The Lord be with you
Tomorrow, December 12, we will have our second Wednesday Advent service. Once again we will simply use Evening Prayer for our liturgy. Our hymns will be “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” (LSB 356); “Hark the Glad Sound” (LSB 349); and “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (LSB 388).
Our theme this year for our Wednesday services is “Advent/Christmas Traditions.” Last week we took a look at Advent Calendars. This week we continue by considering the Christmas Crèche. (Next week we will wrap things up with the Christmas Tree.) Obviously the Advent and Christmas seasons have far more traditions than these three, but we have only three Wednesdays to use this year. Each week we consider some of the history and meaning behind these traditions.
There are no appointed lessons for the Wednesdays in Advent. Therefore the lessons chosen are “free texts.” All that means is that the pastor picks the lessons instead of following an ancient pattern of lessons. The lessons for December 12 are: Joshua 4:19-24; Psalm 78:1-7; 2 Timothy 4 1-5; Luke 2:8-20. The text for the homily is Psalm 78:4.
Below are the lessons along with some thoughts that did not make the message.
19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
Thoughts: This reading comes from early in the career of Joshua after he took over leadership of Israel. The Lord divided the Jordan River and the nation walked over on dry land. This was reminiscent of when Israel passed through the Red Sea under the leadership of Moses. There were only a handful of people alive at that time who remembered the Red Sea event. This certainly helped establish Joshua as the divinely appointed leader of the nation. What we see here is the use of “memorial stones” to help future generations remember the story. Several things are taught here. First is that history is important. We are to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. It is each generation’s responsibility to pass on those stories. Second, the use of physical objects to keep that memory alive is divinely endorsed. In my younger, more self-righteous, days, I use to make fun of “Jesus junk.” I no longer do so. If a plastic Jesus on a dashboard helps you to remember Jesus, then go for it. Just because I don’t use them is no reason for you to dispose of yours. The third thing is that such ways of passing on the faith have a broad impact. That plastic Jesus might just be an excellent tool to share your faith when some smart-aleck like me makes a disparaging remark.
1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.
Thoughts: Again we see the importance of remembering history and passing it on to future generations. We can use physical objects to teach history, as our reading from Joshua showed us. In this lessons the precepts God has give us is added. So it is quite appropriate that parables are included as a teaching tool. The “glorious deeds” of God are also shared. This would include Creation, the rescue of Israel from Egypt, the saving of Noah, the calling of Abraham, and so forth. For us, today, who have an even longer history witnessing the glorious deeds of God, we include Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, the spread of the Church across the globe, and so on. We share this with the next generation as well as with our generation, that people may come to faith in Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Thoughts: Timothy was a pastor so, technically, this is a letter for pastors. Pastors are to teach the word of God. I’ve heard people complain that they have stopped going to worship because they always hear the same stories over and over. Well, that is what pastors are called to do. We don’t invent new stories but, as the hymn put it, “love to tell the story,” because we know it’s true, that old, old, story, of Jesus and his love. As a pastor, my goal is not to be original but to be faithful. If you want to hear a new story, pick up the latest novel, or read the latest scientific theory. If you want to hear the soul-saving Gospel truth, attend a Christian worship service.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God …
Thoughts: This is part of the nativity story found in Luke. People have poured over these stories seeking to find clues concerning the time of year Jesus was born. Many in northern climates find December 25 hard to believe because there is no snow in the Gospel accounts. However, in a Mediterranean climate, there would be no snow except, perhaps, in the very highest elevations. There is no good reason to reject December 25 and ample reasons to keep it (tradition, not senselessly upsetting people weak in the faith, and so forth). As often pointed out by others, the first response of the shepherds is fear. Popular modern depictions of angels typically ignore this frightening aspect of them. The word “angel” actually means “messenger.” Typically the message they bring conveys something of God’s divine plan for salvation. Notice that this good news is for all people. God desires all to be saved. Notice also that there appeared a “multitude” angels. This did not empty heaven. We don’t know how many angels there are, but there are a lot!
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you are have a blessed Advent season, and I hope to see you tomorrow night.