In case you missed it, this advent we have been talking about being present – receiving (Jesus’) presence and being present (to others).
So how are we doing so far? Has our walk through advent and pre-christmas stories inspired you to be BE PRESENT to others as God has made himself present to us? With your neighbour, your spouse, your friends, co-worker, child, parent, etc?
Here’s the phrase we hope is sinking in: This Christmas, try being present over perfect. Appreciate where you are instead of wishing you were somewhere else. Be grateful for what you have and stop wishing for what you don’t have. Do what it takes to be present to others, as Jesus has made himself present to us.
We’ve purposely walked through scripture that reminds us of just how amazing and real Jesus’ arrival to earth was and is.
– Matthew 1 (Jesus’ genealogy reminds us that God‘s plans are bigger than any mess you have created or any mess you’ve been dealt in life. Out of great mess comes the Messiah.)
– John 1 (WORD, became flesh, and moved into our space)
The beauty of these texts and stories is the wait, the anticipation, the longing, the ‘before’ or pre-cursers.
Today we find ourselves in another first chapter of a gospel – LUKE. We look at Mary, her reaction to the incarnation, and her role in this story.
“If the idea of incarnation doesn’t leave your mind and spirit in a semi state of shock, you aren’t yet getting “Advent.” (you aren’t getting Christmas)
How do you react to good news?
- Little things (like Kijiji sales)
- Bigger things (great conversations and meaningful time with people)
- BIG things (a situation that turned from bad to good or to even great)
This is what we find in Luke 1…Mary’s Song…Mary’s Magnificat…Mary’s burst of JOY. She, with the rest of her people (Israel) had been waiting for something to change, to shift, to turn, to be realized and restored. They believed deeply that God would lead them, provide for them, send a Saviour, be their leader, ruler, KING.
Jesus was it.
Not only was that about to happen…BUT…God used Mary to make it happen.
Luke 1 is about:
– John the Baptist’s birth foretold
– Jesus’ birth foretold
– Mary visit’s Elisabeth (John the Baptist’s mom)(Read this this exchange in 1:39-45)
What follows is Mary’s song. Her burst of joy. Her poetic proclamation of what God is doing in her and through her. That line sound familiar? We pray that prayer regularly at The Village.
REACTION & REALITY (Luke 1:46-49)
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
These first few lines both show us Mary’s reaction and Mary’s reality.
Her reaction is pure joy, worship, praise, etc.
I’m sure you’ve seen joyful reactions before. The sports world has lots of them to choose from.
- Toronto FC’s first championship win came a few weeks ago…Jose Altidore is very expressive after every goal, especially after an important one to win the championship. He goes nuts.
- Tiger Wood’s reaction to winning putts is classic and can be identified by lots of people.
- For Blue Jay fans we will never forget the Bat Flip, will we?
To more important matters…when my Dad was ill and getting worse as the weeks went on, I asked my asked him how he would react he woke up the next day being well…if God healed him? He said he’d go to all his former business partners and friends and tell them what God did for him.
This is Mary’s moment to react. And the illustrations I’ve given, especially the sports ones, pale in comparison.
The reason this song is called the Magnificat is that Mary is helping us see how BIG God is.
Some call this the gospel before the gospel.
– 30 weeks before Bethlehem
– 30 years before Calvary & Easter
– Jesus, conceived, not yet born, but the reality of the news is life and world changing
Mary’s Reaction is met with her Reality…
– Mary is a teenager
– A female
– All those stack against her
– “Humble state…”
She sees this for what it is? A Miracle. God is using her? To start the revolution and restoration of the world? She realizes what a BIG deal this is…for her…and the world.
And she continues to sing…
REDEMPTION & RESTORATION (Luke 1:50-53)
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
This song is revolutionary. It addresses some serious things: Injustice, Poverty, Brokenness, Pride, etc. It invites Revolution.
Important to note: This song was banned from India (when it was a British Colony), from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Argentina, during times when those in power wanted to dominate and come down hard on the people. They recognized this song as resistance, as protest, as words of liberation.
