Daily Archives: December 20, 2020

The Season of Christmas

 

adam_williams_fine_art_madonna_and_child_1250427034625Christmas is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh (the Latin “in carne” means “enfleshment”). This is a uniquely Christian teaching, the Divine choosing to become one of us. God is not only Transcendent, but also wholly Immanent, Emmanuel (God-with-us). We celebrate how that was accomplished through the miraculous virgin birth of his Son.

While God is Immanent he also remains Transcendent. We must rise above ourselves to meet him fully. This can only be done through the blood of Jesus. The  wonderful mystery of Emmanuel is that God is with us as we rise toward Him. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit and dwells in our hearts. Thus an understanding of both Christmas and Easter is required to comprehend the Christian faith.

How do we celebrate the Christmas Season? The secular celebration of the Season seems to begin the day after Thanksgiving or even sooner, depending on the decisions of today’s retail stores. The Season lasts until Christmas Day when all those presents many of us have dutifully bought are delivered, after which the Christmas tree is often quickly removed so that our homes can return to some sort of normalcy.

The liturgical church on the other hand celebrates the Season Christmas differently. It begins with anticipation, as we prepare ourselves during the Season of Advent for the arrival of the Christ Child. The celebration of the Christmas Season begins with a Eucharistic celebration on Christmas Eve (called the Christ Mass in the Roman Catholic Church) from which the name Christmas is derived. The Christmas Season concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, twelve days later.

During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and we reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Jesus. The consecration of this gift is later celebrated on Resurrection Sunday, observing the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died for us,  paying the price of our sins, so that we may be raised with him to newness of life.

Christmas and Easter go together. We receive the gift they offer by God’s grace through faith. What greater gift could we possibly receive? Let us not neglect such a great salvation. Amen.

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Saint Thomas, Apostle

jesusthomasdoubt1The Righteous Will Live by Faith

Saint Thomas the Apostle is remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” That may be a little unfair to him. To be sure, he was a skeptic concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

No one had ever been raised from the dead before. Thomas was confused about the mission of Jesus. On the other hand, Thomas was a faithful disciple. He was willing to sacrifice for what he believed was the cause of Christ. As Jesus was speaking about going to Jerusalem, which proved to be his last trip there, Thomas was aware of the danger involved:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”   (John 11:16)

Following Jesus is not easy. Many churches preach a Gospel that is without cost on the part of believers. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, but there is little talk about the cross which we must take up daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

We must be prepared to make sacrifices if we are to live out the faith in our day. This is especially true in our nation today. Are we willing to go the distance?

Thomas was willing to go the distance. From today’s reading from Hebrews:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”   (Hebrews 10:35-38)

During times of test and trials, are we will to stand our ground for the Lord? We will if we have a vision that God has given us to embrace. If we do not have a vision then we must ask God for one. It is in the difficult times that our vision is most clarified, provided that we seek God and His Word, and provided that we are willing to wait on His response.

From today’s Old Testament reading:

I will stand at my watchpost and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets , so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:1-4)

Living by faith is trusting in God without seeing around the next corner. Jesus has gone ahead of us and He is leading us. Are we willing to follow? Thomas was willing. When he realized that Jesus had risen from the dead he said: “My Lord and my God!”

According to Eusebius’ record, Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India. Saint Thomas was allegedly martyred at St.Thomas Mount, in Chennai, in 72 A.D July 3rd, and his body was interred in Mylapore. It was said that his ministry led to numerous conversions to Christ. He had been transformed from doubt to great faith and works of the Gospel. The challenge is to live by faith regardless of the circumstances.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Building the House of David

King David wanted to do something for God. He wanted to build him a house. In today’s Old Testament reading we find him telling this to the prophet Nathan:

When the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”   (2 Samuel 7:1-3)

David was probably not prepared for God’s response to his plan. God had to correct what Nathan had said:

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.   (2 Samuel 7:4-11, 16)

The psalmist celebrated this word from God:

Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:

‘I will establish your line for ever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”   (Psalm 89:1-4)

God told David that he would build him a house and not the other way around. The house that God would build for David was an everlasting kingdom. No other kingdoms on the earth have been everlasting. How would God would accomplish this? Reading from today’s Gospel:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.   (Luke 1:26-35)

Jesus would “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” He would reign over the house of David. The throne of David would be extended through him. His kingdom would be an ever lasting kingdom. Reading from the Book of Revelation:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”   (Revelation 11:15)

Have we ever wondered what we could do for God to please him? The good news of the Gospel is that we have already pleased him by believing in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not what we can do for God, but what God will do for us, if we will allow him.

God was going to do an extraordinary miracle through Mary, which had never been done before. She could not have fully understood what God was promising, but she was willing to believe the angel and gave herself entirely to God by saying:

“Be it unto me according to thy word.”   (Luke 1:38)

Do we want to do something pleasing to God? What could we possible do for him, other than believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and following his path? Why would we want to do something more? Perhaps it is because we do not understand that God is the giver and the doer?

Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.   (James 1:17-18)

Perhaps we do not believe that we are worthy of his gifts? The Apostle wrote:

But your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God. All of this was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also done by the Spirit of our God.   (1 Corinthians 6:11)

God wants to bless us. He wants to do extraordinary things through us. He has great things in store for us. The Apostle Paul wrote:

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.   (Ephesians 2:4-10)

Will we be able to say, like Mary: “Be it unto me according to thy word? We have a place in his lasting kingdom. He has created us for that place and he wants to bless us into that place. Are we ready? Advent is about getting ready

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