I've been slacking off...so I'm posting them all at once!
The Baby Grew Up
Martin B. Cobenhaver
This passage is a reminder of who it is we await in this season. During Advent we tend to focus our anticipation on the sweet baby Jesus because, as every parent knows, we can see in an infant almost anything we want to see. And, besides, everyone loves a baby. This passage, however, reminds us of the mission of God’s anointed one, the Messiah.
When we read this passage during Advent it is a reminder that the baby grew up. He taught,
he challenged, he provoked, he healed, he liberated. We are never very good at letting babies grow up to the point where they have their own ideas and confront us with their own lives. A baby tends to turn things upside down and can be a bit of a challenge to have around. In the case of the baby Jesus, that is nothing compared to the ways in which the adult Jesus can disrupt and challenge us. Is it any wonder, then, that when Jesus read this passage at his home synagogue in Nazareth and said that the prophet was talking about him, the people who had known him since he was a baby chased him out of town?
Prayer: O God, as I anticipate the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, never let me forget that he grew up. In this season may I be better prepared to follow him as teacher,Savior and Lord. Amen.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent
me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty
to the captives, and release to the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1
We Will Be Changed
Martin B. Copenhaver
The prophet declares that when the Messiah comes all of God’s people will be changed That is the promise. It is also the challenge. Most of us resist change. A woman gave her mother a sampler with the inscription, “Prayer changes things.” When she asked her mother why she never hung it up, her mother confessed, “I don’t really want things to change.” We may want things better, but not really different. We want a fresh start, but without having to give up
old ways. We want to be free from anxiety, but without giving up our need to control things. We want the world to be at peace, but we don’t want to change our old way of acting in the world to achieve peace. We want to help those in need, but without having to give anything up. Who really wants to change? Only those who recognize that the one we await, Jesus
Christ, brings change and that we not only have to undergo change to receive his promises, change is itself the promise. We will be new people. And that is not bad news. Actually, it is the Good News.
Prayer: God of transformation, help me to embrace the change you bring in my life.
Help me to await change, not as the disrupter of peace, but as the bearer of peace, not
as a source of discomfort, but as the way to surer comfort. Amen.
Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever. They are the
shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified. Isaiah 60:21
The Challenges of Waiting
Martin B. Copenhaver
Advent is a season devoted to waiting. It is a time when we celebrate waiting, honor those
who waited for the coming of the Messiah, and seek to learn something about how we might join them in waiting for the Spirit of Christ to be born again in our midst. But waiting is difficult for most of us. In this era of instant gratification, as the world is put in fast forward, even our limited capacity to wait has diminished still further. It seems as if, among all the things we no longer have time for, we no longer have time to wait. As challenging as it can be to wait, however, certainly it is preferable to the alternative. Those who have ceased to wait generally are those who live without hope. When all that you see around you is all there is to be, then there is no need to wait. But there is also no hope of progress, movement, revelation or transformation. To wait is to be open to the future. To wait is to be open to God.
Prayer: God, you know that I can find it challenging to wait. So teach my heart to
wait. Or, to put it another way, please give me the gift of hope. Amen.
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light
to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your
glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will
be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Isaiah 60:19-20
Christmas as a Surprise Party
Martin B. Copenhaver
In a way it is unfortunate that we always celebrate Christmas on the same day of the year, because that makes the coming of Christ seem almost predictable. But Christmas is more like a surprise party. For centuries God’s people awaited the coming of the promised one. Then, when it happened, most people missed it. They were watching the ceremonial gates and he snuck in the servants’ entrance. God is always sneaking into our lives when we least expect it, and where we least expect as well, even at the darkest time of year, in a forgotten corner, as a baby with milk on his breath. We never know when the Spirit of Christ will appear and so we never know when the party is about to begin. A bumper sticker warns, “Jesus is coming, so look busy.” As we await the coming of Jesus, however, we are not to look busy, we are to be busy with the Lord’s work. Even though Christmas is a surprise party,
we are still expected to prepare for it.
Prayer: O God of surprises, may I have an eye for the unexpected places you may turn up in this season, in places as unlikely as a baby born in a forgotten corner of the world. And since you always seem to appear when and where we least expect it, may I be ready to see you and celebrate your presence at any moment. Amen.
Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your
borders; you shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. Isaiah 60:18
Different Kinds of Waiting
Martin B. Copenhaver
We often associate waiting with passivity and, indeed, some waiting is passive. But also there is active waiting, expectant waiting. A girl who stands on a street corner waiting for the bus to arrive will experience one kind of waiting, a passive waiting. That same girl on the same corner hearing the sound of a parade that is just out of sight will also wait, but it will be a different kind of waiting, full of expectation, a waiting on tiptoe. A fisherman may find it burdensome to wait for spring to arrive and fishing season to begin, but once he is fishing, he does not find it a burden to wait for the trout to rise to his fly, and in some ways the waiting itself is delicious. The difference is that one kind of waiting is passive and the other is active. In the dead of winter the fisherman can do nothing but passively wait for time to pass. At the pool of his favorite trout stream, however, a fisherman’s waiting is filled with accomplishing all the many things he must do, all injected with a sense of anticipation. Obviously, our Advent waiting is to be more like this, full of expectation, a waiting on tiptoe.
Prayer: O God, who waits for us ever more faithfully than we wait for you, may our waiting for you in this season be full of a sense of eager anticipation. May we wait actively, on tiptoe, for the fulfillment of your promises. Amen.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord
will arise upon you, and the glory will appear over you. Isaiah 60:2