It may be a bit early for Advent.
I’m taking a class, practicing “The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.” And as it turns out, we’re contemplating the Incarnation in November instead of December. This week our study passage is Luke 2:1-19, which most of us know due to the famous recitation by Linus to Charlie Brown “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…And she brought forth her firstborn son…Now there were in the same country shepherds…born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
I think of the many children’s Christmas pageants that I’ve seen over the years. We had an announcement about it in church last Sunday asking people to let the director know of any preferences for a certain part. Apparently the donkey is already taken. No worries, there are plenty of other parts—Mary and Joseph, shepherds, the innkeeper, wise men, angels, sheep, the star with the costume that lights up, and even some palm trees and bushes. I remember one parent being so proud or her son, the second palm tree to the right of the manger.
What I realized this evening in my meditation on this passage is that Linus was right; it’s all about Jesus, the Messiah, Christ. The Lord is doing his work of salvation, no matter what small part I play in the story. When I become stressed and feel pulled out of alignment, it is most often when I start to believe that it somehow depends on me, or that I have to do it. I forget that this is God’s story, not mine.
The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, so that the child to be born would be known as the Son of God. May I be like Mary, willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that what is produced in my life is recognized as the Lord’s doing. The angels came to the shepherds who responded, “Let’s go and see…” May I be like the shepherds, seeking the Lord, awed at what God has done, witness to the “good news” and filled with “great joy”.
Safe Church work can be daunting at times and can feel overwhelming. There is a darkness to abuse that can seem heavy, even knowing that the light, which has come into the world, is stronger. I’m so thankful for the many Safe Church team members, coordinators, and others who have spent countless hours walking alongside in situations of abuse, working on a policy to keep their church community safer, planning meetings to equip others, leading workshops and presentations to increase awareness, praying for this ministry, supporting Safe Church financially or sending a note of encouragement. Safe Church is truly blessed by the many people involved in doing the work of abuse awareness, prevention and response. My heart is filled with gratitude for these dedicated people and the work being done.
I often remind people, as we work together, that we are not in heaven yet. We are called to live here in the “not yet,” in the midst of life, in difficult and complicated situations that are beyond our understanding, where progress seems unbearably slow, when the amount of work left to do is almost paralyzing. My prayer is that as each day unfolds into history we would know deeply within our hearts that this is God’s story not ours. May we always find reason to rejoice, as we play our part, whatever small part that might be (perhaps a sheep or maybe a bush).
God is at work, bringing all things into fulfillment according to his purposes in Christ. The words of the angels are words that we need to hear “Do not be afraid!” “On earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
God’s favor rests upon us. Jesus, our Redeemer, Savior, Messiah, King, Lover and Friend has come. He is here with us, Immanuel.