“The Meaning of the Seasons”- An Advent Meditation


And the Preacher wrote, “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”

There is a sense of rhythm to the changing of the seasons.  At this time of year, the changing of the colors of the leaves, the chill in the morning, the southward migration of the birds, and the loss of sunlight tells us that winter is approaching.

It took humankind a long time to understand this rhythm.  The “medicine wheels” of the high Northern plains, the stone circles at Stonehenge and the similar wooden circles in Germany, the intricate calendars of the Mayan civilization were, as it were, not created overnight but only after many years of study.  Someone or a group of people saw the changes in the Sun, the moon, and the stars and began tracking and studying those movements.  And from their observations and studies came the ability to begin planning for the special days in their lives.  And remember, it was that study of the skies and the movement of the stars that led the Magi to the Christ-child.

But it takes time to do such studies, it takes time to detect the rhythm.  It is very hard to do so in an environment where things are rushed.  In a world where the “sound bite” rules, we are not prepared for lengthy and deep discussions concerning the world around us.  In these times, we find ourselves listening to false prophets pass on false, misleading, and incorrect information.

But there were and are true prophets, prophets who speak not for themselves but for the people.  They do not tell the people what to think or who to listen to; they point to the signs and say, “Look and listen!”.

This Sunday, look carefully at the altar.  See that it is clothed in green, the color for me that symbolizes growth.  Over the next six weeks, watch as it changes from green to white on November 21st to mark the end of the church calendar year.  And look as the altar colors change from white to purple on November 28th.  When we see this change at this time of year, we know that the Season of Advent is approaching.

Advent is the season of preparing for the coming of Christ.  It is a time to stop and look around, to consider how your life has been and know there is time to repent, to change and begin anew.

Listen as the Scripture readings each Sunday prepare us for the coming of Christ.  Take time to ponder those words throughout the week.

When the Preacher wrote the words that we read at the beginning of this piece, he knew that time could not be rushed.

We need the four weeks of Advent to pause, contemplate, and prepare.  The four weeks of Advent are a way to step away from the rush of the world and give us the opportunity to truly prepare for the coming of Christ.

In the words of “Take Time to Be Holy” (UMH #395), Advent gives us the time to talk with the Lord, to see the world as it is to be and not as it is.

To paraphrase the thoughts of the Preacher, there is a time for every season and this is the Season of the Lord.

“Completing the Circle”


Here are the thoughts that I presented as the devotional at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen for the 4th Sunday in Advent. The Scriptures were Micah 5: 2 – 6, Hebrews 10: 5 – 10, and Luke 1: 39 – 55. We will be continuing the devotions after Advent is complete.

Four Saturdays ago, we began lighting the Advent Wreath, candle by candle. Today, after lighting the candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy, we will close the circle by lighting the candle of Love. The circle is complete and the wreath will be finished on Monday when we light the Christ Candle in the middle.

There is always something special about circles, the geometric object with no beginning and no end. You can pick a place to start but when you are done you are where you began. If Advent is the season of preparation of the coming of Christ, it means that we have that opportunity to begin again, to start over, refreshed and renewed.

In a world that seems so bent on continuing the old ways, of trying things that haven’t worked in the past, we have the opportunity to try new things. This journey of Advent has been especially trying for many people this year. In a journey that was meant to focus on the birth of a single child, violence and death struggle to take us away from that focus.

But we hear the words of the prophet Micah who speaks of the child that will be born in Bethlehem and whose birth will signal a new time for the people of Israel, for all people. It will be a new time with a safe home. This child will be the Peacemaker.

This child will be a shepherd, protecting the flock. He will not be the mighty warrior many people expected, to lead an army and overthrow the occupiers of the land.

In the Gospel reading for today, Mary speaks of the child that she will bear and how the world will change because of his birth. She speaks of the poor sitting down to a banquet while the rich are left out in the cold, of how the downtrodden and forgotten will be lifted up from the mud. It will be through God’s mercy that the world will change.

In the Book of Hebrews, the writer points out that Jesus offers a new plan, a different way, and not just a continuation of the old. The ways of the Old Testament have been found wanting, of being incomplete. The Coming of Christ offers a new plan, a new way, a way of making life complete.

