Kind of a quick reflection this week, since I’ve been busy working on my upcoming sermon. Hopefully there are some provocative thoughts in here that might give you food for thought this week. Have a blessed Christmas!
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Jesus. I usually get all historical when I study Old Testament scripture, but with it being Christmas and all, it’s hard to avoid just digging into this as Messianic prophesy. Christ as messenger, bringing peace between us and God, bringing good news, announcing salvation. Our God came down as one of us, lived among us, healed us, taught us, and asked us to follow Him. What other god asks his followers to go and do likewise? That God would ask us not to appease him, but to emulate him is a real mind-blower, when you survey the religious landscape. Our God is a most unusual God.
All the ends of the earth do indeed see the salvation of God. The spread of Christianity throughout the world, preaching salvation to all people. Salvation as life with a promise-keeping God. Salvation as baptized life, marked with Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Now, that’s not to say the global Church gets it right! The Church is people. But, the message does get preached, and heard, and watching midnight mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, I am amazed to consider how I’m joined in worship by people throughout the world. I may not agree with them, but we still worship the same God.
I’m inspired to offer a prayer for the Church, as we share this holy occasion of the birth of the Christ child, around the world.
God of space and time, we praise you for coming down to be among us, our promise-keeper who brings salvation in our lifetime. Bless Your holy Church, to bring good news to all people, to spread transformation, and bring renewal to the world through each and all of us.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4
A transition from the prophets, to Christ as messenger. But, the reflection of God’s glory – not just a person called. High Christology. But one phrase catches my eye here – “through whom he also created the worlds.” What does that mean? This seems to emulate the prologue to the Gospel of John, which we’ll get to shortly.
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.
Skipping some of the proceeding Christological language, I’m including this part of the reading. This is a pretty confusing thing. It’s like God talking to himself. Looking at the notes in the Lutheran Study Bible, it appears that Hebrews is thought to often quote and interpret Old Testament passages. I have yet to read much of Hebrews, but have read that it’s quite the complicated New Testament book. And it’s late on Christmas Eve, and I’m kind of tired, so I don’t feel the drive to do much study of this right now. But what I get from all of this is that this is further evocative of the Gospel of John – evocative of God, and the Word, and what that could all mean. I don’t think we get much hope from the bit about the earth perishing, but I think the main goal here is to emphasize God’s timelessness and endlessness.
God has accompanied us in every age. I’m inspired to offer a prayer for our leaders. As they serve, they have inherited wide-ranging situations and challenges that far precede their service. They continue work on these challenges – indeed it’s expected. And what they do now will in turn be the challenges that their successors inherit. I guess this passage makes me think of Creation as an ongoing process, and in our finite experience, how that translates to something that’s more easily perceivable to us.
Lord of creation, Your majesty continues to unfold around us, just as it did for our ancestors in faith, and as it will do so for our generations to come. We pray for our leaders, for wisdom in bringing forth justice and fairness in the challenges they inherited from their predecessors, and that they might lay foundations of equality and fairness for servants and leaders of the future.
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.
The Gospel of John is significant because of how it proclaims that God took human form in Jesus Christ. This whole living Word concept continues to be pretty tough for me to wrap my mind around. Of course, that means I need to keep struggling with it all the more. This passage is definitely evocative of the creation story in Genesis 1. It seems like this is an especially appropriate reading for Christmas Day, with the focus on Christ’s divinity.
I’ve heard people talk about the Word in terms of the power of language. Certainly we are affected by language in how we communicate with other people. Language allows us to effect change through other people, and vice versa. Hence God’s creative forces recast as what we tend to think of first as “language” – the spoken word. But, lately I’ve also heard explanations of how the scripture is the living Word of God in how peculiarly effectively it speaks to us now, even though the original writers were writing to their contemporaries.
Again, since I’m not digging very deeply tonight, I find this passage makes me think of the power of language. Martin Luther, in his Large Catechism, has quite a bit to say about the 8th commandment (bearing false witness), in regards to the power of language. I’m inspired to offer a prayer for the local community, that we might encourage the use of life-giving language to hold up our neighbors in support and encouragement, which in turn will blossom righteousness in our midst.
Spirit of healing, You bless us with inspiration and guidance, to empower us to speak words of love and grace to our neighbors, to bear them up in their stuggles, just as they are able to do for us. Bring us to awareness of your living Word, and use us to bring it to life in the midst of our communities, as we pour your love and mercy upon the world through our words.
So, kind of a mix of things this week. I didn’t dig as deeply as I would otherwise, but I did try to let God speak to me through His Holy Word, to inspire some prayers. I found a few different themes this week, but the primary thing I know I’ll carry with me into the new week is the thought of God’s creating energies, still at work in all places. A new thing is afoot, and I pray to hear it, see it, taste it, and be a part of it. As we begin the celebration of the Christmas season, I pray that perhaps you might give some thought to the new thing God is doing through Christ in your life. What do you think that might be?