Advent 2009

Advent Meditation- Matthew 1: 18-25

December 8th, 2009

by Carmen Horst, EMS master of divinity student

Joseph- Radical Faithfulness

For three years I lived in a town named after St. Joseph. Each year for a few days in March, the entire town put aside everything else they were involved in to celebrate the life of Joseph the carpenter.  Classes let out. There were tamales, parades and processions. Why is this man, whose inside story we see only in Matthew’s gospel, important enough to remember so fervently?

It is Joseph’s radical obedience that is so striking. In the first place, long before the angel comes in his dream, Joseph follows the law. In verse 19, Joseph is noted as righteous, which means he fervently kept Jewish law. For many unglamorous years, day in and day out, Joseph remembered the God who brought his ancestors out of Egypt. Did those days of diligence “pay off”?

On the one hand, no, they didn’t. A culturally sound, righteous Jewish man would have known better than anyone not to marry (or even get close to) a woman pregnant with somebody else’s baby. Her contagious sin might infect him (and his social status).

On the other hand, yes, those days spent trying to do what was meant to be impossible did pay off. Joseph’s years of getting know the God of Israel enabled him to respond to an angel’s strange request with alacrity. He “woke up” and he “did what the angel of the Lord had commanded” (v. 24). He married that girl who was going to have Someone Else’s baby.  Joseph became Jesus’ adoptive father who protected Jesus and raised him according to Jewish law.

Joseph’s life is one worthy of celebration. He shows us a life formed by faithfulness to be radically obedient. He was ready to be part of the story of Immanuel, God with us. Are we?

Advent Meditation- Matthew 1: 18-25

December 7th, 2009

By Penny Driediger, Assistant Director of Mentored Ministry

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Penny DriedigerI have never had visitations from angels like Joseph and Mary.  But as I read this passage about the holy visitation to Joseph, I believe that this vision from God was meant for me as well. This defining moment for humanity; Immanuel (God with us), saving God’s people from their sins.

It is this story that invites me into a larger vision.  Because of the life of Jesus, each day I am challenged to live with courage and conviction what I believe God has called me to, based on the knowledge that I am loved and belong to God.  Like Joseph, in my simplicity and humanity, I am invited into this story.

Joseph didn’t get to see the end of the story. I wonder if there were times that he wondered where it was all leading; perhaps he even questioned this dream-did it really happen?  Was it just a dream?

There are points in my life when I am discouraged and I would appreciate a little more clarity, more evidence that everything is going to “work out”.  I have not seen the “end of the story” because it is ongoing.  But like the witnesses of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, I am profoundly aware of the promised Spirit of God, dwelling in and around me-the continuing mystery of “God with us”.

This Advent season how can I gain clarity about the meaning of this heavenly visitation and its impact on my life and calling?  What obstacles am I facing that lead to fear and discouragement?  May this Christmas season be a time of renewed faith, hope and love in the one who came to live among us and promised to be with us to the end.

Advent Prayer – Luke 1:26-38

December 4th, 2009

During Advent, each week of devotions will be closed with a prayer. This week’s prayer is excerpted from a meditation on “Waiting in Servanthood with Mary” by Wendy J. Miller, seminary professor of spiritual formation and creator of SoulSpace, EMU’s year-round online spiritual guide.

Luke 1:26-38

As you look back on your life, reflect on the Gabriel moments. What word did God speak to you? Who are the persons who have created safe space for you to speak and to explore the word, the birthing? Where is saying “Yes, Lord” taking you?

I believe my life is touched by you, that you want something for me and of me.
Give me ears to hear you,
eyes to see the tracing of your finger, and a heart quickened by the motions of your Spirit.

Read Wendy’s full meditation on “Waiting in Servanthood with Mary”

Advent Meditation – Luke 1:26-38

December 3rd, 2009

By Laurie Miller, EMU director of student programs and recreational sports

Luke 1:26-38

Consider the idea of waiting after learning momentous news, like Mary. Why are we waiting with such expectation for this baby that is to be born? Haven’t we been waiting for 2000 years? Things don’t seem to be getting a lot better.

Maybe we are looking for the wrong thing. The Jewish people also waited a long time and when Christ came many did not recognize him … they were expecting a king who would overthrow their oppressors and make everything right in the world.

Is that part of our issue today? Are we waiting for a magical return where everything will be made right? We forget that even Christ did not make a huge impact on the world stage while he was on this earth.

Just as Christ was not recognized widely, perhaps we don’t recognize the kingdom when it is breaking through all around us.

