Reflections on Advent: What is the Messiah All About?
The Gospel of Luke tells us that after Mary learned she would be the mother of God’s Messiah, she hurried to her relative Elizabeth, rejoicing with her at this news. Then, Luke writes a beautiful poem (Luke 1:46-55) to make it clear to the reader what the Messiah is all about. This poem has been set to music many times, and is known as the “Magnificat.” The lines come from various passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. After this article you will find the text andinformation on forth-coming materials for the Advent season.
Q: What is the Messiah all about?
A: God fulfilling on the promises of God’s reversals.
This fall we have explored some of those reversals at LPC:
Good news for the poor; Debts are forgiven; Captives are released;
The dead are raised; Enemies becomes neighbors; Oppressed are set free;
Invitation to all, not the few; The mighty are brought down.
This focus on God’s reversals has prepared us for the season of Advent. The birth of the Messiah is God’s light penetrating into darkness. The short list above points to these aspects of darkness: the darkness of poverty, indebtedness, captivity, death, hatred, oppression, exclusion and arrogance. We categorically name these as sin and fruit of sin. The church has done a good job of pronouncing the Messiah came to save sinners. However, as Pastor Rob Bell has pointed out, there is a misconception that the Messiah came to save sinners from a wrathful God. Looking deeply into the Gospel of Luke, which echoes the messages of the prophets of the Old Testament, we gain a deeper, wider, broader view. One way to put it is, the Messiah, on behalf of a merciful God came to save sinners from themselves. Hear the poetry expressing the Prophet Isaiah – these reversals are put to music and sung during Advent and Christmas:
Isaiah 40:3-5 (I’ve underlined examples of “reversals.”)
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 58:6-10 (These reversals drive the point. How many reversals can you find in this passage?)
The LORD says, “[This is] the kind of fasting [religious observance] I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke… to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; … Do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
In Luke 4:14-21, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, and gives his “inaugural speech,” declaring what the Messiah is all about. Luke teases us by only including the first two verses of Isaiah 61, so I have added one more verse for you here — you will want to read all 11 verses. They describe the healing that comes when we welcome the power of the Sovereign Lord. Instead of despairing and maligning each other, we are raised to a free and generative life together. When we take delight in the Lord our God, we become that which pleases God — as if we and God are beloved spouses. We are adorned with right-relationships and feasting rather than injustice and famine. And when this happens, it is impressive – like giant oak trees, strong and sure, we are inspiring to all who witness this transformative work of God. The Messiah, the work of Christ, is all about growing such oaks! Here’s the passage Jesus reads in Luke 4:
Isaiah 61:1-3 (And how many reversals do you find here?)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
So dear oaks, displaying the splendor of the Lord, as you go through Advent and Christmas of 2018, look for examples in your everyday life that remind you of the reversals God is cultivating. Mountains are made low, so you are not stopped by any intimidating climb. Rough ways are made smooth when you “get off your high horse,” and be more merciful, forgive. Mourning is turned to joy over time, allowing a new scar to give new shape and meaning to your joy. Being released from bitterness allows healing and love to enter again. Self-pity is abandoned, so new, unexpected life can take form.
The coming of the Messiah at Christmas is a story of our inner journey – the understanding and expansion we experience. There is nothing foreign about the ancient prophets’ proclamations – the human condition was as familiar to them as it is to us. They recognized the need for something outside of themselves, beyond their understanding, and they also recognized that this “something” was not out of reach, but was actually already saving, mending, correcting, reconciling and creating new life in and around them. And so the nature of God is described in allegory and story as the divine source and providing spouse of humanity.
The journey is not all bells and flowers. This divine Source and Provider of the Old Testament and Jesus Christ are fierce about that ancient foe, Evil. The Messiah enters hardship and suffering – which is why the victorious coming of the Messiah cannot be separated from his cruel death. And the cruel death has no meaning without the resurrection. We ask, what we are, that God would take such steps? Christmas is not limited to celebrating that a Savior once came to reverse evil in the world, but that the Messiah continues to come and we continue to kill him, and the Messiah lives again. This is the life of God, and though a mystery, it points to what we are becoming.
Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning.
You shepherds, shudder not with fright,
But hear the angels’ warning:
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be.
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.
