Advent through the centuries: the twenty-first century

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
The twenty-first century of the Church.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Scripture:
Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.

Reading:

Brian Zahnd, speaking through a series of tweets and facebook posts. I thought this was appropriate given the digital and postmodern world that we find ourselves in.

For God so loved the world…that he did not send a text message.

God did not communicate “virtually” — by the Gnostic means of disembodied 1’s and 0’s. God came to us incarnate — in human flesh and blood. Selah.

God did not send us a digital message of 1’s and 0’s. God joined us in our sweaty, smelly, earthy humanity so we could meet face to face.

In the Incarnation the truth of God is expressed in one Word: Jesus Christ (God’s one Word made flesh).
(from Facebook)

Christ is not something that will nicely accommodate your cherished assumptions.
Christ is the most radical thing that has ever happened to this world.
To see Christ as Christ, the King of the Jews who is now King of the World—
Is to realize that Caesar is not Lord, Pharaoh is not Lord, but Jesus is Lord.

Jesus cannot be owned or incorporated or subsumed into any other nation—
Not Babylon, not Egypt, not Rome, not Russia, not England, not America.
Jesus is building his own nation (kingdom)—it’s the Kingdom of God.
Christ does not come to endorse any nation—he comes to set up his own.
But the nations of the world—all of them!—will resist this.

Because every nation insists that national sovereignty trumps everything.
As long as nations believe that their national sovereignty trumps everything—
They’ll be at war with Christ. Christ insists that his lordship trumps everything!

So to see the birth of Christ for the Epiphany it is—
Is not only to witness a Birth, it is to encounter a Death:
The death of loved and cherished lies. (Oh yes, there are lies we dearly love!)

What are these lies? I can’t tell you. You love them too much.
You have to see these lies as lies for yourself.
But I can tell you what will happen when you see the lies…

When you see the lies, you’ll no longer be at home in Babylon.
(All the nations of the world insisting on their own sovereignty add up to one big Babylon.)
To have the Epiphany of which I speak will make you an alien in your own land.

As Eliot said, you will no longer be at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
The old magi says, “I should be glad of another death.”
What about you? Are you ready for the Birth of the New?—
If it means the Death of the Old?
(from The Magi and I)

The Mary of the Magnificat was not the medieval “Madonna” but a prayerful Jewish peasant with revolutionary expectations.
(From Twitter)

Ascension, by George Grie. 2013.
Ascension, by George Grie. 2013.

Prayer:

Something a little different tonight, this Christmas Eve. I’ve posted a lot of prayers over the past three weeks or so, but I want you to realize that you are part of this grand tradition. Ignatius, Origen, Menno Simons, Thomas á Kempis – they are all humans seeking after God, trying to understand this mystery called the Incarnation of Christ, this magic called Christmas. You are part of that tradition! If you have been following along with this journey, i encourage you to add to the journey by posting your own thoughts below, and possibly your prayers as well. Here’s mine.

Lord Jesus, God incarnate, God with skin on,
Have mercy on us.
We fail each other, and we fail ourselves.
We fight, we bribe, we lie, and we steal.
We’re broken, Lord, and if left to our own devices,
We will continue to stumble and fall.
As we pause this Christmas season,
Help us to remember each other
Help us to hold each other
Help us to love each other
like you do.
Help us to have mercy on each other
To forgive as you forgive
To love as you love.
Amen.

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