Background: We have heard this story often, but each time it is so amazing. Zechariah and Elizabeth are introduced with a discussion of their standing, faith, and seniority. Mary is just a young girl, engaged to be married. Mary is not chosen based on status, or even her own need, she is just “favored”. In subsequent stories we get hints of Mary’s strengths and faith, but here she is just a young girl, probably in early teens. Note that when Luke is writing this it is before the doctrine of the Trinity had been introduced, but his description of her conception of Jesus by a miracle of God places him as the son of God in a profound way.
Focus Verse: Luke 1:38 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.
This statement from Mary is one of the most inspiring of bible. She has been faced with an angel who has told her that she, a virgin, will conceive a child that would be great- a savior! She was engaged, so becoming pregnant was a social disaster!! Unlike the miracle of Elizabeth’s conception, this was without precedence. But Mary said “let it be”. Wow! To put herself in God’s hands showed a level of trust that we must envy. It was not to be an easy road for Mary, and she would need great strength and love. God loved her, and she trusted in that above all else. This advent season, as we light candles and remember Mary, let’s not just remember that sweet innocence, but also that strength, love, and trust. The famous “Madonna” smile is one that both loves and challenges us to face God and take the path he leads us in.
Background There is a contrast between the way Zechariah and Elizabeth accept the blessing God is offering. Zechariah doesn’t believe it and challenges the Gabriel to how it could be true. He is silenced by God until the birth due to this- unable to spread the news he was unable to believe. Elizabeth accepts what is happening to her, she knows against all odds she is pregnant, and with no angelic visit, still realizes this is a gift from God. In her time, Elizabeth was viewed as cursed because you passed on the continuity of God’s promise to your children, so she had failed in some people’s eyes. The pragmatist might struggle with details of this passage, certainly we would disagree that Elizabeth should feel disgraced (not graced), and we also might wonder what the time frame was before she believed, or even if her husband passed her a note. However, there is a focus here of the faith in and power of God to do the unexpected.
Focus Verse Luke 1: 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”
Zechariah failed to accept the good news. Keep in mind, he has read and knows deeply the stories of Sarah, and Rachel, and Hannah. This isn’t first time this promise has been made and kept by God. However, he asks for proof, or why he should believe. It is one thing to read about the power of God, another to see it come to you and speak. Do you see yourself in Zechariah, or in Elizabeth with her faith in what God is doing through her? A bit of both? But, while punished in some respects, it is important to remember that the blessing was still given to Zechariah even as he struggled with his faith. God doesn’t demand faith to work for us and through us.
Background An angel comes to Zechariah while he is in temple acting as priest. At that time if there were too many priests, they would take turns. Note how much emphasis there is on this pious Jew, the central role of the temple and its priests and traditions. Luke is picking up the story of Israel and connecting it to the birth of John and then Jesus. An important point in this Gospel, as well as Acts, is the continuity of God’s plan for humanity and his convenient with the chosen people as part of that, which is continued and expanded through Jesus.
Focus Verse Luke 1:12 “When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.” Or from King James “And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.”
I like the description of fear falling on us, like a live thing that attacks us. Poor Gabriel, in the birth narrative he is never greeted with a “yay it’s an angel- it must be good news!”. But instead, fear pounces on everyone at first. Like Zechariah, they are afraid. Can we blame them? What if an Angel appeared before you- wouldn’t you be confused, wondering if maybe they really want someone else, more important- someone more brave? It is important to notice who Gabriel does come to. It isn’t the amazing or the important, it is to young girls and old men, confused carpenters and grubby shepherds. Ultimately, it is to us, like kids in the back of the classroom without our hands up, when our good teacher knows us and our worth better than we do. Ready or not, the message is coming.
Reading 1:Luke 1:1-7
Background Luke is referred to as the historian- in part because he takes a broader time view of Jesus life. Only Luke puts in as much detail before and around the birth of Jesus, as well as carries the story on in Acts past the resurrection. We will read the beginning of Luke, as stores are trying to sell Christmas, to begin to put the real story in our hearts! Today, we hear the beginning a classic Greek style introduction to Luke as narrator. His call is to teach by describing in an orderly fashion that which he has investigated and has determined is the truth based on witnesses. The story starts for Luke in a very different place than the other three Gospels. It starts with a faithful Jewish couple who are barren.
Focus Verse Luke 1:7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
It is really interesting to contrast the very beginning of each Gospel story. Take a moment and look at them- what they choose to frame the birth of Christ with. Here in Luke we start with barrenness and faith. As we started with Abraham, as we started even in the void of Genesis. Out of lack, God creates. Out of faith- God builds a covenant for the future. Out of love, God reaches across loss and confusion and life’s mess to touch our lives and remind us that he is with us. This is the ultimate lesson of Jesus, and so an apt place for Luke to begin.
I have been reading text from our website, and listening at meetings and the one phrase resonates the most with me is that our purpose is “building a community of faith”. I like the word “building”. We could say we are “becoming” or “creating” or even that we “are” a community of faith. But “building” is better I think, because it is an effort to build and is often never done- as you find out when you have a house. Building is a process, a continual process that requires people of different skills to each contribute what they can do best. You wouldn’t want to live in a house only build by plumbers or electricians and how would you get into a house only built by roofers? Jesus came to show us how to be the best human, and he was a builder. We need to be builders too. Not expecting to finish the job, but to be at the job of building. Continue reading 2013 October: Vision of our church- Kathleen
Picture this….Game 2 of the World Series….Bottom of the 6th inning.
The St. Louis pitcher is 22 year-old Michael Wacha who has been dominating the Boston batters for 5 innings. But he walks Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz comes to bat. With two strikes on him he hits a line drive to left field that barely clears the wall, called the “Green Monster”, for a home run and the Red Sox go ahead 2 to 0. YES!
But it wasn’t enough. The Cardinals eventually scored two more runs and won the game 4 to 2. Big Papi gave his all, but it wasn’t enough to win the game.
Sometimes life is like that, our best effort does not seem to be enough. Games are lost, plans go amiss, projects fail, we lose our way. In the way the world judges, we don’t succeed.
I’m thinking however, that God sees things differently. The dedication we bring to the work we do in God’s name, our unselfish efforts and our commitment to lead a life of Christ’s calling will make it possible for him to use our efforts to bring comfort and justice to a troubled world. Continue reading October 2013: Vision of our Church-Dave
As I reflect on what brought me to church once I was out on my own and had a choice about church, I keep coming back to two things. First, the awe I experience each time people worship together and open themselves to the possibility of transformation and deeper belief in the power of God. And second, the opportunity to be (and learn to be better at being) the hands and feet of Jesus together, in today’s world.
As a church, we are many, and have an incredible opportunity to show the love of God through our service to each other when in need, and to any of the many less fortunate in our community, country and world. The power of one is mighty, with God’s help; but I ask you to consider the power of 100…
Continue reading October 2013: Visions of our church- Sandy