Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: advent (page 2 of 2)

O Come, O Come Emmanuel*

nativity_13156bcOne of my favorite Advent hymns is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  We sang a few verses the other Sunday (July 14) in worship.  I know it seems strange to be singing a Christmas carol in the middle of July.  But, hey, why not?

We sing it during Advent and Christmas because we are awaiting the arrival of the Christ-child to be born in our midst.  The Christ-child who was born in a barn, with no fanfare likely deserved for the One who will save all of humanity.  Much like Clark Kent, Jesus’ birth and arrival on planet Earth, went mostly unnoticed.  And yet, the hymn is calling for God to dwell among humanity.

I once heard a trio sing it at a concert acapella, which is when I paid so much more attention to the words.  Ever since then it has been one of my favorites.  When we sing this hymn we are asking for Emmanuel – God With Us – Jesus Christ – to “ransom captive” those in “lonely exile” and to “disperse the gloomy clouds of night.”

There are individuals and families right here in Lynchburg who are not able to meet the basic needs for their families, put a basic meal together, or have seasonally appropriate clothing.   They are “captive” to poverty, living in “lonely exile” and in the midst of “gloomy clouds.” Peakland partners with ministries like Lynchburg Daily Bread, Rivermont Food Pantry, and Park View Community Mission (and others!) who are working to release the captive, feed the hungry, and shine on the gloomy clouds.

My hope is that your prayer – our prayer – will be “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  Come, God With Us, and dwell among us as we strive to love others, release the captive, feed the hungry, and shine Light on the gloomy clouds.  Amen.

*This first appeared as a From the Deacon column at Peakland United Methodist. 

Led by the Spirit

Read Luke 1:39-45.

Here we have two women. One young, the other old. Both pregnant. Both marginalized by society. Mary because she is unwed and pregnant. Elizabeth has been disgraced by her community because she is old and barren. Both of their lives are changing. One bears the messenger, and the other bears the Message.

During this visit, Elizabeth is the first to declare Jesus “Lord.” Luke does not tell us what Mary does, if anything, between the angel’s visit and Mary’s visit with Elizabeth. What prompted this visit? What was the motivating force behind her actions?

The short answer is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that calls to us to act, to move, or to change. It is the force that gives us our power to do good. It is the motivator that causes us to seek out wisdom guides or mentors along our journey. Elizabeth is such a person for Mary. A mentor, a wisdom guide, a prayer partner.

Who has the Holy Spirit led you to as a faith mentor? Who is your wisdom guide? Who is your prayer partner?

Mary Had a Baby Boy

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

My cousin is in the hospital awaiting the arrival of her first baby. As I’ve been talking with her and praying for her, I’ve also been thinking about what it must have been like that first Christmas. And the more I think about it, I think about how incredible the incarnation is. God became a human being.

God became a baby.

God became just like us. And in that moment, God was poor and helpless. The God of Creation became a crying baby boy. And the prophet Isaiah calls this baby, “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). Before anything else, Jesus was Mighty.

Before changing water into wine. Before teaching the masses. Before walking on water. Before raising Lazarus. Before the Cross. Before it all, the baby was Mighty. This baby is the Mighty One who saves. This baby is the Mighty One who will change the world.

The German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a sermon preached to a church in Havana, Cuba, said, “But now it is true that in three days, Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world, a world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us anymore, or threaten.”

Tears are Falling

“Heal the broken hearted, and bind up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

Tears are falling today in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It is difficult to understand why anyone would do such a horrific thing.

Advent is a time when we long for the One who will come and wipe our tears away.  Advent is a time when we prepare our hearts for the coming of the One will heal all of our brokenness and pain. Advent is a time when the One who is coming will speak peace into our violence.

We need the Christ Child now more than ever.  Join us as we pray for the Sandy Hook community.

Waiting is Hard

Waiting is hard.

image courtersy of withoutwax.tv

As a child did you get impatient waiting for Christmas morning?  The anticipation of finding out what presents you got was too much to handle that you searched endlessly through the house to find anything?   Yeah, I was that kid.  I was anyway, until the year I found presents that I was certain were for me, only to find out on Christmas morning they were for one of my brothers.

Instead of just waiting with patience, I had to know now!  I took matters into my own hands and searched the house, leaving nothing untouched.  I couldn’t wait!  And I was meant with disappointment.

Waiting is hard.

In the life of the Church we have been in the season of Advent.  Advent is a time of waiting with preparation.  Just as Mary waited for the birth of the Christ Child, so we wait for Christ’s coming.  And yet, Advent is a time of preparation.  Each week of Advent is a time spent getting ready for the coming Christ.   Waiting and preparing.  Preparing and waiting.

In the “Little Apocalypse” that is Mark 13 (one of the scriptures for the first week of Advent) Jesus tells us that not even the Son of Man knows the day or time of “the Son of Man coming in clouds.”  But he does know that there is a necessity for watchfulness.  “Beware; keep alert,” he says in Matthew 13:33.  Again in Matthew 13:35, “Keep awake,” and in 13:37, “Keep awake.”  Three times, Jesus says we should keep awake/keep alert.  Just in the next chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He leaves three disciples to “remain here, and keep awake.”  Three times Jesus returns only to find the disciples asleep.

Waiting is hard.

Our Wesleyan tradition (as United Methodists), implies . . . demands . . . that there is more than saying the right words and believing the right belief.  We must do something.   The season of Advent reminds us to keep awake and to be watchful.  It reminds us to wait with purpose.   Waiting, yes, but preparing as well.  Prepare implies doing.  What are we doing to prepare for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom?  As writer Nan Duerling puts it so well, “We live as Advent people who keep alert and constantly prepare for his coming.”

As followers of Christ in the 21st century, are staying awake and being alert or are we falling asleep?   Are we waiting and preparing?  Food banks are reporting that their giving has doubled within a year.  Doubled!  Something like 25% of children in the United States are living in poverty.   Shelters are having to turn away people in need because there is lack of space and resources.

And we wait for the world to change.  But does it?  Will it?

Waiting is hard.
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