Like the lighting of the pascal flame at the great Easter Vigil, this reading serves as a transition out of the atmosphere of longing expectation that we have journeyed through over the past few weeks. As Jerusalem’s faithful continually remind God of God’s promise of redemption, they are given a foretaste of the salvation that is to come; they are reminded that their cry out for justice has not been forsaken. The proclamation of 62:11-12 is a message to all who wait with longing expectation for mercy and justice whether it be the oppressed, the unemployed, or the Advent church. It is a call to not lose faith in our darkest days.
- How has your faithfulness been tested in recent days, weeks, or months?
- Do you ever feel reminded by God that your patience is not in vain?
- How has the past Advent season prepared you to rejoice in the birth we celebrate at Christmas?
As we enter the Christmas Season, our psalm this week, like Psalm 96 before it, reminds us of the sovereignty of God. This reminder may be an important one as we have walked through the past 25 days with images of a lowly manger in store-front windows. While this week represents the birth of the incarnate God, as we read our psalm this week, we are beckoned to not only see the infant Jesus but also the mighty Kingship of Christ. Although the dramatic language of clouds, fire, lightening, and melting mountains may feel out of place along side the Silent Night, this is the magnificent tension of the Incarnation that must be in the front of our minds in the Christmas season.
- Why do you think so much of our kingly imagery, particularly in the psalms and Old Testament, stems from scenes of epic proportions?
- How is this imagery different than the imagery of the new-born Christ the King as found in the stable?
Is there any greater “reason for the season” than the epistle reading from Titus this week? In all the promise in Isaiah, the mighty imagery to the psalm, or angel’s proclamation of salvation in the gospel, the letter to Titus reminds us that the gift of the Incarnate Deity comes from nothing we have ever done, but through the grace and mercy of God. In this passage, the church should be reminded of baptism through water and the Holy Spirit that we participate in, in this moment of Grace.
- What does it mean to you to be “justified by grace”?
- Verse five suggests that this message may speak out against a faith based on good works. Do you think there is a distinction between the good works we do on our own accord and those things we do on behalf of God and God’s Kingdom?
Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20
It should be old advice at this point, but it is a good idea, whenever one reads “Do not be afraid” (or some variation), to know that someone’s world is about to change. It may be Mary, or it may be the disciples, or in this case, it may be a group of unsuspecting shepherds; but how can life go back to the way it was after one hears “Do not be afraid”? Could you go back to work after hearing that the Savior was born? If you needed further proof, would the appearance of the multitude of heaven change your mind? How could the shepherds do anything but leave for Bethlehem and see things with their own eyes? The shepherds would have been aware of the promises we read in Isaiah this week, and the sight of the heavenly hosts may have even invoked in them the images of Psalm 97. In this experience, these shepherds became the first Evangelists; they became the first to be so amazed and formed by the existence of the incarnate Christ that the only suitable response what to proclaim what they had seen.
- Think of a time when your life has been changed by experiencing the incarnation. Was it in an interaction with a friend? A neighbor? A stranger? How did you respond? Was it your first inclination to tell everyone else about your experience with the Incarnation? Did you?