Advent Week 2, Dec 14, 2013
Read Isaiah 40:9-11
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?” ….
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep. (Isaiah 40:6, 9-11)
The Gospel message — whether preached by the prophets or John the Baptist or Jesus the Christ — is always “Behold your God!” When our efforts at Christmas — including our work in our church and our “good works” for those less unfortunate — cloud the message of God’s healing love and grace for ourselves and for all, then we are on the wrong track.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
(–O Little Town of Bethlehem, vs. 4, by Phillips Brooks)
Meditation: Examine your list: How many times does each symbol appear on your list:
* for things that are expected of you
** for things that take extra time and work
(minus) for things you don’t enjoy
(Smiley) for things you enjoy
(star) for things that bring you closer to God
(cross) for things that help someone who needs help
$ for things that cost more than $5
$$ for things that cost more than $10
What have you learned about yourself and your celebration of Christmas?
Be careful not to exchange one form of self-judgment for another. Doing things that are expected for those you love is not “bad.” Spending money on gifts for your family and friends is not “a sin.” The point of this exercise is to become aware of your own values and to explore ways you can celebrate Christmas the way you want to celebrate it! Only you and God can judge whether your observation and celebration bring true joy to you and your family and help you and those around you to “Behold your God!”
If the exercise pointed out areas you need or want to change, remember that it would be wrong to take on a new sense of obligation that defines a “Christian” or “spiritual” Christmas in some legalistic way, mandating a maximum amount of money spent on gifts, a minimum amount of money given to charity, an “obligation” to go to church, etc. There is no “one size fits all” way of celebrating that is right for everyone! The Gospel is good news — the good news that God loves and accepts you as you are! God’s generosity is extravagant! God’s gifts to us are more than we can ask or think! How can you personally celebrate God’s wondrous gifts and thank and praise God for them all — especially for the greatest gift, Jesus the Christ!