My friends, with this weekend, we are drawing ever closer to our celebration, in memory, of the greatest act of love ever—our God choosing to be one-with-us and the name for this gift is, Emmanuel!
Our Scriptures for this week, tell us in no uncertain terms, from the very beginning that this is not a static thing—God coming among us, but one that calls for a response from each one of us who say that we believe.
Isaiah instructs the Israelites to basically ask God for a sign to know that God indeed is involved in their lives—a sign that will give them hope to persevere even when they are put down by enemies, all around, as was the case at this time.
Whether the Israelites fear getting involved with God, we don’t know, but we see that they are reluctant to ask for the sign that will confirm that indeed, “God is with them!” Asking for a sign seems to indicate a willingness to do something and Isaiah’s irritation seems to be about that reluctance. He almost seems to be saying, “Don’t complain if you aren’t willing to do anything!”
Perhaps we can understand their reluctance if we reflect on our own lives and our reluctance at times, to draw closer to God. If we become involved with God, does it then mean that a response will be expected of us? It would seem so.
Isaiah, in his frustration with the people says, “ I will give you a sign,” then, so that you will see, will know, and will believe, how much our God does love you—“a young woman will be with child” [give birth and name the child, “God-with-us!”]
Matthew, in today’s gospel, through an angel to Joseph, says the child will be called Jesus, a name that means, “savior.”
If we do accept this testimony on faith, of those before us—of prophets, of Mary and Joseph, then Paul’s letter to the Romans says to us as it did to them, that we are to be “favored as apostles.” And Paul clearly sees being an apostle as a good thing and spent his life after his conversion demonstrating it. For him it included shipwrecks, imprisonment, misunderstandings, but also the sense, at the end of his life, that he had, “fought the good fight.”
At this time of year, as we ponder the story of Mary and Joseph and their “yeses” to God; we realize that their calls to be prophets; followers of a dream bigger than themselves, was also not without cost. They are both wonderful models for us of people of faith and of people who responded in love to having first been loved by God.
And what about us? Does our faith, our belief in Jesus call us to love, to action beyond ourselves? Paul tells the Romans, and us by extension, that we are, “beloved of God and called [thus] to holiness.”
And what does holiness consist of?
- Standing up for those on the margins of our society who can’t stand for themselves—doing what we can, realizing that but for the grace of God, that could be us?
- Standing up for values that reflect the true spiritual natures a part of each of us—values like truth and justice in a society at present, in some sectors, that is pushing toward the lowest common denominator?
- Being willing to stand alone, if need be, to speak truth to power wherever we find that power?
- Being willing to reflect on our lives, searching for the answers to local, national and international problems that shine a light on, and uplift—in the end, the answers that are about goodness, kindness, truth, fair play, justice, and ultimately, love, regardless of any impediments that may stand in the way?
Yes, yes, yes and yes to all of the above!
Advent and Christmas time call each of us to truly be holy and holiness is not about following hollow rules and regulations devoid of love, but about the “messy stuff” of life—risking friendships and family relationships perhaps to finally, finally, at the end of the day, do the right thing!
That is why the Incarnation is such an awesome thing! Our God, in human form, chose to come among us for no other reason than that we would finally understand that we are loved! Think of people you have known in your life or have heard of whose lives didn’t go well for any number of reasons. Many times the disconnections, the inability to live productively and become their best selves can be traced back to a lack of love at key times in life.
So friends, as we move through these last days of Advent-waiting, let us try and perhaps consider who those people are in our lives or maybe those who need some extra love at this time and then be the one who gives it! Maybe these people are those in our own families who we may have been separated from in the past over a misunderstanding—maybe even because of a down-right hurt inflicted upon us.
Maybe during this great season of love; we can attempt an act of love that may not be appreciated or acknowledged except by God, but we will know we have done the right thing because it was motivated by love.
Christmas time calls each of us to our best and this “best” is so needed today, in our world, here and now. It has been said, “When you are deciding what to do in a particular situation and you aren’t sure of the right way to go, decide with your heart as the heart is much wiser than the head.” Amen? Amen!