Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″
One of the aspects of Advent and Christmas we often forget is how God’s birth and reign turned the world on its head. We want to think of Christ as bringing love and happiness which he certainly does. But Advent is also a time of repentance, a time to consider the ways in which we have not acted in holy and just ways. In passages like the Magnificat, we hear that the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty (Luke 1: 53). At this time of year, we also hear words from the prophets who warn us what will happen if we refuse to take care of the poor.
Amos warns us what will happen if we “trample on the needy” (v. 4).
Down to Earth: The Hopes & Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight, Mike Slaughter & Rachel Billups, Abingdon Press, 2016.
In this book for the Advent season, pastors Mike Slaughter and Rachel Billups explore what it means for love, joy, peace, and hope to come down to Earth. The book accompanies a four-week Advent study that opens up Christmas to examine how one helpless baby changed everything.
What makes this a great read during Advent this year, is how relevant it is to current events. While it was written before we had two primary presidential candidates or even an election, reading it post-election is food for the soul. Slaughter and Billups acknowledge that we put too much attention on the wrong things. They write, “Or in arguing about things such as red cups, sexual identity issues, who we voted for, and where refugees should go, are we allowing these issues to create dividing lines between us?”
Read Romans 1:1-7.
Christmas cards have been sent and received. Our fridges are cluttered with the picture cards from loved ones. Our mantels are decorated with the Christmas wishes from families. We feel honored to be remembered and thought of. We feel loved.
Some families include a traditional Christmas letter in their holiday cards. In these letters, they share what has happened over the past year. Facebook is starting to put an end to the Christmas letter for some. But for those who do, the Christmas letter has become an art form. There are even blogs that will help you write it and give you samples.
In the Hellenistic culture of Paul’s day, letter writing was an art. There was a basic template that all letter writers used. These first seven verses from Romans 1 are the letter’s greeting. Paul’s greeting is a tad bit longer than most. Some have called these verses a “mini-sermon” because he communicates grace to all.
Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3, Common English Bible)
Do you remember P. D. Eastman’s book Are You My Mother? The little bird hatches out of her egg and begins searching for her mother. She walks right past the mother bird because she does not recognize her or know what she looks like. She proceeds to ask all kinds of different animals and such asking, “Are you my mother?”
We can identify with the little bird. There are times and moments in our lives when we search for Jesus. We don’t recognize him. We may walk right past him, not even knowing it is him.
Like John in Matthew 11, life can take an unexpected turn. For John, he was imprisoned, and in his way asks, “Are you my Jesus?” For us, we may be imprisoned in our addictions. Imprisoned in our fussing. Imprisoned in disease. Imprisoned in our busyness. Or perhaps we are imprisoned by the holiday.