Today is the last weekday of the church calendar. On Sunday we begin the season of Advent and return our eyes to Bethlehem as we remember the human condition before Jesus’ arrival. I know of no greater expression of this than the lyrics of “O Holy Night”; one of the most theologically profound songs ever. It says, “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining; till He appeared and and the soul felt its worth. A THRILL OF HOPE a weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
Although it is perhaps a few days premature, I would like to finish with a word of hope for the church. As we have walked through the year together, reading the scriptures, reflecting on the Psalms and sharing a few jokes, I hope we have noticed the variety of seasons life provides us. Some days (or weeks) are so full of joy we can hardly stand still. Other days (or months) are so filled with sadness that we can hardly get up. Some Psalms are so exuberant and happy we wonder if the writer ever lived in this world at all. Some Psalms are so dark and angry we wonder if they belong anywhere near the Church. Some stories in the Bible are so dark and violent we wonder how Jesus ever read them without cringing. Other stories are filled with blessings which leave us jealous.
In short, our own lives are in constant flux, and the Bible meets us in that bi-polar place. It tells us that, while our experiences are unique, we are certainly not alone because Jesus himself came to our world and lived with us. He didn’t arrive in a palace, or even a well equipped birthing ward. He arrived in a stable, surrounded by political instability and human insensitivity. Why? 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” – a small statement that bears much reflection. He came with a mission and he has invited us to join him.
Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, Paul was able to instruct the church with a few final exhortations. He said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In the midst of our crazy lives we can rejoice because we have a bomb-proof hope. We can pray passionately and constantly because God is listening. We can live in gratitude because all things are working to the good. In short, we are the most blessed people, because Christ has loved us!
So, with our crazy lives in mind, I leave you to enter the new year with the simple, timeless command of God: