeems himself by getting all the candles lit without also igniting his sleeve.  Dad smiles…disaster averted.

This year, though, I’ve been more aware of an advent emphasis on “waiting”.  It is an attempt to empathize with the young couple at the center of the Christmas story.  This couple wonders what awaits them in Bethlehem – with a new baby set to arrive soon, very soon.  No hospital arrangements are ready for them.  They don’t even have an open couch arranged.  Furthermore, this baby isn’t even Joseph’s.

Today, I’m wondering if this emphasis on waiting is appropriate.  There was a time for waiting, yes.  The Biblical story, brilliantly, plays this out.  As far back as the Genesis story, a promise is given.   A promise of redemption, a promise to make things right again.  The curse will be knocked back.  That is the central theme – and the story is amazing.  No matter how bad things get, God is not about to abandon this promise.  Noah builds a big boat.  Abraham has a son.  David becomes king.  It’s going to happen.

But God’s people rebel and Babylon creeps nearer.  The situation is as bad as it can get.  The prophets describe the scene.  Their sieged capitol city is in ruins.  People are so hungry.  There are stories circulating of mothers eating their own starved children.  The king, cowardly, fled the city.  But he was quickly captured, his sons were murdered, his eyes were cut out, his hands were bound and he was dragged into exile.  The temple is a smoldering pile of rocks.  God is gone and his people are scattered.  They are forced to leave their homes and their farms.  The symbol of God’s promise – the “promised” land – is no longer theirs.  The prophets long for restoration.

Throughout this longing, though, there weaves a beautiful thread of hope.  There are promises of peace and justice (often quite violent justice…but justice).  There are promises of deliverance and re-membering the scattered people.  There is the promise of a Messiah and rest.  There is hope, even, for the land.  The “promised” land experiences a Sabbath.

After these promises, however, there is silence…for a few centuries.  This is the time to wait.

Finally, the silence breaks.  Remember those promises.  There is now a new conqueror with a Roman name.  Remember that royal line.  The people have come back to that same land.  Remember that the land rested.  There is a new temple and new traditions.  Remember the pictures of justice that those prophets painted.  The new conqueror wants to keep track of all those people with all those traditions.  Remember how God uses nations to write his story.  And a poor, pregnant, unmarried couple travels across the country to have a baby in a barn.  Remember the Messiah that they wrote about.

The waiting is over.  This is what they’ve been waiting for.  The rest is history, right?  We’ve even made this moment our fulcrum of time.  Everything has changed.

Jesus’ kingdom has been established.  In it, the hard work of redemption is occurring.  This isn’t happening in some far-off place or some future kingdom.   God’s redemptive work is happening today.  His story continues.

So what are we waiting for?

The Christmas story has happened – remember it, yes.  Empathize with that young desperate couple – definitely.  But the time for waiting is over.

It’s time to join in.

Have We Lost Jesus at Christmas? by James Prescott.

Christmas is coming but have we lost Jesus?

Christmas is coming but have we lost Jesus?

The season of Christmas is fast approaching and the frenzy of activity leading up to our Christmas celebrations is growing but have we lost Jesus in the midst of this frenzy? This morning’s post in the series Jesus Is Coming What Do We expect?  comes from James Presscott. He has been blogging about Advent and other topics on his blog JamesPrescott.co.uk.  He is also a regular guest blogger on issues of discipleship in the digital realm at digi-disciple, run by the Big Bible Project, and is currently working on a book.

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Expectations. We all have them, whether we know it or not. This is the time of year where the consumer culture we live in drives them up more than any other time – what gifts we’d like to receive, expectations of seeing relatives or eating certain types of food.

Often the last thing people expect at Christmas is Jesus.

Consumerism has taken over the festive season to such an extent that it’s easy for the very reason we celebrate to get lost in all the mayhem – in many ways that simply a highlighting of what happens the other 364 days of the year. But as Christians we should never allow Jesus to get lost.

Should it really have come to that?

Have we played a part in allowing Jesus to get lost in Christmas?

Well as Christians we’re called to stand for Jesus on this earth, to be His representatives here. To stand up for the issues He cares about, to show why His way is the best way to live through our own example.

As I reflected on this issue of what we expect from Jesus this Christmas, the one thing that I simply couldn’t escape from was the idea that it’s not about what we expect from Jesus or our expectations of Him – it’s more what He expects from us.

You see I think what we often do with our expectations of Jesus is that we put our own idea of who Jesus is in the place of Jesus, and place there what we think we should expect from Jesus, what matters to us, our own ideas of what He would care about.

Often what we don’t do is take time to ask Jesus what we should expect from Him. Nor, more crucially, what He expects from us.

