Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Philippians 1:2-3 (NLT2) (italics mine)
God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope …always.
The Christians adopted this term to proclaim their special relationship to Jesus Christ. For them, he is the King who entered this wretched province, our world, and gifted it with the feast of his visit. He it is whose presence in the liturgical assembly they profess. With this expression, they intended to say, in general, “God is here.” He has not abandoned this world. He has not left us behind alone. Even though we cannot see and touch him like so many things—he is present, nevertheless, and visits us in many ways
As I started to prepare for next weeks sermon last night, the two pronouns in the reading caught my attention, and wouldn’t let it go.
I’ve read that passage hundreds of times, if not a thousand times, preached on it a lot, and those pronouns never hit me like they did last night. Technically they are genitive pronouns, called that because they have a relationship with a noun, as opposed to having a relationship with a verb. They act more like adjectives than subjects or objects in a sentence. In English, we might call them possessive pronouns.
Here is what that means to those of us who aren’t language geeks.
Those pronouns exist to tie the object in the sentence to the person/people the pronoun represents. In the first case, “us”, in the second case, “Paul”.
And that makes all the difference in the world. This God of whom Paul speaks is OUR GOD, OUR FATHER this God he prays to is HIS GOD (or we can say when we pray MY GOD). There is a relationship there, a connection that defines this God of whom we speak. There is a personal close relationship that is so close we are defined by it, as is He.
This is a perfect thought to contemplate during Advent, especially as we begin this journey, contemplating what these pronouns mean. That God, the creator and sustainer of the universe is our Father. That we can go to Him in prayer, knowing that He not only will listen but that He desires too, offering comfort and peace in the times in our life that are the hardest.
This is the meaning of course, of Advent, the looking back and looking forward to Christ coming into our lives to reveal God’s love for us. Looking forward as well, to the incredible time when we prodigals return home, for Christ has come for us.
Because of Jesus entering into our drama, we aren’t alone, we are in a relationship with God who never grows tired, who will not abandon us, whom we can and should talk to, who nourishes our famished souls.
In the past week, I have seen too much trauma, I have seen people experience too much brokenness. too much grief. Perhaps more than any time in my ministry. It is in a time like this that the reality of Advent is such a treasured part of my life. I have to know God is here, I have to hear His voice comfort me, (through the scriptures and through those whom He has sent to encourage )
This is what Advent means, that until Christ’s return, we can dwell in His peace, something unexplainable, something unimaginable, yet something that is so real.
Lord, help us to realize your presence, as You surround us in your peace! AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 381). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 (NLT)
But, as St. Gregory the Great puts it, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New Testament is a peculiar kind of “in-between”, a mixture of “already and not yet”. The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.
Two weeks from today is Christmas, a day some are able to celebrate with great joy with those whom they love, who they care for, as meals are shared, as presents are exchanged, as laughter and smiles are contagious.
Yet recognizing that Christmas is only two weeks away causes my anxiety levels to rise. There are services to plan, sermons to write, music to practice, and most of all, people to pray for and try and find ways to comfort and to try to reveal God’s presence to, so that they can know some peace.
Some are stressed out by finances, or work situations. Some are broken by their own sin, or addictions, or broken by the sin and addictions of those they love, that have caused deep division. Some are grieving, and that number has grown this year. Some are simply wandering, directionless, unable to find anything stable enough to give them hope, even as they drive by churches advertising Christmas concerts, and advent services, even as they set up Christmas trees and manger scenes in their own homes.
I like how Pope Benedict phrased where we are in life, in this time of the dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. There are shadows that seem to overwhelm us, to convince us we still are in the darkness. The struggles of life are still there, undeniably, yet there is a hint of the perfect, complete life we know is coming in Christ Jesus.
We are in the time of the “now, and not yet!” The time where God’s kingdom is here, yet we struggle to see it. The time when we are in God’s presence, though we cannot see Him, It is a time where we have to depend on God, but still have so many doubts, where we have to have hope, but struggle to define that, and therefore to express it.
Which is all the more reason to gather together as believers regularly, To celebrate the fact that we are in His presence, that Christ has cleansed us, that we have been baptized by His blood, and therefore have clean consciences! This all in order that we know, that when He returns, He is not just returning to us, but returning for us.
We gather to encourage each other with these facts, for too often we forget them in the shadows of the world. Too often we get overwhelmed by sin, ours and that of the world.
There is the hope, that is the real message behind all the decorations, all the mangers scenes – and the lights symbolizing Jesus coming, He whose light shatters our darkness, He who is our light, the Light of the World. He who is our comforter, He who is our peace.
And for the next two weeks, and until His return, the One who hears us when we cry, “Lord Have Mercy,” and find int he manger and the cross, He has!
So let’s get together in these times, often, so that we can cry and laugh together, and encourage each other, even as we look forward to the day of Chrsit coming. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.