Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 33; 146, Isaiah 28:9-22, Revelation 20:11-21:8, Luke 1:5-25
Not everyone loves the Christmas story. After forty, fifty, or more years of listening to it, some people feel it has nothing new to say to them. There’s never a twist, and while it speaks to children, adults – especially those who have moved on to a contemplation of theology more sophisticated than The Baby Jesus – are dealing with weightier issues. Where you are on your own journey is your business, but if you’re at a point where the Christmas story is little more than nostalgic, maybe think about the words of Isaiah – or more specifically, his critics.
When Isaiah and other prophets warned religious leaders they had strayed from God’s teachings, the reply of many of them was essentially: “We get it. You repeat it over and over. But we’re not children; we’re experienced leaders. You have nothing to teach us.” Or as Isaiah put it:
Therefore the word of the LORD will be to them,
Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.
They were insulted by the repetition, but the truth was they had corrupted the Law by turning it into something so complicated and burdensome that the widows, orphans, ailing, and aliens it was meant to protect were now its victims.
There’s a lot of theology out there, and those of us who enjoy it can bury ourselves in denominational nuance and doctrinal detail but those things can distract us from actually living our faith. Theory is not more important than reality.
So when we hear the Christmas story, let’s focus on whether we’ve actually listened to the messages it has for us today. Finding God in humble places. Making room for desperate strangers. Looking beyond social stigma. Mourning children sacrificed to political expediency. Trusting God to see us through. If these are merely theory to us, and not daily practice, we have yet to really master the basics. So at Advent and soon Christmas, as the story unfolds before us again, we are blessed precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.
Comfort: It’s OK to still be mastering the basics of faith; simple is not the same as easy.
Prayer: Glorious and merciful God, I humble myself before Your wisdom. Amen.
Discussion: This year, what will you have to learn from the story of Christmas?
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