If you wonder why those who follow Jesus are compelled to help the poor, befriend the marginalized, sit with the suffering, welcome the refuge, be present in places of pain, struggle, evil, it’s because of what Mary sings in this song.
Advent challenges us to see that the marginal spaces in our world are indeed the center of God’s attention and activity. (Rich Villodas)
This looks back on the texts of the OT that deal with Israel’s liberation from Egypt, and looks forward to Israel’s liberation from Rome.
If you read further in Luke you will find Jesus quoting Isaiah 61. Jesus is saying that He has come to release, restore, redeem, and save – who? the poor, the prisoner, the oppressed. Luke presents Jesus as one who sides with the poor & oppressed, and reveals an idea of reversal – the reversal of unjust structures.
What can I learn from Mary?
- God will use me, no matter what others think of me.
- God’s not looking for perfection, only presence (Mary was willing & available & present)
- I have the green light to celebrate and share good news.
- And remember – it’s only good news for anybody if it’s good news for everybody
- The marginalized and poor better matter to us, because they matter to God, not as people who are less or have less, but as children in his family that need to be loved.
Q’s to think about…
Is our reaction to God’s good news equal to the magnitude of God’s redeeming action?
Do we see the fullness of Jesus’ arrival to be present to the poor, vulnerable, marginalized?
What’s your part in the story and are you present enough to see it and live it? Everyday? In the here and now?
Our annual public ice skating with BVC is coming up. Dec 27, 11-12:30 PM. McKinney Arena, Whitby Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
Christmas Eve/ Eve – Come celebrate with us!
The Christmas Season is upon us and in classic Village style we’ll be celebrating on the eve of Christmas eve! We’ll have something for the whole family! Come for the community, stay for the (after)party!
The Christmas season is when we observe the birth of Jesus and celebrate the change that He would bring into the World. It’s also a time when we get together with our families, eat together and enjoy each others company. With things being as busy as they are we don’t want to take away from that. The eve/eve gives us a chance to gather and celebrate before “The Big Day” rolls around. We hope you’ll join us!
The holidays are so busy that we tend to lose ourselves a bit. By that I mean we might forget to keep being who we are, the best part of us, in the midst of the crazy schedule we all try to keep.
In the last post we said we want you to remember one thing this Christmas…here is it…
This Christmas, try being present over perfect. Appreciate where you are instead of wishing you were somewhere else. Be grateful for what you have and stop wishing for what you don’t have. Do what it takes to be present to others, as Jesus has made himself present to us.
To keep this theme going we wanna look at another part of the gospels that helps us see how God was and is present, and how he calls us to be just as present to others around us.
For this we go to John 1. This fist chapter in John’s gospel is so special. No matter how many times I read it, it absolutely blows my mind. What we learn, how it makes me feel, how we’re invited to jump in and apply it.
John’s gospel isn’t quite like the others. Some say it’s like a pool that is safe enough for a child, but deep enough for an adult. This first chapter on it’s own is meant to helps us get to know who you’re about to meet before the story even begins.
Let’s read it…
(1-14) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
“In the beginning” (starts better than Matthew’s gospel does). Kind of like a children’s story, ‘once upon a time’.
You can’t help but think of Genesis. That’s on purpose. John wants to you to travel back in time – a time where God left his undeniable finger print on the world. He made the world. Creation. In the Beginning!!!
Here, just like in the beginning, God is acting in a new way within his much loved creation.
- Genesis = humans becoming humans
- John = God becoming human
John uses “WORD” to describe Jesus. The VOICE, you might say…
Already, John is hinting at something…
- You’re going to get to know Jesus by his words, his voice, his actions, just like you do other people…
- You’re going to get to know God through his voice…speaking, teaching, healing, helping, restoring…
I have a twin…I sound like my twin…he sounds like me…if my brother calls you, you might just start talking to him without realizing it’s not me…we sound the same…nuances are similar too…still to this day…very strange and cool at the same time…mostly strange 🙂
John is saying…when you hear Jesus talk, it sounds like God…but this isn’t a twin thing…it’s actually God, present, on earth, fully here, being God. The theme of this gospel, and especially these first verses are this: If you wanna know who the true God is, look long and look hard at Jesus. Listen to Jesus.
