Friday, December 19, 2014
Member: Cathedral of Hope, U.C.C., Dallas, TX
Member-In-Discernment: North Texas Association, U.C.C.
4th Year M.Div., Brite School of Divinity/T.C.U., Class of Spring 2015
A Harold Wilke & William R. Johnson Scholar, United Church of Christ.
5For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 6And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” 8But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” Hebrews 1:5-10 (NRVS)
of Hope on "Evergreen Day"
In these verses from Hebrews. God is proclaiming his Son, the resurrected Christ’s authority over the angels and the world itself. Angels had longed played a key role in setting the scene throughout the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) announcing God’s work in the world, announcing change. Believed to be written thirty years after the crucifixion, but before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. The Letter to the Hebrews was written as an attempt to dissuade Jews who were disgruntled with the practices of the Temple, to follow the teachings of Jesus. Therefore here in Hebrews it was necessary to show Jesus’ authority through God, thus this yet unnamed Jesus movement was given credence by being linked to the Old Jewish prophets.
In the Gospel of Luke, written ten to twenty years after Hebrews, Angels would announce to “shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Lk. 2:8) the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Later in the birth narrative of Jesus, in the Book of Matthew (actually written before the Gospel of Luke), a star would lead three Wise Men to the baby Jesus. And finally, in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, her husband, Prince Albert, a German by birth, would introduce the evergreen Christmas tree to the holiday festivities. What do all these writings mean? Why were they not written at the same time by the same person? Haven’t we always had Christmas trees? Confused yet?
Simply put, the birth of Christ, the Son of God is about change, and change brings hope to the world. Change is good. It keeps our faith alive and meaningful. And in that sense, that is why we have so many different stories of Jesus. It gives richness and meaning to his life, his teachings, his crucifixion and his resurrection. The glory of God through Jesus cannot fit into just one book, or be addressed to just one community, but in many books, for many communities, for the entire world, and for always.
Advent is a season of change. The old year is fleeting by us and we are preparing ourselves, once again to meet the Messiah in the manger as the baby Jesus. Either an angel or a star (both work beautifully) above an evergreen (real or artificial, both OK today) announces the coming of our soon to be Lord. This day in America, it has become customary that the evergreen tree officially invites us into preparation for the Babe of Bethlehem’s arrival, during this season of hope.
The Letter to the Hebrews was written long ago for people doing exactly that, preparing their hearts to follow Jesus. So in this period of anticipation, what we call Advent, let us also “prepare the way of the Lord” (Mk.1:3) by preparing our own hearts.
O God, we wait in anticipation to hear the angel proclaim the birth of Jesus and to follow that star with those wise men to find the baby Jesus. The retelling of our Lord’s birth, life, death, and resurrection is a constant in our lives bringing us hope and understanding. An understanding that reflects on our own lives in our own time. It reminds us of your reality O’ God. We praise you and thank you God for bringing us the Babe of Bethlehem who we eagerly anticipate and await. AMEN
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