Encouragement, which comes in many forms, is necessary for healthy and faithful relationships. We have the ability to encourage another by offering affirmation. And yet, sometimes we should not be affirmed. At times, our encouragement needs not to show up as affirmation, but to show up in the form of exhortation, where we are encouraging others to live more faithfully.
It may be Easter in exile, but we are not left on our own to fend for ourselves. We are empowered by the risen Christ to claim that new life, eternal love, and God’s glory are designed for all people. This means not only feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and offering our thoughts and prayers to those who are harmed by the sin of racism; it also means doing the hard work of leading systemic change that keeps people hungry, keeps people homeless, and inequitably causes harm to communities of color.
The Advent and Christmas Seasons are simply the best because the music is the best. The music is built upon a message of hope, promised in the gift of Christ. “Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming” is a hymn that reminds us of that promise, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
To understand Paul’s writings, you have to understand the art of letter writing. Paul wasn’t writing a collection of instruction books for the whole of Christianity, he was writing as an apostolic leader to communities of faith he planted. How we understand his writings will be wholly dependent on how we understand why he wrote.
What we really have here is a parable about a persistent and vindictive widow who was willing to do whatever it took to get her way … and an unjust narcissistic judge who changed a legal ruling for fear of his own safety. The parables aren’t as straight forward and clean as we want them to be, and for good reason, to challenge us to greater faithfulness.
The celebration of Christmas is about a reminder that the world today does not need a new savior. We have a Savior, and he doesn’t live in a gold-adorned high-rise.
In this season of Advent, we may want to question if we have put too much attention toward the temporary and seasonal gifts, bows, trees, parties, and lights. But perhaps getting rid of them is not the most faithful way.
Whether you have found yourself in a role similar to the religious elite, addicted to lure of power and ‘rightness,’ or you have found yourself in the shoes of the condemned, addicted to sinful joys, like that of physical desire, Jesus says you are given new life and a new hope in the love of God.
We sit in wonder of the same things as the people of Israel who were scattered in exile: for truly as a people – as a nation and as a community – we are broken and we are yearning for a new promise of hope.