But will we change because Jesus was born? We have this wonderful opportunity to change our lives, to get away from the old ways, the ways that speak of greed and selfishness, of violence and destruction, of oppression and move towards what this Advent wreath represents, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

That is why the Advent wreath is a circle and why lighting the candle of Love makes it complete. All that is left is to light the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve and bring Christ into your heart.

So we light the fourth candle this morning, the candle of Love. The journey of Advent is complete; our journey is just beginning.

The Final Days


Here are my thoughts for the 4th Sunday in Advent, 20 December 2009. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Micah 5: 2 – 5, Hebrews 10: 5 – 10, and Luke 1: 39 – 45.

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These are the final days of Advent. In a few days, it will be Christmas and then the shouting and the preparation will all be over and our attention will turned to the football bowl games, the parties and the New Year. And we will begin to wonder what happened to 2009 and what will happen in 2010.

But that is later in the week; right now we aren’t ready for the coming of Christ. And I wonder if we will ever be ready. The sectarian fundamentalists have already started their cry about the war against Christmas, which I think is sort of funny. For the sectarian fundamentalists, those who so desperately want to keep Christ in Christmas, only offer a vision of the world that favors the rich and the powerful.

And if anything, Christ’s birth was a vision for the forgotten and the weak, the poor and the helpless. How many times is Bethlehem mentioned in the Old Testament? That, of course, is one of the wonderful trick questions because of the Old Testament reading for today. The prophet Micah is the only prophet to speak of Bethlehem as the birthplace for Jesus.

Now, if we are to accept the view of the secular fundamentalists, Christmas is an attempt by the church to co-opt pagan winter solstice holidays. To some extent, they are correct; because the evidence provided in the Gospels suggests that Jesus was born in the spring. But it would be rather difficult to celebrate the birth of Christ in the spring when we are preparing for Easter. Can you imagine what it would be like if, because of the formulation for the observance and celebration of Easter, Christmas and Easter were on the same day? It is bad enough when the 4th Sunday in Advent is also Christmas Eve (as it was three years ago).

It doesn’t bother me that Christmas was placed on the calendar to coincide with various winter pagan ceremonies. Christmas is that single moment of hope in a world of darkness. And the one thing that the secular fundamentalists with all their cries about the mythology and falseness of religion cannot offer is a hope for the future. You can place your hope in the material goods but if you are poor or sick or homeless or oppressed, it is very difficult to do so. The world is against you from the very start and you don’t want to hear some pompous atheist telling you there is no god; because he or she cannot offer you the hope that was offered two thousand years ago.

The problem for many people is that Christmas is not a time of joy. The darkness of the season hides the darkness that lies within their soul. This is the time that many counselors and psychologists probably fear because it is the time that everyone’s fears and troubles come out. And all the talk about economic rebuilding and gift giving and love and happiness found in sales merely accentuates those fears and troubles.

I understand those fears for I have had to deal with too many of them. And I know that it was because of the hope and promise that Christmas brings that I have been able to get through these dark times.

And when someone says that this is all a myth, I wonder how it has come that we are still celebrating it today. If it didn’t happen, how did we get to this point?

Secular fundamentalists cannot offer hope to the people and seek to use the actions of the sectarian fundamentalists for their justification in saying that there is no god and that Christ is a myth. By the same token, as much as the sectarian fundamentalists want Christmas to be the center piece of the “prosperity gospel” and as much as they want the Bible to be the justification for capitalism (as well as slavery and the subjugation of women and others), they too have taken the hope and promise out of Christmas as well.

Both sides have sought to make the Bible what is not and what it was never meant to be. It is not a history book; it most certainly is not a science book. Yes, it is full of contradictions but, then again, so is mankind full of contradictions. The Bible is a story about who we are as a people; it is about our journey. It is a journey that is told through the eyes of history and so it is a story about people. It is a story about friendships and relationships (good and bad); it is a story about the balance in society and how, when the balance has been upset, God through Christ has sought to restore that balance.

We live in a time when peace is measured by victory in war. We occupy a foreign land and call it liberation. We worship Mars, the Roman God of war and call it peace. But such peace comes with destruction and desolation. Our young die in lands far from home and yet we call for celebration and rejoicing, not solace and comfort for the families.

And in a small town, mentioned only once, will the true Prince of Peace come, born neither to kings and royalty nor to the rich and powerful but to the lowly and the meek. And we shall deny this King, just as those two thousand years ago.

