Advent 2009

Advent Meditation- Luke 2:1-19

December 22nd, 2009

By Erin Geoffrion, EMS student

Read: Luke 2:1-19

Peace? Really? The Messiah breaking into my life has brought me many feelings, but peace?

It seems leading the life of a shepherd would be pretty peaceful.  Sheep don’t make much fuss.  There may be wolves every now and again, but it seems like the main concern of a shepherd would be what to have for dinner.

And then: in breaks Jesus.  Now the shepherds have a fire lit under them.  A host of angels trumpets out the news.  The shepherds run down to Bethlehem to see the Messiah.  Then they spread the news far and wide; amazing everyone who hears their story.  The shepherds’ experience sounds astonishing, compelling, miraculous-decidedly not peaceful.

The Messiah breaking into my life has caused me to move thousands of miles, live on modest means and forego a great deal of financial certainty.  I have been forced out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  If I were not called to follow this Messiah as I am, would I have a 30 year mortgage and overtime benefits by now?  Would I have a decent sleep routine?  Would I have the sense of peace that eludes me now?

Isn’t it funny how the Prince of Peace brings such chaos into our lives?  But how can we be still when Jesus breaks in?  How can we be silent when we have such awesome news?  How can we keep from singing out with our whole beings, joining our voices with the angels and the shepherds and the great cloud of witnesses that have come before us?

Prayer: Lord, you overturned the lives of the shepherds at Jesus’ birth.  I ask now that you jolt our lives.  Incite, goad, prod, provoke, move us to your service.  In your awesome name we pray, Amen.

Advent Meditation- Luke 2:1-19

December 21st, 2009

By Beverly Delp, Office Coordinator, EMS

Beverly DelpRead:Luke 2:1-19

This familiar passage tells the story of the birth of Jesus. It’s a story many of us have heard or read every year since childhood during the Christmas season. Upon a closer look at this familiar passage, we can see that this extraordinary event – the birth of Jesus – occurred in the midst of the ordinary. Joseph and Mary, both ordinary folks, were going to Bethlehem to register because of the decree ordered by Emperor Augustus. I imagine it was a rather mundane and inconvenient trip for Mary and Joseph as she was in her final month of pregnancy and probably feeling very uncomfortable to take this trip which would require at least three days of travel. Not a desired trip by any means.

For the shepherds, who held a very ordinary occupation, it was just another night at work, needing to stay awake and keep watch over their flock to insure protection from thieves and predators.

As both of these situations were happening simultaneously, there was no outward indication that this great event was about to take place. While these ordinary people were focused on their faithful commitment to the (ordinary) tasks set before them, God chose to do the most extraordinary thing imaginable…send His son into the world!

Lord, help us to be faithful and obedient to the daily routine tasks to which you have called us. Thank you that you are able to accomplish the extraordinary while we are simply going about our ordinary daily routine.Beverly Delp

Advent Prayer: Luke 1:39-56

December 18th, 2009

By Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU Campus Pastor and Director of Campus Ministries

Read: Luke 1:39-56

This pastoral prayer is in response to the beautiful and thoughtful reflections shared this week on Mary’s hope for a renewed world.

God of wonder and grace,

You break into our lives in miraculous ways. Like young, faithful Mary, may we respond to your call upon and within us with openness, humility and a sense of deep joy.

Amen

Advent Meditation: Luke 1:39-56

December 17th, 2009

By Lindsey Grosh and Braydon Hoover, EMU student video bloggers

Read: Luke 1:39-56

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Advent Meditation – Luke 1:39-56

December 16th, 2009

By Janelle Freed, EMU junior from Skippack, Pa.

Read: Luke 1:39-56

“Mary at the time of Jesus’ Immaculate Conception was just a teenage girl who was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. Yet, what God found in favor of Mary was her theology to brave the risks and to stand firm to her spiritually as the time would come to raise such a child.

As Mary states in her song, her soul is lifted up in the glory of the Lord who has stayed true to his promise. His promise remains that those who choose to be his humble servant can be used in such glorious ways.

It is as though Mary’s call for me and you is to remain a humble servant, and through whatever way God chooses to us each of us, all are called to glorify his name above all others.

Although recognizably challenging, being a zealous and humble servant has its rewards. As evident in Jesus life and that of his disciples, those who follow the way of Jesus will be challenged to stand up against the Powers, and may at a point in their life be asked to follow the way of the cross.

May you remain a zealous servant and continue to always be mindful of the promise of God; Blessed are those who believe that the Lord will fulfill the promises he made to all of creation- An Adaption of Luke 1:45.”

Advent Meditation- Luke 1:39-56

December 15th, 2009

By N. Gerald Shenk, Professor of Church and Society, EMS

Read: Luke 1:39-56

A Muslim graduate student, American-born and trained at Catholic schools in Detroit, spoke in my class one year. Wearing traditional garb, she was young and fluent and passionate about her commitment to seeking peace and justice. Among many other unexpected contributions to our understanding, she surprised my seminary students with her devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The longest chapter in the Qur’an, she pointed out, is filled with praise for Mary (“Mariam”) and her holy life. Our guest was more confident about the virgin birth of Jesus than many of the theologians one studies in other courses.

