From the Pastor December 2023

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for see, 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.’” Luke 2:10-11 NRSV

My eyes grew wide with excitement as I walked the dairy aisle at a local store a few weeks ago. In the midst of grabbing our usual items, I took notice of a quart-size bottle which read “eggnog.” I know there are plenty of people who can do without the stuff, but, for me, it’s been a staple of the Christmas season for as long as I can remember. That may seem unusual for a guy who professes not to care for eggs, but, for this sweet, creamy concoction, I’ll make an exception. The appearance of the eggnog (which seems earlier each year) is a reminder something’s coming, something special. It’s not summer vacation or Valentine’s Day; it’s Christmas. I can hardly believe I’m writing these words as it feels like I did something similar a few months ago. As I write, the beginning of Advent is still a few weeks into the future, but it’s coming. It’s a time to get our hearts and heads ready for the arrival of the King.

Early in my ministry, a group of children presented a Christmas program entitled “A King Is Coming to Town.” It’s a musical which captures the excitement of the people of Rumor’s Mill who discover an anonymously placed sign which reads: “A King Is Coming to Town.” Of course, everyone has their ideas about who this king might be. Could he be the “King of Rock and Roll?” Maybe he is the “King of the Jungle.” Or, perhaps, he might be the king of a foreign land. The musical works through the townspeople’s misconceptions of a king and eventually brings them to experience Jesus’ birth. While that may seem like a fun and enjoyable Christmas program, the storyline is quite relatable to all of us. We each have expectations of what Christmas should be like. The stockings must be “hung by the chimney with care.” Our Christmas feast needs to include everyone’s favorites. All of the shopping should to be completed and gifts wrapped by a certain time. But, for what reason? Because Christmas is coming? Or, because Someone is coming?

In the well-known passage from Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, we hear “to you is born…a Savior, who is the Messiah…” We can visualize the angelic message to the nightshift shepherds as they tended the sheep entrusted to them. Common yet hard working. Shunned by the ritual purists of Judaism yet favored to receive such divine communication. The Messiah, meaning “Anointed One” in Hebrew, had arrived and they were amongst the first to know of the good news. When the Jewish people thought of the Messiah, their minds were taken back to the days of a United Kingdom (before Israel and Judah separated) and to the leadership of King David. He was chosen by God and identified as “a man after God’s own heart.” David may have been the second monarch for Israel, but he was a model for Godly leadership, the kind of leadership which God’s people had dreamt of ever since. Following the deaths of David and his son Solomon, things were never the same for God’s people. The kingdom was divided and the people’s leadership became a revolving door of kings, many who were known for “doing evil in the sight of the Lord.” The Jews held on for something better. They longed for one who would set things right in their world.

Into this world entered Jesus. As Paul stated to the Romans, “at the right time Christ died.” We might also take this statement back about thirty years and say, “at the right time Christ came.” He took on human skin, dwelt among us, and showed us a different/better way to be God’s people. Even as we acknowledge Christ having already entered into our world, we anticipate such a time that he will return. When might that be? Your guess is as good as mine. But, maybe we don’t have to wait! The words of Phillips Brooks’ carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” come to mind:

“How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.”

Are you ready?

Together in the Advent Journey,

The Reverend Kelley Smart