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If in your heart you make a manger for his birth
Then God will once again become a child on earth.
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Something to Ponder (continued)
We ended our last post with St. Paul's ringing affirmation— "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."
Then Paul continues to elaborate on his overarching theme of hope:
"Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope."
"For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised"— that is, of the Jews— "on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
"As it is written"— and here Paul turns to the encouragement of the scriptures—
"'Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name" — a quote from Psalm 18—
"and again he says, 'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people'"— from Deuteronomy 32:43—
"and again, 'Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him'"— from Psalm 117—
"and again Isaiah says"— and now Paul quotes last Sunday's lesson from Isaiah— 'The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope."
Paul ends this string of scriptures with Isaiah because Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah's high hopes:
Jesus, who is the root of Jesse, has come; Jesus is the one who has risen— from the dead— to rule the Gentiles; and Jesus is the hope of the Gentiles.
There are many things for which we hope— Christmas presents, college admissions, good marriages, good jobs— and sometimes these hopes are fulfilled beyond our imaginings and sometimes they are dashed.
What all these hopes have in common is that their fulfillment depends on other human beings— so sometimes we get the presents we want, sometimes not; sometimes we get into the schools we want, sometimes not; sometimes we marry successfully, sometimes not; sometimes we get good jobs, sometimes not.
But there are other things we hope for that do not depend on other human beings, things that Isaiah and Paul also hoped for, things like the hope of new beginnings and the hope of peace, the hope of reconciliation and the hope of resurrection, the hope of eternal life and the hope of glory, the hope of heaven and the hope of salvation.
These hopes do not depend on other human beings for their fulfillment; these hopes depend on God. And because they depend on God for their fulfillment we can be sure, we can be confident, that they will be fulfilled.
Now some people may have trouble believing that these hopes will be fulfilled, but wouldn't life be so much more joyful and peaceful if you did believe it?!
Paul thought so, and so he finishes this passage with one more prayer:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Hope— now that's a Christmas present worth asking for!
O God, make the door of my heart wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, and a heavenly Father's care; and narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and hate. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged enough to turn back the tempter's power. Make it a gateway to your eternal kingdom. Amen.
Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1637-1711