The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant...I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They'll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I'll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I'll forget they ever sinned!"
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:46-55)
So, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!
And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”
“Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” (Exodus 20:19-20)
The people are afraid of God talking to them. Moses paradoxically tells them not to be afraid, but to remain fearful of God in order that they live right.
As we wait in Advent, we anticipate Christ's coming. We long to be able to talk directly with Him. We know we don't need to be afraid. After all, He came as a baby. One of us. Lowly and humble.
But maybe we need to regain some of the healthy fear. Not that we live in constant fear of obeying God so that we don't get punished, but a healthy fear like what occurs in a healthy relationship between parent and child. The child obeys the parent's instructions ("drive safely," "don't go to that party," "be home by eleven") because they know their parent gives them those directions out of love--that they want them to live well.
So, in the midst of waiting, as we look at how Christ calls us to live, let us look at God's commands as ways He shows His love to us. And let us obey, not out of fear, but out of love fore Him as well.
Be prepared. It matters how you wait.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The waiting is the hardest part" - "The Waiting" by Tom Petty
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, thou long expected Jesus, Born to set your people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art: Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. Born your people to deliver, Born a child, and yet a king, Born to reign in us for ever, Now your gracious kingdom bring. By your own eternal spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By your all sufficient merit Raise us to your glorious throne. Charles Wesley
We celebrated his birthday today by going to the Mall of America to take advantage of Nickelodeon Universe's free birthday wristband. It was his first real time in a theme park. He loved riding on most of the rides (the haunted house was too scary, even though they provided guns to shoot the ghosts, and the log ride was too much of a drop and too wet). He was also given a coupon book which provided a free cookie and ice cream cone later. We ran across the road to Ikea to have the birthday meal Nils asked for: a hot dog. He got to play mini golf for free--which he was really wanting to do. And we even saw Santa Claus (he was there for a photo shoot on one of the rides).
I get to spend almost every day with my son, but it was fun to get to watch him enjoy a new experience. It was fun just to celebrate. Sometimes he may test my patience, and sometimes I get upset when I keep stepping on toys that don't get picked up, but I love the kid. Thanks for the past four years, Nils. I love you.
I love baptism for the remembrance it brings: that my old self has been buried, and I am a new creation in Christ. Tonight Pastor Jan pointed out how baptism is an external sacrament, affecting your whole outside (at least in immersion where all of a person gets wet); then we celebrated communion, an internal sacrament. The outward is cleansed in the water; the inner is rinsed with wine (coincidentally, Jesus' first miracle involved water and wine). In the beginning of creation, the Spirit hovered over the waters. At Jesus' baptism, the Spirit descended as He arose from the waters.
Baptism is a huge reminder of God's grace. Our sins are washed clean; only He can do that for us. Christ invites us to follow Him, dying to our own will and living in the fullness of life which He offers.
Before our worship and baptism time, we were invited to reflect on our own baptisms and God's grace in our lives. We were invited to write some reminder of our status as God's beloved on a ribbon and have someone tie it around our wrist while they reminded us "You are God's beloved."
The name "David" comes from the Hebrew word for beloved. I think I've written before about how I sometimes struggle with feeling unconditionally loved. But that's what God does. My name is even a reminder of my status with him. Not sinner (though I am). Not saint (though he makes me). Not failure or nobody or shame. Beloved. I was chosen by Him. Nothing I can do can change His love for me.
Tonight during our time of communion, one of the servers (our pastor's husband), invited Anders to come help him serve the juice. It was a joy to watch him hold the cup while others came to dip their piece of bread in it.
Earlier Anders and I were at the communion table together with a few others. I watched as adults broke off a piece of bread and gave it to the child next to them, and then the child breaking of a piece of bread giving it to the next adult. "The bread of life given to you." Then it was my turn to kneel down and accept a piece of bread from Anders. The same Anders that I had been frustrated with and yelled at this morning for not wanting to wear any of the pants that were in his drawer (I was trying to get him to dress nicely, too, so we could take some pictures today). The same Anders I got to hold hands with as we walked through the zoo. My performance doesn't entirely effect how he loves me (though there are moments when he'll say he doesn't love me if he's particularly mad right then). Grace is freely given. I can choose to freely accept it.
The waters of baptism, the communion table and even my name were all reminders tonight of God's grace. I have his free and unmerited favor. Not because of anything I have done (the sacraments may be reminders of grace, but I do not earn grace because of doing them), but because God has chosen me to be His child. He chooses each of us. Sometimes we just need those little (or big!) reminders that we are His beloved.