The writer of Hebrews points out that all that we have done in the name of Christ has been futile, just as the sacrifices made at the Temple two thousand years ago were often falsely done. We have transformed the babe in the manger into a corporate identity, useful for selling things and creating divisions in the land.

For some these are the final days; the days when the world will come to an end and they and they alone will be taken up into heaven on the wings of angels. But they, like so many others, will be surprised when it is they, the self-righteous and condemning people are left behind and they see the poor, the meek, the lowly, the forgotten, and the oppressed being welcomed by the Savior.

Yes, these are the final days. These are the days when the voice is heard crying out in the wilderness, telling us to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Even the young Baptizer, still in the womb, could feel the presence of his cousin, the baby Jesus. There is time to repent and begin anew. There is time but time moves quickly when you aren’t prepared. We have had three weeks and are now in the fourth week.

In the darkest part of the year, a child will be born. And this child will bring promise and hope. The season of Advent was meant to prepare us for that moment. These are the final days; people get ready for Christ shall be born among you and for you and to lead you.

And When You Least Expect It


Here are the thoughts that I presented at Tompkins Corners UMC on the 4th Sunday of Advent, 21 December 2003. The scriptures for this Sunday are Micah 5: 2 – 5, Hebrews 10: 5 – 10, and Luke 1: 39 – 45.

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Back in the 1960’s there was a television show called “Candid Camera.” The basic premise of the show, as you all probably recall, was to play some sort of practical joke on someone and watch his or her reaction through a hidden camera. After the person was suitably embarrassed, the jokester would point out the hidden camera and say “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”

And, at the end the show, Allan Funt, the host and developer of the show would always look at the camera and warn us about someone coming up to us when we least expected it and saying the same thing.

It is that least expected part that tends to bother us. Because the things that are the least expected are generally surprises and we do not like surprises, except when someone is giving us something as a gift. Except on those rare occasions, we like to know what is coming.

And that is the way we are taught and that is the way we are expected to act, everything by the book and according to the rules. Everything we do, be it in school or life, is predicated on the idea that things will occur as expected.

And, when in life, when the unexpected happens, we are not usually equipped to deal with the outcome. The events of the past three years only show that we as a country were not prepared to deal with the idea of terrorism striking our homeland and that we still have no idea, even after three years, of how to deal with it.

If we had some idea of how to deal with the unexpected, our lives would probably be better off. Many times, we have seen that the great discoveries of society have all come when the person did not discard the unexpected results or dismiss them as superfluous. Teflon, penicillin, and X-rays are all discoveries that were the result of looking at the anomalous or unexpected results of another experimenter. Joseph Henry, one of America’s first great physicists, once remarked that “the seeds of great discoveries are constantly flowing around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them.”

Advent is a season of preparation. It is the preparation for something totally unexpected. It is the birth of a king who came to save us from tyranny and to set us free. Yet it is a birth that will come in the most insignificant manner, to the person whom we least expect and in a place and time that does not benefit the birth of a king. Jesus will not be born the child of rich, famous or powerful people but rather in the most insignificant of surroundings and to the least expected of parents.

Even today, we have problems with the birth of Jesus. We are a society that likes powerful leaders, leaders whose force of personality will keep evil and tyranny away from this country. I have never understood how it is that such people are supposed to do this but it seems to be what we want our leaders to do. And it is the very thing that Jesus will not do.

The prophet Micah tells us that the Messiah will come from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons and his tribe was the smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel. If Jesus had been born according to society’s norms, he would have been born to the largest tribe or the tribe of the oldest son. Kings do not come from the smallest tribe or the simplest of surroundings. But Jesus did and that was unexpected.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, was hardly the most likely candidate to be the mother of the Son of God. Her pregnancy was more the subject for the town gossips than it was a cause for celebration. Without belittling the birth of Princes Harry or William of England, one can only remember the joy that spread throughout England when it was learned that Princess Diana was pregnant. And not only was Mary’s pregnancy unexpected and a cause for talk and gossip, so too was the pregnancy of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. For Elizabeth was considered well past the age of child bearing when she became pregnant with John the Baptist.

