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Monday, November 19, 2012

Early Advent

While most of you are pondering Thursday's menu, are in a turkey induced tryptophan coma and are contemplating whether or not to brave the Black Friday shopping crowds, pastors all over the land are deeply into their plans for Advent, Christmas and beyond.  Last week, I was writing services for Advent and Christmas, writing my cover article for the December edition of our church newsletter, and completing a submission for the San Francisco Theological Seminary online devotional.

So that you don't feel left out, or think that we pastors are all that special, I thought I'd go ahead and give you a preview to what I wrote for my seminary alma mater:

Micah 5:2-6 (from the Message)

2-4 But you, Bethlehem, David’s country,
    the runt of the litter—
From you will come the leader
    who will shepherd-rule Israel.
He’ll be no upstart, no pretender.
    His family tree is ancient and distinguished.
Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes
    until the birth pangs are over and the child is born,
And the scattered brothers come back
    home to the family of Israel.
He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength,
    centered in the majesty of God-Revealed.
And the people will have a good and safe home,
    for the whole world will hold him in respect—
    Peacemaker of the world!

I beg all of you to not assume Jesus Christ as you read this passage of scripture.  Please please please, wait and read this as if you had never heard of the one who was to be born in Bethlehem.  Wait just a few days longer for the unexpected coming of the Prince of Peace.  For now, sit in the wonder and expectancy of what has not yet been born.   

As you let these words fall over and around you, imagine what the people in Bethlehem are hoping for today.  What is the desire of their hearts?   What pregnant possibility is waiting to be born in us this day?  What labor pains might be lifted by our prayers and our works?  I returned from two weeks in Bethlehem in mid-November, and I am flooded with memories and images as I read this passage.  The separation wall, a Palestine baby boy dedicated in a worship service in Beit Sahour, the unemployed men wandering the streets at all hours, the 100s of workers lined up outside the wall at 6:30 a.m. waiting for rides to work ( a process that can take 1 to 2 hours), the faithful Orthodox, Muslims and Christians each taking seriously the acts and devotions of their traditions, the numerous checkpoints and incredibly young soldiers, the lack of infrastructure in Palestinian territories, the 2000 year old olive trees on the Mount of Olives, and many, many more.

It seems the prophet Micah speaks just as clearly today, and that the plight of Bethlehem and the ways of the world have changed drastically and not at all.  So, don’t jump to Jesus, but jump to prayer.  

1 comment:

  1. Your words ring so true to me. This is a region that has changed so much yet really not changed at all throughout time. I believe this was a land that was supposed to be inhabited and shared by both groups. Harmony was supposed to happen here. This was the holy land that was supposed to stay true and peaceful. Not a land to be torn apart and divided. It really is a land that instead has shown man's flawed humanity towards each other. In some ways this was our test and we have failed it. And I dislike how the rest of the world has showed its failings as well by taking up sides. Further adding to this holy regions dysfunction. I would love to talk to you about your trip sometimes. This is such a part of the world in which I have a difficult time picking a side. I have such empathy for both sides and really choose not to choose.