So many things are changing and impermanent in our world that we look for something that is certain and unchanging. Perhaps that is why we like to speak of God as eternal. Yet the ways we talk about God and the descriptions we use for God do change. Even among religious people, when we begin to define our God, the theological arguments can turn ugly.
The Jesus who was “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29) announced the arrival of God’s new realm. God had not changed, but a shift in understanding God’s work in the world occurred. Hebrews 12 rejects the notion of a deity who rules by fear and intimidation and replaces that notion with a gathered community marked by celebration and acceptance. The best word I can suggest for this new reality is homecoming.
The rural church of my childhood and youth celebrated annual homecomings. At that time, I didn’t get it. Former pastors and members who had left the community returned for the day. All the adults had a good time, but it mystified me. The potluck dinner was the highlight. You see, I had never left home. Homecomings have value only if someone has gone away, returns, and finds someone there to welcome her or him.
The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the living God, a heavenly Jerusalem, and a festal gathering. For those of us who know the church as a foretaste of heaven, any gathering of God's people is a homecoming. All are welcome, especially those who have gone away from home. All are welcoming, especially those who have experienced grace, forgiveness, and inclusion in the family. Here resides the certainty that will keep us in peace in the face of every fearful event.
God of profound mystery and perfect love, make us into one great family where no one goes unloved or is afraid. Amen.
The Luke text portrays the healing that Jesus has just performed as a call to decision, a call to “repentance and changed lives.” Hebrews proclaims to the readers that they “have come . . . to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . . and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” For Luke, Jesus and his wonderful works signal the accessibility of God’s transforming power and thus signal also the time for repentance. The accessibility of God’s transforming power is evident in the lessons from Jeremiah and the psalm, although Jeremiah has no choice! And amid opposition from the wicked, the psalmist af rms what Jeremiah had been told by God—that his life from its very beginning has belonged to God.
• Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. God offers light to a world covered in darkness. Where do you see God’s light in your life? How can you offer this light to others?
• Read Psalm 71:1-6. When in your life have you turned to God for refuge? How did trust in God help the situation?
• Read Hebrews 12:18-29. We belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken. How does that realization help during dif cult times?
• Read Luke 13:10-17. How do the limitations we experience turn us to the power and grace of God?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.