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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Advent 12/16/2012

Every year on the Third Sunday of Advent the word of the day is “rejoice.”  “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice!”  After focusing on other things for the first two weeks of Advent, apart from the rant of John the Baptist, it’s the day the church normally starts to move closer to the mood of the wider community.  It’s hard though today isn’t it?  It’s hard not to think about those innocent little kids in Connecticut and their families.  It doesn’t seem right that we should rejoice too much.

Last week in confirmation we were looking at the Christmas stories in the Bible and came to the line, “To you is born this day in the city of David, a savior.”  Savannah then asked, “What’s that mean, a savior?”  It’s a really good question and I have to say that she kind of caught me off guard and I don’t think I had a good answer except to fall back on theological clichés that don’t mean much to a sixth or seventh or eighth grader or probably anyone else for that matter.  The theological cliché answers are even less helpful when stuff happens like what happened on Friday.

In the Old Testament when they talked about a savior it had to do with being saved from slavery or from enemies or from danger of some kind.  If you need a savior there must be something wrong and that’s what was wrong.  When Jesus came along some people thought that was the kind of savior he was going to be.  But he wasn’t; quite the opposite in some ways as he became a victim of the enemies the people thought he had come to overthrow.  He was a victim of evil forces not unlike how those little kids and those teachers were victims of evil forces.

What Jesus represented though and what we celebrate in a little more than a week was God entering fully into a broken, sinful and sometimes evil world.  That’s what was wrong and God could have turned from this broken, sinful, evil world and given up, but he didn’t.  In the birth of Jesus God turned conclusively toward this world and toward humanity, becoming one of us, embracing us in our imperfection and brokenness.  In this birth God’s love for us is revealed in a new way so we know that God loves us as we are and claims us as his own.  However, we still live in the reality of this world with all that is good about it but also with its potential for evil, but we live knowing that in Jesus’ resurrection, we have seen the end of the story, the end of our story where death itself and all the forces of evil are defeated.  Jesus doesn’t save us from the reality of this world, but he saves us from an existence where death and evil rule forever and there’s no hope.

We know the end of the story, but we’re not there yet, and much of what happens in the world makes us wonder if we’ll ever get there.  Clearly there is still evil out there and just as clearly, God doesn’t intervene and stop every evil act which leaves us with all kinds of unanswerable questions.  We all wish that somehow those children and adults in Connecticut had been saved from what happened; but they weren’t. 

What I believe though, what I have to believe, is in the hope embodied in the baby whose birth we will celebrate.  In his birth, we’re given a world and a life that is filled with hope and possibility because God is part of it and doesn’t abandon us even in, especially in the bad parts.  In Christ though, we are changed and the world is changed too as it is set on a different path.  In and through Jesus we are moving toward something better.  That’s what I believe because that is the story of our faith and it is a hope filled story.  The forces of evil want us to lose that hope though, because when we do, they win.

For me then, part of the answer to Savannah’s question about Jesus as our savior is that he saves us from losing hope, he saves us from despair.  That’s not the whole answer, but it’s part of it.  We live in the reality of this world but we live as God’s agents.  We grieve with those who mourn losses; we offer our prayers; we act with comfort and compassion and however we can, we bring words and acts of hope.

It seems so appropriate that we heard words of hope and joy from children this morning.  It’s sad in some ways because it reminds us of others whose children were no doubt going to be part of similar programs at their churches today.  But it also reminds us of how precious children are.  Anyway, hearing about the birth of the Christ child from the mouths of children today does seem appropriate and I hope, for you like me that their words and song are a source of hope this morning.

Rev. Warren Geier

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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