Maybe we see everyday the first glimmers of the kingdom coming on this Earth:

  • Simple kindnesses and acts of hospitality and caring that are performed daily but noticed only by those involved. Consider disaster relief, caring for the elderly, food banks, and more.
  • Peacebuilding programs like CJP that send peacemakers out into the world to transform conflict.
  • Students changing their understandings of the world through cross-cultural study.
  • The world becoming more aware of how we impact our environment and taking the first tentative steps to correct it.
  • A leader who thinks that diplomacy is vital when engaging people with whom we don’t agree.

These things are small when considered on their own, but just like a baby born in a manger, each is full of hope and promise. After all, a baby will not change the world right away. It is the promise of what can be if only that child is provided the proper love and nurture. Perhaps the myriad little things happening around us now are the Christ child that needs our care.

Nourishing environmental awareness so it grows and grows… ensuring none in our community go hungry… enouraging people who travel the world to share what they have learned…

Aren’t these all like a baby… full of hope, potential and expectation, but unable to do anything without the proper love, support and nurture? Let’s nurture these, the first glimmers of the kingdom coming on this Earth.

Advent Meditation – Luke 1:26-38

December 2nd, 2009

By Marcy Gineris, EMU staff

Luke 1:26-38

Do you recall times in life when trusting others has seemed impossible? I do. Sometimes it was the situation that made trusting seem impossible, other times it was the person involved who made giving my trust seem like too great a leap of faith.

It’s disappointing to be let down, yet the faith we freely extend to others is a beautiful symbol of the faith we have in the Lord and, in return, his love for us … and we know that no matter how much disappointment we encounter, when we rest in the Lord our spirit is renewed. We are filled again.

How must Mary have felt during this visit from an angel?

She learns she must let go of her own plans, her own desires, walk for a while the difficult path of an unwed mother, yet she quickly responds with faith and trust, saying “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

What a beautiful lesson.

I strive to be more like faithful Mary in the face of my smaller challenges, tied to this world. Father, let me relinquish that last bit of control that is so tempting to hold onto, and let you work through me as you intend. Father, let it be with me according to your word.

Advent Meditation- Luke 1:26-38

December 1st, 2009

By Patrick Nafziger, pastor Millersburg Mennonite Church, 2006 EMS alum

Luke 1:26-38

Gabriel approaches Mary, and the first words out of his mouth put us cynical middle class Americans on guard. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The LORD is with you!”

Has your door ever been knocked on by a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness? Have you ever been approached in a mall by the kid standing at a kiosk, peddling wire head-massagers or fun little helicopters? They all have a hook, don’t they? They all have a question or a comment that’s meant to pique your interest, to draw you in.

We’ve learned that strangers with kind words often have an agenda that we would do well to avoid. I’ve learned to sometimes put my cell phone to my ear (with nobody on the other end) to avoid talking to these people who have such greetings as Gabriel gives to Mary.

But the message Gabriel brings cannot be avoided. It takes root inside of Mary just as it does in us.

And it starts to grow.

This word that Gabriel speaks, it comes alive and takes shape in her life, in her womb. In spite of her questions and her hardships, in spite of the tension this pregnancy creates for her pending marriage, in spite of all of that, this good word transforms her life and transforms the world…for nothing is impossible with God.

May it be to us as it was to Mary—that is, inconvenient, messy, and utterly life-changing.

Advent Meditation- Luke 1:26-38

November 30th, 2009

By Dorothy Jean Weaver, Professor of New Testament

Luke 1:26-38

She’s just a young woman, an ordinary young woman. She lives in Nazareth of Galilee, an obscure little village tucked away in the hills. Most likely she’s still a teenager. For certain she’s a virgin. And she’s engaged to be married. Marriage happens early in Nazareth. Her name is Mary. And her fiancé is Joseph, from the house of David. Mary has most likely never left her hometown. She probably knows nothing about the world beyond Nazareth. But Mary knows exactly what lies down the road. She will marry Joseph, bake his bread, bear his children, and live out the ordinary life of the village women of Nazareth. Or so she imagines.

But God has other ideas. Extraordinary ideas. God wills to bring salvation into the world . . . . in the form of an infant child whose name will be Jesus. And for Jesus, this infant-sized salvation venture, God needs a mother’s womb. Mary is a virgin. Her womb is available. So God sends an extraordinary messenger to break into Mary’s everyday world and to interrupt her ordinary life forever.

It’s a message that Mary could never have imagined in her wildest dreams (1:31-33). It’s a message that she cannot fully understand (1:29, 34). It’s a message that could one day prove dangerous, perhaps even deadly (2:34-35). But this is a message that calls for response. Immediate, whole-hearted, whole-bodied response. God needs Mary’s body. And God needs Mary’s consent.

The life that Mary thought she knew is gone forever. Mary can no longer see what lies down the road. But Mary opens her heart and her body to God for a future that God only knows: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (2:38a).

God grant us such courage and such trust.