And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
*********** Click Here for Be Still, Remember, an original hymn text for the renewal of baptismal vows
It was a Roman custom that the birth of a Roman emperor was announced by great poets and orators with declarations of joy, peace, and prosperity. The announcement of the birth of the Savior of of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was announced by heaven itself. First a herald angel, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Then a multitude of the heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
It is a Cross-shaped announcement. First out – great joy for all people, a Savior, the Messiah. Then up- the Lord. Then up- glory to God in the highest heaven. Then out- and on earth peace.
The angels don’t visit Mary and Joseph that night. They’ve already had their angel visits and are busy with the birth. They don’t visit the high priest, King Herod, Quirinius, or Emperor Augustus. The powerful already think they are favored.
The angels proclaim the birth of the Savior of the world to shepherds, a group who is definitely not thought of as favored. It’s one of the worst jobs of the ancient world. Shepherds are stereotyped as lazy and dishonest because they often live off land belonging to others and care for flocks belonging to others. They were known as smelly, poor, homeless, uneducated, powerless.
Folks laughed at the idea of a “good shepherd,” an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. Yet David of Bethlehem was one long before he was king and long before he was promised his throne would never end and long before he was promised the Messiah would be his ancestor.
The babe in the manger will be one, too. Our Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will lay down his life for the sheep.
We’re the sheep. We’re the rag tag shepherds. The message is for them and for us.
“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord….Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
This Good News is for us and all people.
This Good News is to bring us great joy, lasting joy, joy beyond circumstance.
This Good News is that we we have a Savior, so we can stop trying to save ourselves and stop thinking we can’t possibly be saved.
This Good News is that we have a leader and Lord who is trust-worthy and thus worthy to be followed.
This Good News is that God gives us peace in Christ Jesus.
Wait. What? Peace?
The time of Jesus’ birth was a time of occupation and oppression, not peace. Bethlehem was overflowing with Roman military carrying out a mandated migration and registration.
Our age is not a time of peace. School shootings, mass incarceration, cyber attacks, human trafficking, misuse of power, economic insecurity and uncertainty, terrorism, war. Our world is more and more angry, corrupt, and violent. This is the age of Aleppo.
We think of peace
1. as the absence of worry- good health, financially secure, all is well with those I love.
2. as the absence of conflict, injustice, and war
Jesus, the night of the last supper, the night before he gave himself up for us said,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. —John 14.27
Sounds like the Angels’ song. Do not be afraid. You’ve been given a Son, a Savior, The Lord God in the flesh. You’ve been given peace.
Peace isn’t about absence. It’s about presence. We are given the Son, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. God is with us.
Peace in Hebrew is Shalom. Shalom means fullness; having everything you need to be whole, to be yourself. The Angels’ song is that peace is not the absence of war. Peace is not health, wealth, all is well with those I love. Even if we somehow find it, it doesn’t last, it doesn’t save us, doesn’t make us whole.
Peace not the absence of struggle and suffering, but the presence of God who is Love. God’s presence in us brings fullness and wholeness, the literal meaning of salvation. God’s presence brings the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love, joy, and peace – the three themes of the Angels’ song. The presence of Jesus is the present of peace.
Peace I Give You by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Imagine Jesus saying this to you…
I give you the quiet peace of this present moment: without hurry, fear or need to be elsewhere, but right here, right now, as you are, at rest.
I give you the strong peace of yourself: the peace of forgiveness and my delight in who you are, with no need to prove yourself or do better.
I give you the vibrant peace of oneness with all living things, the peace of deep belonging, and reconciliation with all people
I give you the life-giving peace of my own spirit, my love, trust and courage beating in your heart, my presence in your soul.
I give you the joyous peace of trust— trust in your life and its goodness, trust in the Beloved and your belovedness
I give you the renewing peace of healing, of blessing hidden even in struggle and pain, of trust that even in suffering all shall be well.
I give not as the world gives, from the outside, but from within, by your being created, and it cannot be taken away. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Prayer from Prepare the Way by Pamela C. Hawkins
I want to be at peace, O God,
protector of the frightened,
refuge for the wandering.
I want to speak for peace, O Christ,
hope whispered to the bruised,
welcome sung to the embattled.
I want to live in peace, O Spirit,
forgiveness in my heart,
kindness in my hands;
I want to be at peace, O God
This is my Advent prayer. Amen.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
Matthew 1:18-25 NRSV
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Prayer: You Are Near
Holy Comforter, you are near when my dream dies. You are near the brokenhearted. Thanks be to you for a new dream and a future beyond my imagining.
Maker of Miracle, you are near when I cannot see your will. When a good choice, even a merciful choice, is not your choice. Thanks be to you for correction and clarity.
Divine One, you are near when I dismiss the holy. When I say no to your call. Thanks be to you for your patience, your persevering grace, and second chances.
O come, O come Emmanuel, strengthen me with the promise of your steadfast presence and saving love, set my heart and step to your righteousness ends. Amen
This prayer was adapted from a post by Steve Garnaas Holmes on his wonderful site, Unfolding Light. A single voice reads the regular print while all present read the bold print. (2 Timothy 1:6) Consider following this liturgy with each person lighting a candle or striking a match. – Lisa <><
You have a treasure in you,
a seed of glory planted from stars,
a song written for only you to sing.
You have gifts to give.
The treasure is buried,
and it may take some digging to recover.
The song is forgotten,
but still hidden in your bones.
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you.
Nothing that happens to you
can remove it, no fear or shame
destroy it, no failure ruin it.
It is who you are.
Rekindle the gift.
Listen for the quiet voice,
the Spirit of Life
singing in you.
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you.
Listen… and sing.
Tune your life to its melody.
Let it sing in you,
let it sing you into life.
Rekindle the gift
that is God within you.
Give God this joy— for it is
God who is singing.
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you.
Be sure to check out another wonderful prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes on the theme of spiritual gifts entitled Not Lacking based on 1 Corinthians 1:4-7.