Advent One – Week of December 2

The Word

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.

Micah 5:2–4 

Reflect

“L'arrivée au champ" by Charles Emile Jacque, New York Public Library Digital Collections.

“L’arrivée au champ” by Charles Emile Jacque, New York Public Library Digital Collections.

ֵצֵ֔א לִֽהְיֹ֥ות מֹושֵׁ֖ל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
yese liyowt mowosel be’Yisrael
From you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel.

Ancient words of ancient dreams.

When Micah preached seven centuries before Christ, he was mostly concerned with local problems: the suffering of the poor, the corruption of the kingdom, and the fall of Israel. The first half of his teachings are all accusation, woe, and destruction. Yet, halfway through the book bearing his name, he turns and speaks of hope and redemption – how Jerusalem will rise again, how the descendants of Jacob will have a new Exodus from slavery, and how a new king will rise to rule and protect. He says it will all start from the small town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David. But he also says it will begin in pain and agony, chaos and confusion.

Micah, quite frankly, had trouble seeing the forest for the trees – and how easy it is to be blinded by the tyranny of the immediate and miss the wider significance. His prophesy and preaching was all about how Israel would rise again, but he didn’t understand that the One who would come forth to rule, would rule far more than the ancient kingdoms. God would not come to rectify local politics. He would come to change the world.

The King that Micah prophesied did not come in thunder and righteous fire, but from the pain and agony of childbirth, carried out in the chaos of a crowded town during a census. He did not rise up and expel invaders, but He would overturn the tables in the temple – and, in doing so, overturn centuries of tradition. His origin may have been from the most ancient of days (“In the beginning was the Word…” [John 1:1]) but His impact would be for centuries to come. The flock he fed grew not to rebuild Jerusalem, but to become one of the most powerful forces in human history.

How easy it is to be mired in tradition when the new life that awaits us is so difficult to imagine. Even Matthew, when he quoted Micah in his gospel, probably lingered on the soft consonants and poetic cadences of this prophesy in Hebrew, and probably nurtured those promises of a Jerusalem ascendant. So is it also easy for us to be mired in our personal and local problems and miss that there is a greater vision that God holds for us. We are like students fretting tomorrow’s classwork but missing the vision of college and the life beyond it that awaits us – like the patient dreading the surgery but missing the cure.

That is why, even as we heed God’s call to be shepherds to His world, we must remember that this world is such a small part of what God has in store for all of us – and how amazing it is that a God who can set an entire universe to order, can still find the language that speaks to each of us personally.

Listen

“Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (English: “Savior of the Nations, Come”) is a Lutheran chorale of 1524 with words written by Martin Luther. The chorale was used as the prominent hymn for the first Sunday of Advent for centuries. The tune – simple and beguiling – fits perfectly with this season of preparation for the great Feast of the Nativity.  At the late service, on Sunday, a quartet of voices will sing each of the four verses with organ pieces (called Chorale Preludes) inserted between each. The remaining verses are included below.

Saviour of the nations, come; virgin's son, make here your home. Marvel now, O heav'n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.

From God’s heart the Savior speeds;
back to God his pathway leads;
out to vanquish death’s command,
back to reign at God’s right hand.

Now your manger, shining bright,
hallows night with newborn light.
Night cannot this light subdue;
let our faith shine ever new.

Praise we sing to Christ the Lord,
virgin’s son, incarnate Word!
To the holy Trinity
praise we sing eternally.

This week’s recording is of this tune played on the Westminster Organ. Verse 1 is just the melody and showcases the foundation stops in the positiv division. Verse 2 is performed on the Oboe. Verse 3 is a choral prelude by German Baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude. Verse 4 returns to only the melody and features our “chiffy” flute: the small percussive sound at the beginning of each note is a “chiff,” and is cause by the sudden rush of air into the pipe.

Pray

WPCScan_20181130_115259_0001First Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Hope

Advent is a time of preparation. We spend a lot of time getting ready for Christmas during Advent—buying presents, making food, sending cards. It can be exhausting! For families, it can be a time of stress and over-stimulation and we tend to forget about finding comfort and peace in God’s words to us. This week, think about how God brings “comfort” to you. When we find God’s comfort, we are able to “hope— where do you feel hopeful? At dinner this week, or before bedtime, tell a story about a time you were comforted.

Prayer

Dear Lord, help us to remember your comfort and hope. Help us to bring comfort and hope to others. Amen.

Serve

AGB 2018

Though Christmas is still weeks away, we have been bombarded for months by Christmas commercials, all telling us what we can or should buy to make someone’s Christmas bright.  As a community of Christian faith, we join in that desire to bring joy to others, though we attribute the light we share to a different source. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said (John 8:12).  Jesus also said, “I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). In that spirit, Westminster celebrates its annual Alternative Giving Bazaar (AGB), a festival of giving that provides an opportunity to honor friends and family with gifts in their names to nearly twenty organizations supported by our Local, National and International Mission Committees.

One purchase gives rise to two gifts:

  • to the people whom these donations will serve, and
  • to members of your family, friends, co-workers or neighbors whom you enable to be a part of this expression of love and care.

The Alternative Giving Bazaar is also a great introduction to the mission ministries of our church. This year, the Alternative Giving Bazaar will be held on December 2 and 9, after the 11:00 a.m. service in Fellowship Hall. As part of your Advent devotion, make a point of visiting one of the tables and making a connection with the mission representative. We will also have children’s activities to help our young ones engage the bazaar. If you cannot attend, go to the church web site to read the AGB catalog and prayerfully consider finding ways to support one of the featured groups with time, talent or treasure. Doing so will indeed infuse a measure of Christ’s light into the darkness of this world.

 

As One Without Authority

Listen:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

[Isaiah 9:2-7] Continue reading

Even Out in the Field

Listen:

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

[Luke 2:15-20] Continue reading

Peace and Goodwill

Listen:

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

[Luke 2:8-14] Continue reading

Making Space in Our Hearts

Listen:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

[Luke 2:1-7]

Continue reading

Expecting the Unexpected

Listen:

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do 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, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

[Matthew 1:18-25] Continue reading

A Choice Between Wonder or Fear

Listen:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

[Luke 1:26-38] Continue reading