Three things about Jesus that John wants us to know:
– He is the light of the world (remember Genesis, let there be light)
– He is full of grace
– He is full of truth
Ironically, these are three things we appreciate in Jesus as he is present to us
– makes darkness go away
– loves me even if I don’t deserve it or can’t earn it
– tells me the truth
I love that about Jesus.
I love that about my friends too. When someone is present with you, fully engaged and awake to the moments they are spending with us, they bring a certain brightness (& warmth) to the room, they fill the room with grace, and they’re willing to tell me the truth (in love).
Who is our best example of this? JESUS.
John says…this is who Jesus is…but essentially, this is who GOD is!!! AND…HE’s HERE!!! PRESENT WITH YOU!
But that’s not all we get from this. Somebody else is very present in this story – John the Baptist.
He’s the one who tells us that Jesus is coming. He gives us the heads up, he’s the witness, it’s through him that others would find out and believe in Jesus. That’s a big deal. That’s also a big responsibility.
John was considered a wanderer, a nomad, a rough and tough kind of guy. He was far from perfect, yet he was instrumental to introducing the world to Jesus…to God.
How’s that possible? Think about this, John, Mary, Joseph, others in the birth narrative…none of them were perfect. But one thing they were was PRESENT.
John and the others were present, so that the world would know that GOD was present.
John’s role is help people STOP, LOOK & LISTEN.
We say this about art, and music, and creative things: they don’t only get our attention, but they help us to be aware of what else is right in front of us. John’s role in this story is like the artist who helps us pay attention to what’s really important. He does that by simply being present and doing what he was called to do, in the moment. Like art, John the Baptist frames the moment, so the world is aware that there is something to be looking at.
That’s our role too – to be present and aware to the moments we’re given, so that we don’t miss what God might be doing in us, through us, or in others, for us.
Fredrick Beuchner says it like this: The world is a manger, where God is being born again and again and again. You’ve got your mind on so many other things – busy with this and that, you don’t see it. You don’t notice it.
May we be like John the Baptist, not perfect, but present. Not well-kept, but well-awake. Not trying to be someone else, but being faithful to being who God called him to be, in that moment, in that frame, in the season – so others could STOP, LOOK, & LISTEN.
The ancient Greeks believed in two kinds of time: Chronos time & Kairos time. One is quantitative, the other is qualitative. One is spent, the other is invested. One is used up, the other is used well. You have one life to live folks. Let’s be careful not to miss the moments God gives us, with him, for him, with others, for others.
You don’t have to be perfect, you only have to be present.
What’s distracting you from seeing God’s presence right in front of you?
What’s got your attention away from the most important moment or conversation that’s right in front you?
Will you pray this season for God to help you be present, in the right here, and the right now, as he was and is?
The word became flesh…and moved into my space. Can I be as present to others, as he has been and is to me?
Christmas is known for lots of wonderful things. We must admit, there is something magical about it all. If you know the story or not, you simply get caught up in the season. JOY, PEACE, GENEROSITY, etc. It’s good isn’t it? It’s almost as if the goodness of Jesus, unknowingly leaks out into the world.
However, there are two SINs associated with this season as well: Gluttony & Pride. If we’re not careful, instead of appreciation and love, we feel entitlement and false expectations. Instead of gratefulness for what we have, we feel longing for what we don’t need.
Over the next few weeks, we’d love to walk through this season of advent with a healthy perspective of both the beauty in Jesus’ story & our stories. Jesus’ story of advent & arrival. Our story of becoming & really living out each moment.
Think about it – What is the best gift we can receive? PRESENCE. And what is the best gift we can give? PRESENCE.
