Tag Archives: Advent

Advent and Work: Insights from the Nativity for Pastors

Jews and Christians celebrate the good works of the Creator, from the macro- and microcosmos to the intricacies of the human person being shaped in their mother’s womb (Psalms 19 and139). Ancient Israel was encouraged to remember the works of the Lord (Isaiah 40-43) and Christians are focused the central work of Jesus: his death on the Cross and victorious resurrection (I Corinthians 15). 

The Advent story reveals three further attributes of God’s work that can help us in ours. The first is God’s motivation for the Incarnation: love. This agape disposition of desiring the highest good for others and sacrificially laboring for their welfare is the foundation for all of God’s works (John 3:16). As we go to work, do we love our colleagues and customers, even the nasty ones? God does. Do we offer our labor as worship, or merely getting by until the weekend (Colossians 3:17-24)?

The second attribute is humility. As Pastor Justin Buzzard has said in a recent article at Made to Flourish (www.madetoflourish.org/resources), humility is the one thing God honors. In contrast, pride brings divine resistance! As we go about our work, are we celebrating others, helping advance the mission apart from our position, and seeking god’s glory and the good of others? Humility is not self-hatred; it is sober reflection on ourselves and warm affection for others (Romans 12:3-8).

God’s Advent work teaches us another lesson for our daily duties: The Lord loves using all kinds of beautiful and broken people to accomplish his work in the world. Matthew and Luke’s Nativity narratives display humble women, poor shepherds, aged prayer warriors, and an overwhelmed couple willing to accept the Lord’s word in the midst of familial and social misunderstanding (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). Can we see past status and learn from anyone, even helping others realize their potential at our expense?

Love, humility, and a willingness to learn from anyone will help our daily work be infused with adventure and meaning, even as we wrestle with boredom, repletion, imperfect systems, and selfish people. God is the First Worker (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 33) and he models actions and attitudes worthy of our aspirations. Practically, we can live these principles as we pray for others, model good teamwork, and encourage all around us. 

Advent and Anthropology: True Equality and Honor for Women

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke have extensive birth narratives with the young, betrothed Jewish woman name Mary as the focus of God’s grace and self-disclosure to the world. Luke’s Gospel carries this theme of empowerment and equality forward with the list of women that funded the mission of Jesus next to the list of his first disciples (Luke, chapter 8). In almost every passage with parables, Luke has a woman and a man as the focus of Jesus’ illustrative teaching (see Luke, chapter 15). And in all the gospels, women are the first to see the Risen Christ and share the good news.

Throughout history, there are godly women in all vocations who proclaimed the gospel, ruled empires, led communities, pioneered new ministries, and raised families. The great 4th century Cappadocian Fathers were discipled by Macrina the Elder and Macrina the Younger. Hildegard of Bingen confronted bishops and popes, offered deep scientific and theological insights, and composed amazing poems and songs in a medieval era if systemic inequality. Eleanor of Aquitaine astonished all around her. From the 1800s to the present, courageous female leaders have served the vulnerable, fought for justice, started businesses, and made the world a better place. Think of Dorothy Day, Catholic social reformer, Margaret Thatcher, Methodist Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mother Teresa, prophet for the poor, and many others. There stories are often buried under the weight of a dominant patriarchal culture.

It is time for all thoughtful persons to end ungodly and unprincipled sexism and affirm the equality of all persons and the gifts that each one brings to our world. This is not eliminating male and female differences or opening the door to confusion. In our responses to the anarchistic anthropologies of our day, we must not react with unjust subcultural responses, confusing truth with particular cultural or historical gender roles. In the end, we are catching up to the divine image bestowed by the Creator.

December 24: Advent Reflections, Part 2: Enjoying Faith, Family and Friends

A Poem for Christmas Eve
Candlelit church services with wiggly children;
Warmth around a fireplace.
Last minute creating and cooking, shopping and wrapping;
Poignant memories of departed loved ones.

Meals served to thousands without a home;
Grace encounters as Christ comes clothed with gratitude.
The kettle bells ring one more day;
Families brave the weather to visit friends in need.

Divine love comes wrapped in swaddling clothes;
A Virgin Mother nurses her Creator and Redeemer.
Longings for peace arise in hearts;
The Prince of Peace comes near.

A Merry Christmas to all!