One habit I don’t practice enough is simply sitting, listening to God, being silent and allowing Him to speak, letting Him set the agenda. I think it’s something we’re all prone to, especially in a consumer, merit-based society which rewards achievement and success, and encourages us to like to be right, indeed to get our value from being right, being the cleverest or smartest – or in Christian terms, the most insightful, the most in touch with God, the one more right about what Jesus would do/say/think.

We live also in a culture of selfish entitlement. It’s all about us and what we deserve, what we should own or what we have the right to.

Rarely is there space to stop and listen – to think about the other, the lesser. To think about what we can give rather than what we receive.

There has been an amazing TV advert in the UK this advent, for John Lewis, one of the major department stores in the UK.

All through the advert we’re led to believe a little child is waiting expectantly, impatient for Christmas to see what gift he will receive, what he will get for Christmas. We see him waiting, looking at clocks, struggling to sleep, eating his dinner down quickly and getting to bed early, impatient for Christmas morning.

But on Christmas morning something unexpected happens. He gets up with a flash and the first thing he does isn’t run to open his stocking or presents under the tree. No.

Instead he grabs a poorly wrapped present from his cupboard and rushes to his parents room, waking them up, so that he can give them his gift.

It’s incredibly powerful and very moving – and totally counter-cultural.

Why? Well simply because all that frustration wasn’t about what he was going to receive.

It was about the gift he was waiting to give.

I have to say, when I watched that, and every time since, it has humbled me. Chokes me up a bit, I must confess. Because watching it I was reminded of how selfish I am, how I – and probably many of us – have lost the joy of simply giving a gift, and how often we instinctively think of what we are going to receive, what we are entitled to.

We always put ourselves first and the other second, so when we see an advert where it doesn’t happen, it takes us aback, it shocks us.

It can be the same with Jesus. If He doesn’t deliver what we expect Him to, what we’ve decided He should give us or do for us, then we are disappointed or annoyed with Him – because He hasn’t met our standard of what we think we should expect.

But to me this is totally counter to the way of Jesus.

If we are truly followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t be worried about how God is going to bless us, we should be instinctively, like that little boy in the advert, thinking of how we can be a blessing to others this Christmas.

How we can be a living embodiment of Christ to others.

How we can show people through our lifestyle, behaviour, choices and attitudes that the way of Jesus is the best way to live. Pondering not what Jesus can give us, but how we can share Him – His love, His grace, His mercy – with those around us.

When we think of expectations of Jesus, we need to be turning that around, and asking ourselves what He expects of us this Christmas.

Who is He calling us to be?

What is He calling us to do?

How can we draw attention away from ourselves and point it towards Him this Christmas?

How can we show and give others the real gift of Christmas – Christ Himself?

So instead of pondering what you expect of Jesus this Christmas, how about instead turning it around and asking what He expects of you.

How about we simply remember God’s gift of Christ which was given at Christmas, and seek simply to share that gift with others?

Let us find our joy and expectations met not in the receiving but the giving of a gift.

I think if we all did that, we might find that all our expectations are met.

 

Virgin Mary &The Bible’s Answer to Human Trafficking by Rev. Rajkumar Boaz Johnson

Madonna with flowers - Joysmith

Madonna with flowers

I have been strongly moved by a series on The Bible’s Answer to Human Trafficking that has been published over the last few weeks in Christians for Biblical Equality’s weekly ezine ARISE. The articles are written by Rev. Rajkumar Boaz Johnson (PhD, Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) a professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University in Chicago, IL.   This excerpt is from the third and final article of the series on human trafficking. Click for Part One and Part Two.

We tend to think of Mary’s pregnancy as a joyful time of celebration. Today’s article shared about human trafficking in the times that Mary grew up in and helps us to understand some of the challenges she would have faced even before Christ was conceived :

Mary, also grew up among girls who were regularly abused and trafficked by the Sadducees and the Roman soldiers. This was the reason that the most common name given to girls was Miriam, meaning “bitter,” since the life of the girl was assumed to be full of bitterness due to sexual abuse and human trafficking. Yet, miraculously, one girl was preserved, a virgin, to bear the Messiah of the world! She was not a virgin because she was the only one who was pure. She was a virgin because of a miraculous preservation of one girl. Mary becomes, in many senses, a symbol of hope for all girls throughout history, all over the world who are trafficked and abused by fallen humanity. This is indeed a thick answer to the problem of human trafficking.

