Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christ on board!

As I am taking time to consider all that needs to be said and done for the last of Advent and for Christmas, there are some things that stands out loudly in the Gospel (Luke 1:39-55; for Sunday morning the 4th Sunday of Advent) that need to be drawn to the fore.

For example, Mary. I marvel at her faith and openness to what God wants to do in her and for her. She is chosen to be the mother of our Saviour. She is called repeatedly as one who is blessed – that is – she is in a close relationship with the LORD. She is righteous before God and she will, from that moment, going to be called righteous for all the generations to come. What an overwhelming honour! God has been near her and watching her and she has been chosen to carry out the mission to bring the Saviour into the world. To at least some, she is going to have to endure the scorn of being betrothed and then pregnant. There was no small risk in taking on what God was asking of her. She would have to insist that she had not had sex with a man. She was going to have to carry on with things so that people could see the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. And she was going to have to prove her faithfulness and devotion to what Gabriel announced to her and call her new born son, “Yeshua” which means “God is salvation”. She had to believe that God was going to come and save his people.

Mary’s faith stands in stark contrast to what was happening with Zachariah. He and his wife Elizabeth were old and in the twilight of their years… having a son and the time to raise him was not possible and sounded beyond foolish, perhaps even insane. It is why when Zachariah told Gabriel that God could not do it, he spent the next several months in silence not able to speak. And when he was given opportunity to acknowledge that what was communicated to him was the truth – tht his son’s name was John, he immediately started praising and glorifying God, along with acknowledging what his son’s life and ministry will be and that he will lead others to the Messiah.  Elizabeth for her part, is the first to greet Jesus and acclaim him Lord, even before he is born. John responds to the presence of Jesus. Elizabeth can see what God is doing in Mary’s life and Elizabeth’s son will work as the Messiah’s forerunner – to announce his coming and presence to the people.

We need to remember that God is faith to his promises and his word. God is working out our salvation through his servants, including you and me. 

As I have been typing this has been rolling around in my head and I will share this song with you: The LORD has proven merciful to Abraham and his descendants and remains so for ever and ever; from generation to generation – including our own. The LORD cares of his son Israel and with his own strong arm, takes him by the hand and leads him in the ways that he should go. In coming down, God scatters the proud, pulls down the mighty and sends the rich away with empty hands. In rising up, the LORD exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good things and takes his children by the hand. The LORD holpens his people by coming to them and declaring the time of their salvation and that he has remembered his mercy, giving them grace to while being faithful to fulfill his covenant.  

So where does this leave and lead us? We as followers of the Lord Jesus, we carry him inside us. How we live is like having a sign around our necks, like the ones we used to see in cars saying, “Baby on board” except that ours might say something like, “Christ on board”. It would serve both as an announcement and as a warning to both the wearer and to those who approach that there is joy in this life and that God is coming to them for the purpose of redemption. God is coming to visit and to save his people. Maybe in the mean time and as we wait for that moment, we need to remind ourselves that it is not we who live, but Christ in us.


Friday, December 14, 2018

We know the Judge.

This week’s Gospel (Luke 3.7-18) has two main things that it wants to talk about: salvation and judgement. And I am certain that the moment you read the word ‘judgment’, the hairs on the back of your neck our on the top of your head stood up. It is not a word we like to talk about, especially when it comes to God and eternity. I think there needs to be a recognition that judgement is coming, and it is important that it does because without it, there can be no mercy and no justice.

All of us will feel it, no matter who we are or where we live or how good or bad we have been. Jesus is the Judge and he will come to judge the living and the dead, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the bad and the good. For us as believers, we need to live in the confidence that we know and live for the Judge and his kingdom. Our trust needs to be in God almighty not in the schemes of man. We need to be reminded that God himself makes that faithful surefooted and enables them to scale the heights of Sinai to enter into his presence because that is where our faith leads us… into his presence.

We are still a people who are waiting for God to make things better, so that things can continue as they have been… but that is not where God is going! All that is in this moment, will be undone at the appearing of Christ. We are being given time to seek God and his salvation. Maybe it is a recognition that when it comes to divine judgement, we are not going to be able to argue with the Judge. It is not like when we think that the referee has blown the call and didn’t get it right and we’re going to let him know it. After all we like to be able to make our opinions heard, often so that we can say something like “I told so” when things don’t work out. It does not work that way with God and so there is a fair bit of fear and concern where God and judgement are concerned.

Luke’s Gospel points out that the Message that comes to us is a message that has both the notes of salvation and of judgement. What we do with what we learn is important – and it has consequences for us and for all we encounter. We have to take the chance and share what is within us, so others can hear the Message and experience the presence of God almighty. And we must learn to put our trust in God, confident that God is going to vindicate you. We need to understand that God has supplied us what we need for the ministry and life we are to live. Living and do for God helps to maintain a right attitude as we wait for the world to be made new.

A lack of a positive response to the Message leads to a fruitless life. We will not be allowed to endlessly use up the soil, so therefore, we must grow and produce the fruit that God has planted within us. We must strive towards salvation and stop worrying about judgement. We are called to the first and cannot control the last. But we do know the Judge. Trust him.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Message to shake the World with

Have you ever considered that we have been given a message that is meant to shake up the world, right to its every foundation? If you stop to consider the Gospel this week (Luke 3.1-6), that is what we are being set up for: a message that will shake the world awake and make its foundations quiver. But how does this happen?

First, let’s consider the context in which the message comes. The message comes to particular people at a particular moment in time, in particular place. Luke notes this for us: The Good News came to John, son of Zachariah (the priest), in the wilderness. But Luke goes further to show who the Message was going to affect, not just Tiberius Caesar – it was going to shake up the whole Roman world! From the person in the street to the fields, the angels of heaven to the local clergy, to the Herods (kings) and their tetrarchies; to the local Roman Governor and on to Roman and to Caesar himself.

If you want to think of it this way, here is what it might look like if Luke was writing to Theophilus in the here and now: “In the 69th year of the reign of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, when Justin was Prime Minister of Canada and Rachel was Premier of Alberta; when “the Donald” was President of the United States, and  during the episcopacy of Fraser who is Bishop of Athabasca… the word of the Lord came to the servant of the Lord in the wilderness.”

What was the message that God sent to John to preach? God is coming to visit and redeem his people – all of them. God chose John To be the one who would preach the message to have the people ready for the Word incarnate – the living Word – who is Jesus. John became the forerunner of the Gospel, calling people to come to repentance and back to God. Such messengers are not sent to be famous, powerful and rich. God’s messengers come to God’s people because they are compelled to make an impact on the life of the communities to which they belong. They live and work to make an impact on the people around them for the sake of the kingdom that is to be revealed through divine fulfillment.

The Word comes to the one who is ready and prepared; who has dared to et out into the wilderness and remove all those things that would hinder hearing God’s still, small voice. Going out into the wilderness enables us to put aside our things and our schedules and programs and demands so that we can be with God and allow him to speak to and provide for us. Going out into the wilderness means that we are going to learn that we are not n charge and can stop acting like we are in control and playing God. The wilderness teaches us that we need to learn again to listen and lean upon God for us daily bread. It is crucial because God is coming near, and he will, in and through Christ, redeem his people.

If that is not enough to shake the world up, then I am not certain what will. In the meantime, we must work, pray and preach the message to make the Message heard.