Take A Breath

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel according to his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Granted, Paul was a lawyer – and the four gospels weren’t written yet, so the saints in Rome didn’t have much in the way of scripture. And they were Gentiles, so their knowledge of Hebrew scripture might not be particularly deep or reliable. Still, who begins a letter with a one hundred word plus opener? Paul was doing his best to make sure everyone knew from the start whose words they were hearing, and why they should stick around to hear the thousands more to come.

Fortunately, Paul’s prose wasn’t always so prosaic. He penned some of the greatest verses in the New Testament as well as many mammoth run-on sentences. Paul wanted to be as precise as possible, and used his words accordingly. He also wanted to make sure everyone knew who he was, what he was about, and by whom he was sent.

It’s worth wading through Paul’s words, even though he buries the most important part at the end of his greeting rather than opening with it:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

These are the words that offer life and light; these are the words that hallow our days and sustain our lives. Take a breath and sit with them for a few moments. There’s no better way to begin this last leg of our journey to Bethlehem.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Paul.

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