In light of that, here’s the line we want you to remember this December:
This Christmas, try being present over perfect. Appreciate where you are instead of wishing you were somewhere else. Be grateful for what you have and stop wishing for what you don’t have. Do what it takes to present to others, as Jesus has made himself present to us.
It’s the gospels that introduce this grand idea to us. It’s the gospels that let us in on Jesus’ plan to be present to us. The story of Christmas is the story of Jesus, moving into the neighbourhood (as Eugene Peterson paraphrases so well), and being WITH the WORLD…in the HERE & NOW.
A great place to start this month is at the beginning of the NT, Matthew’s gospel. Normally stories start with somewhat of a hook – something that interests us and grabs our attention to keep tuning in. Matthew’s gospel doesn’t really do this. He decides to start with a genealogy. Seriously? This is how you start the life changing account of Jesus? With a family tree?
You’ve all seen the commercials? Ancestry.com? For a small fee, you can know where and who you’re really from. There’s obviously some interest in this – the commercials have been running for quite a long time. I do like one thing about it: With this information, we might realize how closely tied we are to others. (not as different as we think) It also helps us see that we’re part of a larger story, one that led us to this particular moment in history
Back to Matthew’s Genealogy. Don’t fret…You don’t have to read it here (FYI…it’s long). But I want to point a few things out…
- This list provides context for the birth of Jesus
- It provides names of real people in real time that are a part, in some way to Jesus’ story
- There are people on this list who are considered giants of faith…others who aren’t as recognizable
- It took all kinds of people, over many years, to bridge the gap from Abraham…all the way to Jesus.
Why make this the beginning of a book you actually want people to read? Because the end of this family tree ends with one very important thing – Jesus is HERE!
Matthew wants us to know that Jesus’ story is about the arrival of a KING and a KINGDOM. And that King isn’t just a far off leader, but someone who makes his way to be right here right now.
Matthew also wants us to know that even though Jesus was perfect, his lineage was far from perfect.
- Jacob was a deceiver
- Rahab was a prostitute
- David…he made some serious errors
- Solomon…loved money and woman a bit too much
- Others in the list weren’t perfect either
What was more important was that Jesus was connected to a longer story, one that starts in Genesis and will eventually ends in Revelation. The point is this: a way was made for GOD to be present. Mathew gives us context for Jesus’ arrival.
Read a little further in this chapter and we get to a major announcement… (Matthew 1:18-23)
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Mary is to have a child, his name is Emmanuel, which means…GOD WITH US – God is Present.
Over the next few weeks we’re also going to talk about how we must be more concerned with being present, and less concerned with being perfect. Our history, like Matthew’s genealogy, isn’t perfect, but it did get us to this point – a place where God wants us to be. HERE. PRESENT. So just like Jesus, our story needs to be about Presence. He is our example of what it means to live in the HERE and the NOW.
Too often, we get so caught up with having every detail of Christmas perfect, and miss out on the most important part of this story: Jesus is present with us, and he calls us to be present with others.
It might sound crazy, but Christmas is about TODAY. It’s about Jesus being present TODAY. His work is about helping us being present to each other. Paul helps us see this in Ephesians 2:13-18,
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Advent ushers in this reality…
- God is close
- He wants to make us close
- We have access to his presence
- His presence can tear down any wall between us and allow us to be present with each other
That…is a Christmas gift to the world.
Ask yourself these questions today and over the next few weeks…
- How do you long for, appreciate, and receive God’s Presence? (advent reading)
- How are you present to others in light of God’s presence in your life?
- Do you see your story as one that leads to you being HERE, right NOW, on THIS DAY?
This prayer might help us: Lord, to be rooted in place takes commitment to land, to people, to friends and family, to community and to the plight of our neighbourhoods. Being rooted (present) is no easy task, but you demonstrated this to us in your incarnation. Give us the courage to taking up the hard task of knowing you while standing in place. (and being present to others) Amen.