For Paul and for us, the shape of waiting is discipleship in Jesus Christ. Christ is our brother, “descended from David according to the flesh” and also raised from the dead, the “Son of God with power.” It may seem odd to ponder the Resurrection during Advent, but remember that the Christian Year doesn’t call us to act as if Christ were not yet born, much less not yet crucified and risen. Christians live in the midst of these spiritual dynamics, regardless of the season. Advent forms us to look for the places where the life of Christ is coming to birth, to look for places where it emerges from death. We wait, but with open and expectant eyes.
But how do we approach that waiting? I’m reminded of John Wesley’s General Rules, that address all those who “desire to flee from the wrath to come.” If you’re willing to hear it, that’s an Advent image for you. Notice that the Rules don’t call us to do anything spectacular about that word of judgment but rather encourage the normal round of discipleship: “[Do] no harm” and “[avoid] evil”; do as much good as possible and use the means of grace, such as praying, studying the Bible, receiving Holy Communion, even fasting and abstinence. When those “who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” do these things, they will likely encounter the One who brings life from dead places.
Often we find Jesus Christ in the midst of our lives in the flesh. I remember an elderly woman in church who told me as a five-year-old that I was special. I remember a grandfather, himself a pastor, who told me as a twenty-year-old preacher that I had gifts for the work. Those words encourage me, even today, and I know you recall similar experiences.
“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. . . . “ Amen. (UMH, 607)
We are close to the reality of Jesus, in whom we have invested so much of our life and faith. Jesus is larger than life, shattering all the categories of conventional religious recognition. On the one hand, it is asserted that this is the “Son of David,” in continuity with the old dynasty and the old prom- ises. On the other hand, this is one “from the Holy Spirit,” not at all derived from the human dynasty. This twofold way of speak- ing about Jesus does not re ect vacillation or confusion in the community. Rather, it is an awareness that many things must be said about Jesus, because no single claim says enough.
• Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How and when has God saved you in unexpected ways?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What grace- lled steps have you taken to bring salvation and restoration to the world?
• Read Romans 1:1-7. The author suggests adding a chair to your feasting table. Whom will you invite to ll it?
• Read Matthew 1:18-25. When has God meddled in your life? What was the outcome?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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