Good News of Great Joy?
As I write this, Thanksgiving is just a few days away and Sunday we will begin our celebration of the Advent season. During that season we will constantly be looking outwards, at others, and at the world. We will look at Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Caesar Augustus, shepherds, wise men, angels, as well as a few other characters with smaller roles. We will think about the coming of the Messiah and what that means to the church, to the world, to our calling as evangelize and share the good news, and other important lessons. But, despite the value of doing all these things, we might also want to spend some time looking inwards.
Looking inwards means asking what the story means to me, what the story is calling me to be, and to do. When we see the shepherds, we should ask ourselves, “What would I have done if I were among them?” Would we have stayed behind with the sheep? Having heard the angels, and having seen the baby in a manger, would we have gone throughout the city rejoicing and telling everyone that we could find?
When we hear the story of the wise men, we might wonder how willing we are to hear the calling of God. Would we drop everything, based on our best research and study, to spend months of unpleasant travel, just so that we could witness a miracle, bring gifts, and then spend months traveling home again?
After every story, there is a moment for us to look inward and ask God what he is calling us to hear, not just about a two thousand year-old story, but how God wants that story to change our lives, us, today. Is God calling us to be more faithful, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Simeon the priest, Anna the prophetess, the shepherds, or the Magi? Do we hear the calling for the church, and us, to evangelize the world in the story of the shepherds and the Magi? And there is more. In every story that we read in scripture God calls to us. If we listen, our souls can feel the pull of God’s leading us in a new direction.
And so, as we celebrate the season of Advent and Christmas, I invite you to open your hearts, and take the time to reflect. Ask yourself, “What does God want me to do with this story?” What is it that God is trying to tell me? How is God asking me to change? What kind of a person is God calling me to be? Is God calling me into something new?
Every day, God is calling us to be transformed and renewed into the image of Jesus Christ. Our regular prayer on Sunday morning is to become more and more like Jesus and the person that Jesus created us to be. And so, when we hear the angels proclaim that they bring “Good news of great joy for all the people” we might ask ourselves if the same is true for us. When people hear that Christ Church is coming, is that good news? Or what do people think when they hear that we are coming? Is the arrival of _(insert your name here)_ “good news of great joy”?
The stories of Advent and Christmas are wonderful and inspiring, but they aren’t just there to stir wonder and bring inspiration. The stories are intended to transform us. The stories of Christmas, and all of scripture, are intended to change us so that we become less like Saul and more like Paul, less like Satan and more like Jesus, less like we once were and more like God intends for us to be.
As we plunge into Advent, I hope that we will do more than splash around in the shallows or swim along the surface. This year, I invite you to…
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