Not much is written about the reason that Mary went to see Elizabeth. Undoubtedly it was to get away from those who would question her morality but it may have also been to help Elizabeth with her own pregnancy. Elizabeth was six months pregnant at the beginning of the Gospel reading for today and Mary stayed for three months, so that may be a reasonable conclusion.

We do not know all that went on when Mary and Elizabeth met, other than the baby John in Elizabeth’s womb jumped when Mary entered the room. But this we do know; both Elizabeth and Mary took great joy in the unexpected changes in their lives. In a society and at a time when pregnancies were a threat to the health and welfare of both the mother and the child, both Elizabeth and Mary should have feared what was coming. Elizabeth because a pregnancy at her age was never easy and Mary because a pregnancy at her age was not proper. Yet, the angels spoke to them of what their sons would do and the change that would come because of their presence on earth. So they sang in joy. (Adapted from “Living by the Word” by Herbert O’Driscoll in Christian Century, December 13, 2003.)

It was joy because there was a promise. It was a promise that things would be different, that the ways of society would change. Mary sings of a new king, one who will bring the mighty and high down low. It is a statement and prayer for all those who feel forgotten in this world.

It was a promise that God has chosen to reach us in the most unexpected of ways. It is a way that tells us that no matter who we are or what our place in society might be, God has not forgotten us.

It is also a statement that God’s love for us is constant, even when our own love for God may not be. It is a statement that says that God’s love is not based on societal or economic values. And that is the other unexpected result of Christ’s birth.

This very fact is hard for many people to accept because they are so used to the idea that it is power, economic status, and the place that you live that determines what you will be.

But because God’s grace and love are given freely, because Christ was born in such an unexpected manner, so too must we respond in unexpected ways. No longer can we respond to the threats and problems of the world, generally caused by the abuse of power and money, with more power and more money. If we do not have either, we feel that we are powerless and unable to act. Paul asks us, as he asked the Colossians, to show the love that Christ had for us through the way we live our lives. He exhorts us to make Christ’s presence in our lives more than simply a statement.

In John’s Gospel, Nicodemus comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus didn’t get bogged down with one specific evil. He didn’t say, “Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery.” He did not say, “You cannot lie or cheat or steal.” He said, “You must be born again.” Jesus simply said, “You must change the whole structure of your life.” (Adapted from an article written by Stewart Burns concerning Martin Luther King in the January, 2004 issue of Sojourners.)

Paul exhorts us to show the same love that Christ showed for us. He exhorts us to live a life that says to others “Christ is alive in me.” And he does so because he knows that there will come a time when we will encounter Jesus.

But we will not encounter the Jesus of the Bible, walking along the road in sandals and robes. Rather, like the author Laurie Beth Jones wrote it is likely that we will encounter Jesus in blue jeans or a three-piece suit or dressed as anyone we might encounter in our daily lives. This encounter will be totally unexpected and if we do not prepare for that encounter now, we will not know what to do when it does come.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Messiah. But it is a birth that came in an unexpected place and to people who we would not expect. The message of Christ as King is not the message that we expect from a king but it is a message more powerful than any earthly king or leader could ever pronounce. And someday, when you least expect it, Christ will come to you and ask you what you have done to help Him in this world. What will you say?



It’s The Little Things


Here are the thoughts that I presented at Walker Valley UMC on the 4th Sunday of Advent, 24 December 2000. The scriptures for this Sunday are Micah 5: 2 – 5, Hebrews 10: 5 – 10, and Luke 1: 39 – 45.

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Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem is an interesting one. It is the only mention of the Messiah’s birthplace in all of the Old Testament. Why is it that only one prophet, and one of the “minor” prophets at that, the only one to give the location of Jesus’ birth?

Could it be that God wanted to keep this event quiet? Maybe God’s plan was to keep it under wraps and let Israel gradually prepare for their new king? That doesn’t seem to be the case, since the shepherds were told and three wise men from the east came looking for the new child king.

Perhaps God wanted on the Biblical scholars of that time, those who spent all their time studying the scripture, to be the ones who knew of Jesus’ birth. But if that were they case, why were they not the ones who brought the gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense? Why did it take them so long to answer the questions from the wise men about the location of this birth?

No, I think the reason for Jesus being born in the little town of Bethlehem was far simpler than that. True, Bethlehem was the city of David and Joseph and Mary, being descendants of David, needed to be there for tax purposes. But Bethlehem was also one of the smaller cities of Judah and by size and location of little importance.