The Messiah born by Mary elevated the status of so many women that he encountered. He knew what his own mother had gone through. She was ostracized by the so-called high class people, for carrying and bearing a child out of wedlock. He himself was called a mamzer—a term reserved for the children born by women who were sexually abused by Roman soldiers. During his public ministry, Jesus, knowing the horrible life faced by women around him, always reached out to them and restored their dignity. A good example is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus knew that Samaritan women were abused on a far more regular basis than low class Jewish women. They were the lowest of the low people group in the society around Jesus. They were constantly and systematically abused, just because they were Samaritans. During his conversation with her, at a poignant moment, Jesus asks her to “Go call your man.” She shrugs her shoulders and says, “I have no man.” Jesus says to her, “I know what you have gone through. I know that you really have had no man. Each of the other five have sexually abused you and battered you. The person who has you now is not really your man” (John 4:17-18, paraphrased). To this woman who had suffered so much because of systemic evil against women, Jesus offered the water of life—the water which alone could heal her deepest wounds. The rest of the narrative is a powerful example of how Jesus heals and elevates the status of a trafficked woman. She goes back to her town, and the whole village listens to her words. This woman, who was trafficking material and was sexually abused by men around her, is suddenly transformed into an eshet chayil, a strong woman. Read the entire article

Come Spirit Of Advent – A Prayer of Hope and Expectation by Sally Coleman

Performing for the Crowd

Performing for the Crowd - photo by Dave Perry

This morning’s post in the series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect comes from Sally Coleman. It was first posted on her blog Eternal Echoes as Come Spirit of Advent (A Prayer of Hope and Expectation).  This picture above, by Dave Perry inspired the poem.  He really caught Sally’s imagination by describing the crowd drawn by this performer and description of the way she moved!

Come Spirit

of Advent

awaken new hope

within us,

ignite

our hearts with

a fresh awareness

of your opportunities,

call us beyond

our comfort

seeking, nostalgic

notions,

and set us ablaze

with passion

for your purposes,

lead us in your dance

of possibilities,

and rekindle

our desires

to seek you,

to know you,

to share you,

to be freed by you…

Come Spirit

of Advent,

and capture our

imaginations

with unfolding visions

of your eternal story;

God with us,

always with us

ever with us!

Remember Our Story by Ellen Haroutunian

Ray Dirks CMU chapel painting

chapel painting at CMU Winnipeg by Ray Dirks

This morning’s post in the series: Jesus Is Coming What Do We Expect comes from Ellen Haroutunian. It was first published on her blog as Advent 2011 Synchroblog: Remember Our Story. I feel that as we move closer to Christmas and start to feel more and more overwhelmed by the frenzied hype that beckons us to consume, consume, consume there is even more need to draw aside, reflect and remind ourselves of the story that is meant to be celebrated at this season.

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Our world is unraveling. We are seeing the deterioration of civil society in many ways. The Thanksgiving holiday week alone has been an embarrassment of aggressive consumerism with shoppers resorting to pepper spray and robbing each other at gunpoint. Black Friday is extending back into Thursday, threatening to diminish the one day we have set aside to pause our frantic lives and give thanks that some of us actually have money to spend. And that’s just the news on the small scale.

I just had a long conversation with a friend over the meaning of Christmas. It began around her assertion that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. When you look at Walmart at midnight on Thanksgiving, you can see that that has become very true. But the conversation was more about how many choose to celebrate Christmas either in a secular fashion or with more ancient ties to the pagan rituals that were the inspiration for the choice of December for this observance. I agreed, the holiday was birthed from engagement with other traditions and has taken on many more dimensions, much of which have nothing to do with the remembering of Jesus and the Christian story. I also agreed with her that people should be allowed to celebrate how they wish without harassment. In her insistence that Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus, I assume she wanted to show support for the millions who celebrate Christmas in various ways but have no Christian affiliation.

Even so, it’s important to remember that the shaping of the Christmas celebration (long before secular commercialization) was intentional and beautiful. Early Christians brought their story to the celebrations that they had already been observing such as pagan solstice rituals, or more likely, the Roman solar celebration. Since the beginning of time people had observed that light returns to the world as the world revolves around the sun, renewing and enlivening as it comes. The Christian story, the gospel story, is about the Light coming into the world, bringing life and healing to hurting souls. What was already observed and celebrated in rhythm with creation was then seen to hold a deeper meaning in the minds of these early Christians. As a result, the season of waiting (Advent) and the celebration of the Incarnation of God, Emmanuel, was born. Eventually, the season became known as the Feast of the Nativity or Christ’s Mass. So on the level of tradition and history, the evolution of Christmas as a holiday (holy day) is indeed about Jesus. The whole point of the discussion was that there’s no need to diminish Christian tradition to make room for other traditions, just as there’s no need to diminish other traditions to make space for the Christian.

