As we leave the Season after Christmas and head into the church calendar season of Epiphany, allow the lessons from Advent continue to strengthen your discipleship journey.
[T]he angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. ~ Luke 2:10
The phrase, “Christ, the Lord” as written in Luke 2:11 does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament. Other phrases throughout the New Testament are used to identify Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah. This very specific message began our Advent Journey, and serves, even today, as a constant reminder to us throughout the bustle of life: Christ, the Lord has been born. This joyous message leads us to accept the promises of salvation from sin and spiritual death, and further leads us to examine our life choices in light of this radical event in history.
How does Christ, the Lord impact you at work? How does Christ, the Lord help you parent? As a caregiver, in what ways do you depend on Christ, the Lord? In your struggles and addictions, do you feel the love of Christ, the Lord pulling on you?
Do not be afraid to let this good news bring you great joy.
In a loud voice [Elizabeth] exclaimed [to Mary]: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! ~ Luke 1:42
Nothing is too big nor too small for God to handle. Are you too young? too old? too broken? too good? too sinful? too prideful? too unsure? too skeptical? The entirety of the Christmas story, as told through the various Gospel stories, encourages us to believe in a God who both enters our lives when we least expect it and chooses to defy human categories and labels. Elizabeth, once an unbeliever, became a believer in the unexplainable actions of God. She chose to help others learn and believe that all things are possible in and through God. She chose to share hope, and tell Mary, and us, that, our hopes are never out of reach for God.
Who are mentoring? Who how are providing encouragement to in your life? How are you sharing your experience and knowledge with someone else?
[H]aving been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. ~ Matthew 2:12
Peace is not the absence of conflict, heartache, trouble, or noise, but it is the calmness within the heart amid these things. Remember, in order to maintain their calmness of heart, the Magi had to choose between the Kingdom of God in Jesus and the Kingdom of this world through Herod. They chose, as Robert Frost said, the road less traveled; for them and us, that made all the difference.
Where, in your life do you need to create a new route? Can you recognize the competing factions in your life? During chaotic moments, recite John 14:1; read all of John 14 for further inspiration.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16
The song, “Let the Church Say Amen” by Andraé Crouch has influenced by understanding of praising and worshipping God. In the refrain, we hear, “If you believe the word, let the whole church say amen. God has spoken, so let the church say amen.” Here, Crouch is compelling the nebulous church to respond to actions of God. When I hear John 3:16, my initial response is to say, amen because I not only believe God loves the world, I am also grateful that I am counted as one God loves. In that instant, I feel connected to the greater church. Being loved by someone despite our positive and negative attributes gives a feeling of safety, security, joy, hope, and peace. It gives freedom. Christmas is a reminder that God loves you; because of this love, enjoy the freedom from sin to live life more abundantly. It’s been said, YOLO – you only live once. Maybe, a better interpretation, you die once, you live every day. If you believe this, let your daily living say, Amen.
I invite you into spiritual practices reflecting and writing answers to all of the above questions within each section; keep the answers and pull them out next Advent season. Where is your growth? You’re always invited to e-mail me at email@example.com. Also, if you haven’t attended worship in a while, please come back. There is a place for you.
Joy, Hope, Peace and Love,
Rev. William M. Williams, III