In Jesus’ time, where you were born and who your parents went a long way in deciding what it was that you would do with your life. Your place in society was pretty well established before you were born and society went out of its way to make sure that you knew your boundaries.

Your success in gaining salvation was also determined, in part, by your place in society. How you obeyed the law, the actions of your daily life were the determining factors in your salvation. It was thus that the world around you was ordered. From our viewpoint in history, it is hard to say just how many common folks truly observed the law as the Pharisees established it. No doubt some tried but they probably found it hopeless and gave up. Other probably didn’t even try, knowing that there efforts would be wasted.

By being born in Bethlehem, far from the center of society and outside its boundaries, Jesus established his ministry as an alternative. It is no wonder that people came from far and wide to hear his message. It was a message of hope and promise; it gave light to the darkness of their lives. IT showed that salvation was theirs and that they were not required to follow the dictates of the Pharisees in order to get it.

Jesus’ core message was one of caring and compassion, not compliance. Jesus made clear to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of that day that they were to blame for the people losing hope. These leaders would rather use the law to meet their own goals rather than to show concern for others. It must have really driven them crazy to see Jesus eating with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other notorious sinners. They were the ones excluded by law and the requirements of society, yet they were the ones who needed to hear the words of salvation the most.

And I find it interesting that many contemporary religious leaders of today, including many in the United Methodist Church, did not learn this lesson. For at a time when compassion is most needed, this modern day Pharisees preach condemnation and intolerance.

While Jesus’ ministry was one of inclusion, these preachers preach a gospel of exclusion, shutting the doors in the faces of those who most need to hear the true Gospel and need the presence of Christ in their lives.

What does Christianity mean? To many it is a system of requirements and rewards, not unlike the Jewish society Jesus was born into. But instead of requirements based on what you do, the requirements today are based on belief and behavior. You must believe as your are told to believe; you must behave as you are told to behave. Your rewards will come because how you believe and behave, perhaps in this lifetime, most certainly in the next.

And this message is delivered with a smugness and arrogance, as if those who give the message know the answer and you don’t. This is not just a casual comment.

It’s frightening when you are an 18-year old college sophomore struggling with your own identity to be told that your own baptism, 50 years ago this day in Lexington, NC, doesn’t count. Never mind that I was raised in a Christian household or that I have come to know Christ myself. To these critics my baptism as an infant simply doesn’t count. And you can imagine how apoplectic they get when they find that I have never had the mind-blowing experience Saul encountered on the road to Damascus.

But like Elizabeth feeling her baby, the future John the Baptist, kick her when Mary walked into the room, I have felt the presence of Christ in my life. Just like Wesley after that night at Aldersgate, I have known the comforting assurance of Christ’ presence. I don’t need someone telling me how I should feel or act. I have always known that Christ was a part of my life and as I looked at the many times in my life when things could have gone wrong, I realize that Jesus Christ is truly my Savior.

The passage from Hebrews for us tells us that Jesus came and was the single sacrifice necessary for our salvation. The whole passage from Hebrews points out that the work of the earthly priests of that time was never done. But Christ’s sacrifice took away our sins and made it possible for us to come to God without meeting a series of endless requirements or to behave in a particular manner.

Jesus message was a simple one. It was about caring and compassion for the people around you, of respecting people for whom they were. In these little acts, Jesus gave hope to the people when society had forgotten them. Often times, it is the little things that we overlook that turn out to be the greatest things in our lives. Like a baby kicking in the womb, Jesus may come to us.

Words of Christmas


I am preaching at Dover UMC in Dover Plains, NY, tomorrow. We will be lighting the 4th Advent Candle at the beginning of the service, celebrating communion during the service and lighting the Christ Candle as part of the benediction. Dover Plains is on the edge of part of the Catskill region of New York. The Benediction for tomorrow will be something on the order, "having heard the Words of Christmas, now Go Tell It On The Mountain" (the congregation will sing).
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It is with some degree of sarcasm that I say that the three most dreaded words of Christmas are “some assembly required.” It isn’t that we dread assembling the toys or items that we bought at this time of year that causes the dread; it is reading the instruction or interpreting the diagrams that accompany our purchases. It seems so often that it takes an advanced degree with additional post-doctoral study to understand and comprehend what must be done.

