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Christmas Eve – The Best Gift

Christmas Eve – The Best Gift

Scripture Readings: Genesis 3:8-19; 22:15-18. Isaiah 9:2-7; 11:1-9. Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-16. On December 21, 1968, three astronauts launched from Cape Canaveral atop a Saturn V rocket. It was only the third manned Apollo mission, following the deadly Apollo 1 lauchpad fire and the successful Apollo 7 Earth-orbit flight only two months earlier. The original plans for Apollo 8 called for another Earth-orbiting mission to test the lunar and command modules, but when it became apparent that the lunar module would not be ready, a more ambitious goal was set. Apollo 8 was to boldly go where no human being had been before—into the orbit of the moon. It had been a tumultous year, and humanity was in need of hope. The Vietnam War continued to wage abroad. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot dead in Tennessee on April 4th. In June, Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Each of these events led to protests and division within our country. Apollo 8 was tasked with orbiting the moon, but the biggest “discovery” of that journey had nothing to do with the moon. On December 24, 1968, the three astronauts had become the first humans to witness the rise of Earth from lunar orbit. Suddenly, three men saw with their own eyes, and the rest of us saw through photography, an image of earth that had previously only been known to God. The heavens and the earth were put into perspective for the first time. Humanity began to grasp the fragility of our common home and its place within the vast universe. From their rocket ship, propelled into space by...
Advent 4: Let it Be!

Advent 4: Let it Be!

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38 On this, the fourth Sunday of our waiting for the appearance of Christ, we finally get to the parts of the story that we associate with Jesus’ birth. After trudging through Gospel lessons on the last judgment, Jesus’ thievery of our sins, and trusting God in silence, we find ourselves at the beginning of Luke’s gospel with the familiar stories of angels, Mary, promises, praise, and soon the baby Jesus himself. We’ve been waiting a long time for this, but the celebration of Jesus’ birth is coming. Over these next three days various subsets of us will gather to celebrate this good news for the world, that Jesus comes and makes a home among us. But before we can celebrate, we have to spend some time dwelling on the one whose obedience set this whole celebration in motion. She waited a lot longer than we have. For nine months, Mary carried the Messiah in her womb before that day when he was finally evicted from his temporary dwelling and was born as a child in a manger. Mary is a fascinating character in this great drama, and it’s a shame we don’t get much time to reflect on her contributions to God’s work. We talk about Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul all the time. We think about their faith and the ways that they paved the way for our faith. If we talk about Mary at all, it’s on this fourth Sunday of Advent when we’re trying to hurry the story along and get to the birth of Jesus! If we hear about Mary at all...
Advent 3: Trust!

Advent 3: Trust!

John 1 (NRSV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace....
Advent 2: Let Go!

Advent 2: Let Go!

Luke 3: 1–20 (NRSV) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who...
Advent 1: Wait for the Lord

Advent 1: Wait for the Lord

Luke 21:7–11, 25–36 (NRSV) They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away...