But that discussion isn’t the true issue. I understand that there is a lot of anger towards Christians who have been offering judgment instead of the Good News. I understand that people would then choose to diminish the Christian Story as a result. That’s what people do. That’s why the world is hurting. We all diminish and deny the traditions, beliefs, needs and feelings of the other in order to make space for ourselves. However, in doing so, any empathy for the other is also lost. Lack of empathy for the other is the human heart in its most desolate state. The particular case above was about diminishing Christianity. But the way of thinking that essentially diminishes or eliminates the other, any other, has become the norm worldwide as each of our hearts shrink and pull back into self-protective bunkers. This is what our broken and hard-hearted system of justice does.

So, we live in a world in which empathy is a rare gemMore than ever, this has become a world of every man or woman for themselves, whether it be about grabbing the last waffle maker at Walmart or blocking job creating bills because you don’t like the politics of the party in power, or insisting that every conservative Christian is hate-filled and every liberal one is immoral, or that every Muslim is a terrorist. We no longer seek to listen, to know, to honor and respect each other. We no longer see the Image in one another. The idea of being our brothers’ keeper has become laughable, even amongst Jesus followers. We cannot compromise and work together because whatever the other represents is simply too offensive, too threatening, too inconvenient, too irrelevant to our personal lives. In this sense, we indeed have truly lost Jesus.

We do not need to create a “let’s take Christmas back” mentality. That is not what this post is about and it’s only another way to diminish those with whom we disagree. We do acknowledge that millions of people who are not Christians celebrate “Christmas” in various ways around the world and can remain unthreatened by that. However, the most important thing we can do is to reflect to the world the Light that has come to us. The incarnation of God-as-human is an act of ultimate empathy. God, who is Wholly Other became the other in order to love fully and to reconcile, to heal, to save. This is what love does! Love enters the story of the other. This world that has become more cold and hard and cynical than ever is desperate for a love that enters in.

Remember the Story. May we remember and act accordingly and thus bring true empathy back into the world, whether it’s at Walmart or in congress or towards Wall Street protestors or in trying to be politically correct (or not).  The world says, “Your needs and pain don’t matter to me” as it steps on the heads of the weaker brother to move upward towards bigger and better. Jesus calls us back down to our senses, back down to being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, back down to a life of love. And when we listen to his Story, we find that he has shown us how.

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. John 1:9 RSV

Definitions of Empathy:

1. The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it (perhaps incarnates it? – my addition)

2. The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

May Salvation and Righteousness Sprout Up Together

Varghese - calming the storm

My morning’s Advent readings focused on salvation and righteousness. The powerful linking of these to the coming of Christ impacted me profoundly this morning. And more than that the imagery of salvation as the coming of justice, healing and righteousness is something that I know I need to embrace more fully as we approach Christmas. Listen to what the scriptures say and reflect on the wonder of God’s salvation: (curtesy of Biblegateway.com)

Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

8 I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
But let them not return to their foolish ways.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
so our land will be filled with his glory.

10 Unfailing love and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed!
11 Truth springs up from the earth,
and righteousness smiles down from heaven.
12 Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
13 Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
preparing the way for his steps. (Psalm 85: 7-13)

And from Isaiah 45: 6b-8

I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

8 “Open up, O heavens,
and pour out your righteousness.
Let the earth open wide
so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together.
I, the Lord, created them.

And finally from the Gospel of Luke 7:18-22 spelling out for us so beautifully what salvation and righteousness look like in the coming of the Messiah:

So John called for two of his disciples, 19 and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

20 John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’”

21 At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. 22 Then he told John’s disciples,“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Olympic mountains

Olympic mountains at sunrise - promise and hope from God

My prayer for the fourth Sunday of Advent was inspired by my view of the Olympic mountains early this morning sun drenched, snow covered, rose tinted, silhouetted against a dark sky. I was overwhelmed by the promise and goodness of God I saw reflected in that view.  I had planned to post this later today but I was so impacted by the scene in front of me that I felt I had to post it immediately – so much for waiting quietly and expectantly for Christ’s coming. In fact as we are now more than half way through Advent, for some of us the fact that we need to wait another couple of weeks to celebrate the coming of Christ seems almost unendurable.

This year Advent is as long as it could possibly be – four full weeks because Christmas is on a Sunday. I already know that the fourth week will seem to drag on and on like those last days of pregnancy when a mother longs for the birth of her child. But this is still the season to wait and hope and anticipate what is coming.

The coming of our Lord is near,

Something new is around the corner,

Love, joy, peace and hope, 

We await the promise of your coming. 

The coming of our Lord is near,

Something new is appearing,

A child, a saviour, God’s much beloved son, 

We await the hope of your coming. 

The coming of our Lord is near,

Something new is being birthed,

A new heaven, a new world, a new community,

We await the long expected One.

The coming of our Lord is near,

We wait in joyful expectation for what is emerging,

Love comes down at Christmas, 

And we await your coming.