The same is true for the words and rituals of the sacrifices that the writer of Hebrews alludes to as he writes down the words of Christ. (Hebrews 10: 5 – 10) The writer points out that Christ came to serve as the one true sacrifice because the words and rules dealing with sacrifices had become too complicated. Instead of bringing people to God, the words and rules were driving people away from God. It is for that reason that Christ came into this world, to bring the people back to God.

I sometimes wonder if today is not much different from two thousand years ago. We see darkness enveloping our society just as darkness envelopes the world. We search for simple answers to complex questions. And the churches of today give answers that sound simple but do not answer the questions we ask.

In the darkness that seems to be our life, we readily accept the answers that we are given. But when we read those words again in the light of knowledge, we read words of fear and exclusion. We hear the innkeeper saying “go away, my inn is full.” We hear churches today say the same thing, “go away, we’re full.” We hear churches today say, “Go away, you’re not our kind.” These are not the words of Christmas; these are not the words of hope and promise that we seek.

The words of Christmas must be and should be words of hope, joy, and promise. The words of Christmas should not drive people or keep people from the church; the words of Christmas should bring them in.

We do not know what Elizabeth and Zacharias said when they first discovered that Elizabeth was pregnant. But, since Luke wrote that Elizabeth had been barren (Luke 1: 7), we can only assume that they were words of amazement and wonder. We do know that Mary’s words were also words of amazement and wonder when she discovered that she was pregnant. But we also know that she was troubled by this event. We can only imagine what her neighbors said. Mary was betrothed to Joseph and to be pregnant before the actual marriage was a sign of infidelity. Any words that her neighbors spoke would probably have been words of abuse and ostracism; they would have been words of hate and fear. Mary would have easily been shunned by her community and cast aside in disgust.

Even Joseph first thought in those terms. As we read in Matthew, Joseph was first inclined to divorce Mary for her apparent violation of the marriage agreement. (Matthew 1: 19) The rules and words of society at that time would easily allowed Joseph to cast marry aside and let words of shame follow the rest of her life.

But the first words spoken by the angels who visited Elizabeth, Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph were “fear not, for I bring good news.” God spoke to each one of them and told them that what was to come was a great and wonderful thing, not something to be feared or ashamed. Joseph, who was described as a righteous man, resolved to stand by his betrothed. Elizabeth marveled at the grace that allowed her a role in God’s great plan. She knew that God owed her nothing and that God had mercifully given her much. (Luke 1: 41)

And as noted in the Gospel reading for today (Luke 1: 39 – 45), the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt in joy when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting. How can the words of Christmas be anything less than joy and praise? As we lit the fourth Advent candle this morning and read the Psalter for this morning, we repeated the words of Mary as she sang of joy and hope. Her words are the true words of Christmas, of hope and promise for all, not just for a select few.

And we remember the first words that were said to the shepherds in the fields outside the city of Bethlehem. Shepherds were among the lowest of society; yet they were the first to hear the words announcing the birth of Christ. And like the angels who spoke to Elizabeth and Zacharias, Mary and Joseph, the angels’ first words to the shepherds were “fear not.”

The words of Christmas take away fear; they bring forth joy and hope. They are words for all, not just the mighty and powerful. Micah pointed out that the hope of the nations would come from the smallest of the tribes, not the biggest. The hope and promise of the future is seen in terms of the coming Messiah, not in the words of the present (Micah 5: 2 – 5). The words of Hebrew also tell us that the present order, that which we have tried to do in order to achieve salvation, would be replaced by Christ’s sacrifice.

So, we come to the table this day remembering what transpired in the Upper Room that last night before Good Friday. We remember the words of Christ telling us that the bread that we eat today represents the body of Christ, broken on the Cross for our signs. We remember the words of Christ telling us that that juice of the vine that we drink today represents the blood of the new covenant, poured out for all who believe. As we celebrate communion today, we remember that complicated and complex rules of the old days are replaced; the words of fear are replaced with words of hope and promise.

And when we light the Christ candle in the Advent wreath during the benediction, we will remember the words of John who told us some two thousand years ago that God so loved us that he gave us his only Son. The words of Christmas are words of love, hope, and promise. As we celebrate the birth of Christ again this year, let us remember that and go out into the world with the words of Christmas.