“Help me Lord to be content with second place and to make allowance for the fault of the other person. May I be quick to forgive, even as You, my Savior, forgave me.” (Colossians 3:13. The Message, & New Living Translation).
Our Lectionary Reading from the New Testament for this week is from Colossians 3:12-17. This part of Scripture admonishes us to pursue peace that is founded in love, a love that is described as a life full of humility, kindness, and forgiveness.
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts, and keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.”
(Colossians 3:15. The Message, & New Living Translation)
This week’s Lectionary Gospel Reading is from Mary’s song, The Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1:46-55. There are several themes running through the song. One dominant thought is the theme of justice—with the lines “God sending the rich empty” and “God bringing the mighty ones from their thrones,” among others.
Last November 12, 2021, I wrote a song which speaks of God’s justice in the land. This song, “New Praise Song,” is based on a reading of Psalm 146. I hope that as you listen to the demo song I made, it will lead you to prayer and move you to compassion for the poor and those who are suffering among us.
New Praise Song (Psalm 146)
November 12 (2021)
Praise the Father, Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, The Three in One.
Praise the God who created all.
Praise the Savior, we hear His call.
Sing a new song to our King.
All the earth, this (good) news we bring.
Oh my soul, “Praise the Lord!”
Everyone now in one accord.
Hallelujah! What a story!
Our Lord and God, He sets the prisoner free.
Hallelujah! The blind will see.
He takes our burdens and throws them to the sea.
Hallelujah! This is the day!
The widows, the orphans; God will help them stay.
Hallelujah! The stranger will say:
“The Lord reigns! He takes our sins away.”
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
David W. Clemente
This Advent Week’s Lectionary Reading from the Gospels is from Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s song, The Magnificat. The song speaks of Christians ushering in justice in the face of great political opposition (‘God bringing down the mighty’) and encouraging everyone to walk in humility before our God (‘God exalting those of humble estate’). Allow me to share about the second part, about humility. What is humility?
According to Adele A. Calhoun, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Humble people let go of image management and self-promotion. They honor others by making the other [persons’] needs as real and important as their own.” (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. 2015:215)
So, when was the last time you were thinking of yourself less? Are we promoting our selves when we open our mouth or post something on social media? These are questions we all need to answer as we read this week’s lectionary readings.
“Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55. ESV)
Mary’s song says that God “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” (verse 51). Well, I am busted. My family, who knows me very well, knows that I constantly struggle with pride in my heart. I plead guilty. And the song continues, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones” (verse 52a). I certainly feel like I am one of the mighty, considering my titles, education, “strength of the passport” I carry, linguistic skills, access to modern medicine, and many other gifts and privileges that place me on a pedestal above others. I stand judged by Mary’s song. It does not stop there. Verse 53 explains that God sent away the rich empty. By so many global standards, I am considered a rich man. No matter how many ways I am able to justify my situation, every time I hear Mary’s Magnificat, I am speechless and stand naked before our God.
I surrender all these feelings to our Lord, and pray that He will grant me mercy. One line from the song that gives me hope is in verse 50: “His mercy is for those who fear Him.” I fear for God’s judgement on my prideful heart, my mighty ways, and my rich man’s lifestyle. I trust in Him that He will grant me mercy. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47).
“I am here to do it your way, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7 - MSG)
In the Christmas story, the mention of light is everywhere. John’s version in John chapter one describes Jesus’ coming as the “light that gives life” (John 1:4). Imagine you are a plant or a tree. You reach out to the sky and spread your limbs to receive the life-giving light from the sun. You do not want to possess it because no one can control it. You do not want to turn away from it, because doing so would be inviting death. All you need to do is to submit to the light, spread your leaves, so to speak, in the direction of the sunlight and let its life-giving elements flow through your whole body. In the same manner, we are to submit to Jesus, the Light of the World, and soak in His presence. We want the Light to the Nations to flow through our entire being. (See John 8:12, and Isaiah 49:6) In this Christmastime, let us continue to submit to Jesus, and allow His light to flow through us.
At this time, I want to revisit two popular Christmas stories and share with you the theme of submitting to Jesus. We want to center our talk in the ways that the light was presented in the stories. We also want to see how the people responded in submission.
In the first Christmas, we read in Luke chapter two the story of the encounter of the shepherds with the angels. These heavenly host came in the glory of the Lord. Lots of light. Multiply this shining glory with the multitude of angels, I would think it was a dazzling sight. No wonder the shepherds were startled and responded with fear. Their initial response was not submission but one of confusion and distress. To the shepherds credit, we probably would do the same. Imagine if the sky opened up and a burst of intense light shines over your neighborhood, you and I would probably be the first ones to scamper away. If it were not for the angles’ explanation, the story of hope and birth of a Savior, the shepherds would most likely stay hidden, fearful, and confused. I am glad the angels did not stopped with this cosmic and overwhelming appearance. They continued and guided the shepherds to go and see the Infant-Savior lying in a manger. The shepherds saw and visited with the baby. They celebrated in the beauty and wonder of God visiting humankind. They all went home glorifying and praising God. (See Luke 2:8-20). They responded in submission to the Light of the World.
