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.
For many of us, our literal homecomings can be wonderful. But for others, they are fraught with difficulty and pain… When we gather with our families for the holidays, we sometimes realize how much we aren’t really “at home,” how much we ache for an acceptance we’ll never know with our natural relatives, how desperately we yearn for a real home in which we can feel fully at peace. This yearning can point us to our heart’s true home.
For many of us, being at home for the holidays is one of life’s greatest joys. But not for all of us. Many people experience holiday homecoming with considerable ambivalence. Yes, it can feel good to be back on familiar turf and to spend time with relatives and old friends. But some of these relationships may still be tainted with pain… How can we find God’s grace when coming home is hard?