Dec 22 - Advent #4

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Advent #4

December 22, 2018

The people living in darkness have seen a great light. - Isaiah 9:2

Psalm 80:1-7Micah 5:2-5aHebrews 10:5-10Luke 1:39-55

My dad and I shared an odd Christmas tradition. We would stay up late and watch the Pope’s celebration of the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I say it was odd because we weren’t Roman Catholic and neither of us spoke Latin. About the only thing we recognized in the service was the rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer. We would wonder aloud about what they were saying and comment on the architecture inside the Vatican. We quietly marveled at the grandeur of the service and the size of the Basilica and the beauty involved in a service that we couldn’t fully understand. The service is always marvelous and beautiful.

The difference between what happened 2000 years ago and the observance in St. Peter’s could not be more striking. Each year, the sanctuary in Rome is filled with dignitaries. Catholic leaders from the around the world along with leaders of other religious groups and politicians are present in the crowd. All the finest people show up to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the special Mass. Security is at its maximum and there are cameras everywhere transmitting the event around the world.

There were no security, no cameras, no esteemed visitors in the stall where Jesus was born. None of the world’s finest showed up for Jesus’ birth. Just a poor man and his wife and shepherds who smelled like the animals they kept. It’s odd but God likes working this way. Quietly entering through a side door. Coming in through the kitchen. Hanging out with the help. This is how he makes himself known in the world.

Consider this, the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were women without the right to be legal witnesses. They weren’t particularly wealthy or respected or well known. Similarly, the first human to recognize Jesus as the coming Messiah, other than Mary, was his cousin John. Not the wild-eyed prophet of the desert but John, the infant, in his mother’s womb leaping in his mother’s womb (or was he falling to his knees?) to adore the King of Kings.

This is how God works. So don’t be surprised this Christmas when he shows up through a side door, entering from the employee entrance, coming in from the servant’s quarters, unimpressive and unimpressed. The “people living in darkness” really have “seen a great light” but it was shining out from a barn door.

This is our collect for this last week of Advent:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Paul Hill