In another Christmas event (about two years later), we read in Matthew chapter two the story of the Magis, the scholars from the East. They came to see the Child-King because of the beckoning of a star. The Magis followed the star in response to a prophecy from Scriptures. Anyone who has experienced going out at night and watching blinking stars from a distance would agree that it is a gentle and soothing experience. It is in contrast to the overwhelming encounter of the shepherds with the glorious light of the angels. And yet, they had the same responses of submission. The Magis experienced joy when they saw Jesus. Light shone and it came as a refreshing fulfillment of God’s promise from the prophetic writings. The Magi saw the baby and they worshipped him. They went home and continued in a life of obedience. (See Matthew 2:1-12). They responded in submission to the Light of the World.
Now, these stories could have gone sideways. The Magis could have ignored the cosmic beckons, or the shepherds could have languished in their fear. But no, they both continued submitting their lives to the Savior. What cosmic events are happening in your life? Maybe, they are simple everyday events but you feel they are equally earth-shaking. Do these events shape your life? Or, are you continuing in your life of submission to our Lord Jesus? Come to the Light of the World and soak in His presence.
This present Christmastime, imagine yourself in a forest in the middle of the night. It is pitched dark and you cannot see anything. You stumble and fall, and you do not know where to go. And then, here comes Jesus, bringing light that gives life. He is our friend who is ever present. He is the Light to the Nations, offering hope to everyone. He has the light that illumines our surrounding. His light and life flows through us and to everyone near and far. Light breaks the darkness and we all can see everything. As John said: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Spread out your arms and open your hands to receive life this Christmas. Allow the life of Jesus to shine through you. Respond in submission to the Light of the World, the light that gives life. Amen.
At one time, the angels were gathered right before the moment of the first Christmas. They were all discussing ways of announcing the Messiah’s birth. One veteran angel said: “Let us gather the heavenly host, an army of our kind, and appear to the people in the heavens right above them. Let us display our power and shine a heavenly light around them. Let us sing of God’s glory and announce our presence with loud trumpet sounds. Let us declare the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.” Everyone seemed to agree, except one young angel.
This young angel suggested something different. She said: “Why don’t we tone it down a little bit so that we do not scare away these earthlings. Let us use a gentle twinkling star instead. We can use a star from the east to encourage the people to search their sacred writings of a prophecy about the birth of the Messiah. Then, we can move this star to guide those who are willing to look for the Messiah.” All the angels disagreed with her, and followed the idea of the veteran angel. So, that night of the Messiah’s birth, one Chief Angel looked around for a good place to make the cosmic announcement. She chose a particular field where people and sheep were huddled together in one area.
“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9. MSG).
The Chief Angel saw the fear in the people’s eyes. She raised her hand and stopped all the blazing light and the sound of the marching army. She said: “Let me talk to these earthlings and go down to their level so that they can understand the announcement we are making.”
“The angel said, ‘Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:10-12. MSG).
At that moment, the angels saw the fear vanishing from the people’s faces. They started talking to each other with excitement. They wanted to see the Infant-Savior that they have heard from their grandmothers and grandfathers. It is at this point that the veteran angel made another suggestion. He said: “I think this is a good time to continue our announcement with singing and loud cosmic celebrations.”
“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises. Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. ‘Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.’” (Luke 2:13-15. MSG).
At another time, about two years later after the first Christmas, the angels were gathered together to discuss some ways of announcing the coming of the Messiah to the people from the East. One young angel suggested using a twinkling star to encourage the people to search their sacred writings and guide them to where the Savior was staying. And all the angels agreed with her. You know the story right? You can read this in The Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12, the Story of the Magis.
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(By: David W. Clemente. 2021. Illinois, USA)
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3) What is this joy that the writer talks about? I remember walking towards a water well knowing that my supply for drinking water will be replenished for the next few weeks. After having being thirsty for quite sometime, each step I was taking became steps of anticipation for the satisfaction I will soon receive. I felt a burst of joy at the first gulp of cold water. Now, I know what joy there is from this act of drawing water from a well. I think this is what the writer In Isaiah meant. More so, with the “well of salvation” that Jesus offers to all of us.
Our Lectionary Reading for this Advent Sunday is from Isaiah 12:1-6. The writer continues in verse 5 that, with this joy, let God’s salvation “be made known to all the earth.” May you do the same. Sing praises to the Lord! In this season of “Joy To The World” and “Silent Night” may you find our Savior satisfy you with His love and may He quench your thirst. May you draw water with joy in your heart from God’s well of salvation.
Preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. Luke speaks of this Advent theme from the life and ministry of John the Baptist, retelling a prophecy from Isaiah. (See Isaiah 40:3-5.) Nowadays, preparing for the Christmas season has been relegated to the mundane exercises of gifts and decorations. In the Bible, preparation meant “going through fire” (Malachi 3:3) or “coming to the Lord in repentance” (Luke 3:3). Isaiah 57:14 reminds us that we need to “remove every obstruction” so that we can build a way to God’s holy presence.
So, what preparations are you making these next few days?