From Pastor’s Desk: December 2021
It is the end of November and I am sitting down to write this note to you. Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving with a timely reminder that we are called to thank God in advance and also, in response. We often think that thanking God in response to what God has done is easier than thanking God in advance. It is not so. We often take the things we receive from God for granted –like the 9 people with skin ailments in Luke’s gospel, who were healed by Jesus. The nine were not bad people but just that they were thankful for the gift instead of the Giver of that gift. Also, they took the healing for granted. Having an attitude of gratitude is a choice we make, and it is my prayer that we be thankful often and for everything we receive from the hands of God. Let me just say how grateful I am for each of you and for your faithful service to this church and the community around us. You have enriched our life with your presence, and prayers and I thank God for you.
Last year, I did an Advent/Christmas series with the title, Christmas Playlist. In that series, I picked the secular songs of this season like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and saw its allusions in the Nativity stories of the Bible. I wanted to do something similar this year, but my creative juices were in short supply. After much thought this is my Christmas series with you, and I hope you will help me with your thoughtful comments and suggestions as we journey along.
The old adage is that practice makes perfect. Anything that we don’t practice is often forgotten. For example, if you want to keep up with learning a new language or to master it you must practice the grammar/ syntax of that language or speaking it with someone on a regular basis. It is the same with wanting to play an instrument. The key word in all of this is practice.
During my second semester in seminary, I had to take New Testament Greek as part of the curriculum. It was an intensive course during the month of January and all I did was to practice it every day. As time passed, I didn’t keep up with my practice and now I can hardly remember Greek. It is the same thing with my French.
The word Practice is the key word for the next 4 Sundays in Advent, and I call this sermon series, the Christmas Practice. The lectionary readings from the gospel of Luke during this season of Advent and Christmas Eve is a great place to start.
Luke’s gospel (Luke 21: 25-36) for the first Sunday in Advent is tricky. The readings are apocalyptic in nature. Apocalyptic literature, according to Britannica is a “literary genre that foretells supernaturally inspired cataclysmic events that will transpire at the end of the world.”But why this kind as we begin the season of Advent and Christmas. The word advent simply means coming and so the readings point to the idea of the second coming of Jesus and how believers must act until He comes again. However, if you look at the readings carefully, Luke is not trying to scare us with his predictions instead he wants to tell us that even as we wait for the second coming, God is coming to us now. Therefore, don’t lose sight of God’s sighting in the world, now. For the first Sunday in Advent, the key verse was Luke 21:36 -Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”Our task as believers and the church is toPractice Mindfulness or Watchfulness.God is coming to us even now and we must practice mindfulness.
The readings for the next three Sundays in Advent and on Christmas Eve are taken from the gospel of Luke. In Luke 3, which is the reading from Advent 2, we meet John the Baptist who screams his head off to the people who are coming to be baptized by him. His call to the people is to repent. Later in that same chapter, which is Advent 3 reading, he answers the questions the soldiers, and tax collectors are posing to him about what they should do in keeping with repentance. I think John the Baptist is up to something; he is asking the church and the believer to engage in some sort of practice. If you get an “aha” moment, please share it with me.I believe if we consciously keep up with these practices during this season of Advent and throughout the year, we will have a meaningful Christmas to celebrate and an amazing walk with the Lord. I invite you on this journey.
– Rev. Kamalesh Stephen