Joy is not so much meant for the good times as it is for the tumultuous times. This genuine joy does not deny the existence of pain, heartache, and loss, but it also acknowledges the strength of our God to heal, mend, and restore. Joy must be engaged and actively adopted. The season of Advent is about the arrival of the Savior and the joy he brings to the nations in the midst of our darkest hours.
It takes intentionality and effort to “make our dwelling among” those we lead. Being present with our followers takes time and attention… “Flesh and blood” leadership, the incarnational leadership that Jesus taught and embodied, requires something more. It means finding ways to live among—in other words, to enter the world of—those we lead.
Christmas has a lot to do with bodies, if you stop to think about it. The nativity narrative in Luke begins with the news that the aged body of Elizabeth will soon bear a son. Then, a virgin named Mary learns that her body will soon contain the very Son of God. When God’s Son is born, he has a real body, one that starts out life in weakness and dependency. If you take away the bodies, you really don’t have Christmas at all.
What are your names? I’m not asking only about the names given to you at birth. I’m wondering also about the names assigned to you by others, the labels used to identify you, the titles that have brought you honor or shame… Do you need to discover the new name or names God has for you? Do you need to know that you are a Saint, one of God’s holy people, set apart for God and his purposes?
Do you ever think of yourself as a priest of the Lord? If you happen to be a clergyperson in the Anglican, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox traditions, then you can easily answer this question in the affirmative. But what if you’re a salesperson, a business owner, a medical professional, or a cabinetmaker? Do you see yourself as a priest of God? Isaiah 61:6 would urge you to do so. As would the broad sweep of the biblical narrative.
When God brings his peace and justice to the world through the Messiah, God will not miraculously and instantaneously remake the broken world. Rather, the people who have been redeemed and set free by the Messiah will do this work. Specifically, we will “rebuild” and “restore” and “renew.” God doesn’t do everything for us. Instead, God does what God alone can do, and then invites us to partner with him in his work.
In this season of Advent, we remember the announcement of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest.” May our remembrance encourage us to live for God’s glory each day, in every avenue of life, at home and at work, in our neighborhoods and in the shopping malls, in our spending and in our giving, in our speaking and in our silence.
When the rules always seem to go in someone else’s favor, when you feel pushed to the margins, when you can’t seem to find your way and people keep telling you, “You best move on,” I pray you hear the soft cries of the holy infant and remember he has gone to prepare a place for you… and there is always room.
Jesus arrived in the world, just as planned from the foundation of the world. His arrival defies both good old-fashioned logic and our twenty-first century imaginations. His humble birth made the Kingdom of God accessible to all, even (especially?) those our traditions and customs and comforts and preferences can find no room to accommodate.
In this season of Advent, we join the Jewish people in their longing for the fullness of peace and righteousness. We are preparing to celebrate the coming of the “Prince of Peace,” who will govern his kingdom “with justice and righteousness” (Isa 9:6-7). Jesus has come—and will come again—to fulfill the vision of Isaiah 60. Peace will be our governor and well-being our ruler.