Readings: Psalm 21; Isaiah 41:14-20; Romans 15:14-21
I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.” [NRSV}
We are now in the middle of Advent. Advent is the season of “coming.” The birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, and the coming of Christ today.
It is easy to celebrate the past…a colorful tree, inspiring music, the Hallelujah Chorus, a symbolic creche, table full of food, uplifting worship, family hugs and loving gifts. But we run the risk of losing some of this wonderful feeling when we start to take the tree down after Christmas.
The coming of Christ today is celebrating the past, but it is also embracing a lifestyle. Paul, writing to the church in Rome, characterizes that lifestyle in Christ well:
Life full of goodness
To be a minister of Jesus Christ (to care and to love)
To proclaim the good news
That through us, others might “see” and “understand” the love of Christ.
My barber is a young man with a warm, caring, gentle faith. Through many haircuts I have learned that he is deeply involved in his church. I do not know his church. He has also learned that I am a retired minister who has recently moved to Plymouth. He has shared with me that he was married a couple of years ago, he is building the business, there have been some rough times, and most recently:
“My life would be an absolute mess if it were not for Jesus.”
In a recent visit he asked me how I was doing. I thanked him for asking and simply said…”there have been some bumps in the road.” He simply responded, “May I pray for you?” I told him I very much appreciated his caring.
We talked about other things…sports, weather, whatever, and the haircut soon ended. When I stepped out of the chair, he put his hands on my shoulders and said a brief, thoughtful prayer. Don’t remember the words, but do remember his gentle caring. I was very moved. The Spirit of Christ had come and was very present through him.
Advent is the birth, the coming of this life style.
Offered by Bill Lutz, pastor, teacher, walking home to Bethlehem.
[Two Rowhouses (2018-2019), Colin Fredrickson, artist]