Your INVITATION from LPC’s Evangelism Team
Did you know that Christmastime is the best time to invite friends to church?
According to a survey by LifeWay Research:
57% of people responded “YES” – they would go to church
with a friend if invited at Christmastime!
We are inviting you to think of friends who aren’t active in a church and might like to join us at LPC during the Advent season and Christmas…
- neighbors and co-workers
- classmates and friends
- acquaintances from the gym or sports teams
- others you think of
After thinking of someone, consider praying about your invitation…
- that your words will sound inviting to them
- that they will welcome your invitation
- that they will seriously consider your invitation
- that they will even accept your invitation
Consider including lunch following a worship service or something else special to do together.
Invitation Cards are provided in the back of the sanctuary. This version is for LPC’s “Longest Night” service. Another version provides information about LPC worship services during December, including Christmas Eve. (LPC info is on back of cards.)
For those who struggle with the holidays
Have you lost a loved one?
Are you suffering from illness, loneliness, unemployment, broken relationships?
You are not alone…
Come join us for prayers, scripture and music sharing
God’s loving presence with all who mourn & struggle.
All are welcome.
December 21 at 7:00 pm
Lincroft Presbyterian Church
Casual dress. Short service. Light refreshments.
Raise Your Voices in Song
Sunday, December 9, 12:00 PM
Any Questions Contact: Lisa McCabe
Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC):
A Local and Global Way of Being Christian
The Fellowship of the Least Coin began in Asia, and now Christian women all over the world offer their least coins (e.g., the American penny) to accompany their prayers for the world. Presbyterian Women have been participating in FLC for decades. Liza B. Lamis, executive secretary of FLC, comments on this ministry: “I am fascinated by women who believe in the beauty of the small, in the value of minuteness, in the power of the least to create change and bring healing, joy and comfort to women and children who are struggling and those who are suffering. I am amazed by their creativity in showing connectedness to life where life is denied. They are creative in imagining ways to do mission, affirming the presence of a living and loving God, right where they are, and with what they have.” The following is the 2018 report of the distributions of the collection, reaching the farthest corners of need. LPC’s Women’s Bible Study and congregation contribute to this effort.
|Project Grants in 2018
Africa – $43,400
Leadership and Capacity Building
“Come and Grow With Us”
Women’s Empowerment Program,
Peace Building (conflict resolution,
Training on gender-based
Mobilization on Fighting
Strengthening the Capacity
Convalescence for Immigrant
NACW Conference 2016,
Leadership Development and
Programmes on Identity,
Women Leadership Development
Fruitful and Secure Life, Yangon,
Mauhom Shirt Project, Thailand,
Europe – $27,400
Conference on Trafficking,
Give Me Life, Armenia, $4,900
Regional Leadership Seminar for
Latin America – $43,600
Learning to Live, Chile, $5,000
Support for children and
Sew and Create: Social
Moving forward on Faith,
Leadership of Indigenous
Strengthening Women Living
School of Parents, Puerto Rico,
Middle East – $13,9000
Build Women’s Art and Crafts
Ayadina Association economic
North America – $20,000
LADO, Loulas Latinas, Oregon,
Hyannis Supporting Our Youth
Crime Victims Programs, U.S.A.,
Pacific – $9,000
Support for Women’s
“The Longest Night”
A service for those who struggle with the holidays
December 21 at 7:00 p.m.
Lincroft Presbyterian Church
Christmas can be a painful time for some. It may be the first Christmas without a loved family member who has recently died; it may be a time that has always been difficult.
The constant refrain on the radio and television, in shopping malls and churches, about the happiness of the season, about getting together with family and friends, reminds many people of what they have lost or have never had. The anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, the pain of isolation – all these can make us feel very alone in the midst of the celebrating and spending. We need the space and time to acknowledge our sadness and concern; we need to know that we are not alone.
Come out, and join with us in sharing and hearing prayers, scripture, and music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn, for those who struggle – and that God’s comes to shine light into our darkness. Everyone, regardless of church background (or lack of it) is welcome. Casual dress.
The short service will be followed by light refreshments.
Christmas Eve Service
Monday, December 24, 7:00 P.M.
Lincroft Presbyterian Church
Visit us at: 270 Everett Rd, Lincroft NJ 07738
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