From: T.M. Schoewe
For our advent preparation we spent some time last week with the shepherds. Now they have been to Bethlehem. They verify what the angel told them. They saw a baby boy in a feed trough, and assured that He is Christ the Lord, the Savior of mankind, they are filled with joy and, as God’s special agents, immediately begin to spread the good news to everyone they met. That is the story that keeps on going and will go out to the ends of the earth.
Advent by the way, along with our fall season, are two of my favorite times of the year. The word “anticipation” permeates them. School starts and the colorful red, orange and yellow leaves begin to fall. Winter is coming! And this year we are especially eager for the advent season because when we look at our times, they are pretty grim! Look at what is happening in the Middle East and in Africa. Recent world events are really disturbing, not only for our troops but for all the people in churches destroyed by suicide bombers. In Palestine it seems no one wants a solution. And when we look closer to home, just one thing, the national debt! When you are in the hole to get out you stop digging! But Washington keeps digging! Presidential candidates are bashing one another and no one really speaks about our real problems. We just blame Washington but we the people have voted for what is in Washington. So do we the people need to change? Does the season’s advertising appeal to our greed and pride and our need to approve ourselves by what we buy and consume? Boy do we need advent! And, do we ever need to join old Isaiah crying “comfort, comfort my people - speak gently” to us!
Returning to Bethlehem. Times were tough. Taxes were high. The occupying Roman Empire was loaded with difficult regulations. The world was in great need for what advent would bring. So in those days of dictatorship when all the people of the region were required to register for tax purposes, that child came!
Now we turn to the silent ones in our advent preparation. There in the manger of the inn Mary is silent and Joseph does not speak in the Christmas gospel. And of course the donkey is dumb! Did they discuss the birth of the child with the shepherds? We will never know. But read the first chapter of Luke’s gospel and you know that Mary knew what happened in Bethlehem and it was a great song she sang when she learned she would be the mother of our Lord. As for Joseph, look at the first chapter of Matthew. Informed by the angel, Joseph was the most obedient fellow we could know. What faith! He took pregnant Mary to be his wife. His obedient faith took that donkey and Mary to Bethlehem and when the murderous knife of Herod threatened the child’s life that donkey led by Joseph carried Mary and the child all the way to Egypt. Later they returned all the way back to Nazareth, most likely by donkey transportation. You will recall on Palm Sunday that our Lord rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass, an unbroken donkey, the most stubborn animal to break. He rode it as if it was a broken steed, and so we think that even the animal kingdom recognizes and knows its Creator.
The first advent in Bethlehem came during dark days and comes again even this year despite what seems to be the grimmest of times. Advent is telling us that this child is born in the midst of a world and times like our own; and that God is at peace with the earth and that His final redemption on a cross is not separate from our world and that it is precisely in this same old, sad and greedy yet beautiful world that He calls us to be His people. His birth which advent anticipates is a light in our darkness. You can count on it, this light the world will never put out and we can sing with the Shepherd David “The Lord is my light.”
P.S. Next week the two most important words that come with the real Christmas gift.
P.P.S. We give thanks for the recovery of Fran Edstrom after her serious but successful operation. The advent season has brought a lot of good in this world including hospitals.