given on November 29, 2015, the first Sunday of Advent
Scripture foundation from The Message
- Joel 2:12-14
- Jeremiah 2:19 and 33:14-16
- Luke 1:8-19, 26-38
Reflection in three parts
Welcome to Advent! The Christian season filled with anticipation, with hope, with love, with joy, and with peace. Around us the stores are filled with sparkling decorations and all the dazzling displays of products designed to capture our eyes. Even the weather decided to let us know a new season has arrived—at least here in the Midwest.
We are bombarded with messages that something is going to happen, and yet how often are we unprepared or even worse how often do we miss the message? Our lives become so filled with the business of living, that we miss the latest news reports or overlook a story in the paper. We need a personal messenger.
In the scripture from Joel, the message is to warn the people of Judah, which was the southern kingdom of Israel, of how bad things were. The people were prosperous and complacent; they took God for granted; they were self-centered and were turning to idolatry and sin. God was unhappy and would bring his judgment if the people did not repent and return to living by God’s law:
“Come back to me and really mean it!
Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”
13-14 Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to God, your God.
Here it is the first Sunday of Advent. Can we say that we are faithful? Joel’s words are part of the message God sends to us through the scripture.
Angels are messengers. Some may argue whether angels are real figures or simply a literary device to get the reader’s attention. Yet, angels are included in scripture and theologians have analyzed and studied the holy words. The conclusion is that angels are indeed part of God’s heavenly forces.
One reference, What Does the Bible Say About . . ., provides interesting facts and outlines the various references to angels in the Old and the New Testament:
- . . . angels are among the ministering spirits that serve God and the people. . .
- The Bible presents angels as real beings and provides limited information about them, but for the most part it leaves them veiled in mystery. Apparently God wants us to know reality extends beyond our normal perceptions, yet He does not want us to know too much about it.
- Angels are members of an order of heavenly beings who are superior to humans in power and intelligence. However, unlike God they are not all-powerful or all-knowing.
- . . . [angels] announce good news . . .
- . . . warn of coming dangers. . .
- . . . Angels played a particularly active role in the events surround Jesus’ birth, resurrection, and ascension.
The Advent lectionary includes one of the traditional prophecies of the coming Messiah. Found in Jeremiah is a reference to the angels serving as a messenger. God’s angel reminds the people that they can not run away from God, that you cannot ignore God:
Your evil ways will get you a sound thrashing, that’s what you’ll get.
You’ll pay dearly for your disloyal ways.
Take a long, hard look at what you’ve done and its bitter results.
Was it worth it to have walked out on your God?”
God’s Decree, Master God-of-the-Angel-Armies. . . .
The angels did whatever they could to warn us that our behaviors needed to change and to remain focused on God’s law. Are we following God’s law to love one another as we want to be loved or are we trying to run away, to be self-centered and complacent?
Angels visited two individuals in the Christmas story; to begin the Christmas story. First the angel came to tell Zachariah that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist, as we now refer to him. This baby was the cousin of Jesus but his role was to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
The second angel in the Christmas story visited Mary, the mother of Baby Jesus. He announced that she would be the mother of Jesus, God’s son. Her disbelief was quickly quieted as her faith assured her that the angel was from God. Her faith gave her the confidence to serve as the mother of Jesus.
The scriptures today all prepare us, thousands of years later, too. We are to review our own lives, our own actions, and our own hearts. Are we remaining faithful to God? Are we following the crowd, so to speak, and becoming more self-centered and complacent? Are we listening to our own angels who share God’s messages to us?
Advent is a season filled with hope. The human mind needs hope. In the commentary for this week’s lectionary, the need for hope is as important as the basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Hope is so important even in the worst situations. As Christians, we have a responsibility to keep hope alive.
As we move closer to Christmas, let’s use the Advent season to consider whether we are providing hope to others. What do we say that encourages one and another? What actions share hope with others? As a church, do we deliver messages of hope or are we trapped by despair?
Dear loving Father,
The season filled with anticipation is here.
We see angels in the decorations,
We hear angels in the holiday music.
We fight thousands of mixed emotions.
We feel despair as we find ourselves
Separated from You by the business of living.
We know we have traveled away from you
Rather than traveling with you.
Fill us with hope, with anticipation,
As we move through this Advent season.
Send your angels to guide us home to You.
Energize us with love so we can provide hope to others.
Thank you for patience for our wandering souls.
Thank you for angels found in scripture.
Thank you, too, for angels we meet daily.
Thank you for hope shared by angels of old and of new.
May we serve as messengers sharing hope with others.–Amen