This intercultural episode captured more of the story than a hundred Hallmark cards could ever present. There is a deliberate dislocation of our expectations, a disruption of our confident patterns, when the Holy One intervenes with unlikely suspects and intrudes onto bucolic landscapes with justice and restoration of right relationships in mind. The blessings of Abraham, the mighty acts known to foregoing generations of those who fear the Lord, the remembrance of God’s mercy and promises to ancestors—all these add up to a blazing confidence that God has not forgotten the poor and the lowly. As Holly Near puts it, “The meek are getting ready!”

This is a tribute to the God who is not undisturbed by the rising tide of un-right-ness in our world. There will be an end to the arrogance of the proud and self-sufficient. There is great mercy at work in the neighborhood, and the world will not be unchanged. How can we not rejoice with this Maccabean maid! The unborn and the wizened old woman join the song.

This is what it looks like when God fulfills centuries of promises, appearing in the most unlikely venues, a forgotten corner of empire. But the subversive new vision of right-hearted justice puts all things into new focus. Can we also catch this vision, join this song? May it be true afresh among us this season of eager expectancy.

Advent Meditation- Luke 1:39-56

December 14th, 2009

By Mark Schloneger, pastor at Springdale Mennonite Church, 2005 EMS graduate

Luke 1:39-56

Not too long ago, I spoke with a man in his late eighties who was reflecting on his life. He mentioned that God had helped him to overcome significant obstacles.

Curious, I asked him, “What were those obstacles?”

“Oh, you know,” he said.

I was confused. I said, “No, I don’t.”

He got quiet and just looked at me. Then, with a sigh, he pointed to his lip.

Of course. He had a cleft lip. He told me that his speech and appearance had caused him to be painfully shy, an extreme introvert growing up.

Shortly after our conversation, people gathered for this man’s funeral. I was struck by the stories that I heard. I talked to three people who mentioned how they came to know Christ either initially or in a deeper way through their encounter with this man at his auto repair shop.

An ordinary place for a tune-up became a sacred space. A man self-conscious of a cleft lip became an evangelist for the Lord. Temples of the living God.

At Mary’s greeting, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy, and Mary sang of a renewed world. A world where the mighty fall low, and the lowly are lifted up. A world where rulers tumble from their golden thrones, and the hungry are filled. A world where God’s promises are kept. Where a poor peasant girl, given a great task to do, sings praise to the God who has empowered her to do it.

I think the retired mechanic knew that Mary’s song is best sung in parts. With lips that he once tried to hide, he joined the chorus with perfect pitch. He had learned that we do not need to do something fantastic, incredible, or extraordinary so that God will say “yes” to us. No, it is just that we have to be willing to say “yes” to Jesus in the midst of what we have, the ordinary, the mundane, and the everyday. It is through our “yes” that God transforms our humble places into sacred spaces, vessels for the divine to be born into our lives and world.

How is God asking you to sing the song of a renewed world?

O Lord, in the midst of our work, our play, our day-to-day routines, may the words of our mouths and the work of our hands magnify and rejoice in you. Amen.

Advent Prayer – Matthew 1:18-25

December 11th, 2009

By Julie Haushalter, EMU Associate Campus Pastor and alumnus of Eastern Mennonite Seminary

Read Matthew 1:18-25

This pastoral prayer is in response to the beautiful and thoughtful reflections shared this week about Joseph’s amazing faithfulness and God’s incredible grace by choosing to “be with us” in Jesus, Immanuel.

Gracious God,

We praise you for the amazing ways that you reach out to us when we least expect you.  We, like Joseph, sometimes carefully plan our escape from discomfort.  We see things how they make sense to us in our world. We even believe that we are pleasing you.

Then, in startling ways, you show us the truth.

Please help us to be alert enough to listen and strong enough to live into the altered reality of our lives in you.

When in response to your call, our path detours from our meticulously laid out plan, we pray that you help us to hold on to our faith. Take us deeper into your heart so that we might be comforted, hopeful and empowered to serve in new ways.   Refresh us, renew us and help us to be brave!  O’ Immanuel!

AMEN

Advent Meditation – Matthew 1:18-25

December 10th, 2009

By Benjamin  Bergey, junior vocal performance and church music double major from Perkasie, Pa.

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Following Jesus looks different. It’s not always easy or comfortable, and can often make us look strange in comparison to the “norm.”

Even before Jesus was born, following Him and His commands made Mary and Joseph look different. Not only look different, but it was so uncomfortable for Joseph to have a pregnant, unmarried fiancée with his reputation that he wanted to leave her. The world did not see it in the way God saw it, or in the way Mary saw it, or in the way Joseph ended up seeing it.

This set the stage for future Christians: a life where following Jesus meant releasing ourselves from what the world thinks of us. A life where God’s leading might be difficult or different or strange, but it is life-giving, amazing, and better than what we could ever have come up with.

It can be quite challenging to give up our comforts and cares of what others think, but Jesus has called us to do it.

May God speak to you this season, to show you the aspects in your life that need to be released; to give you the strength and faith to release those worries; and to lead you into His Kingdom and His ways that are higher than ours.

Advent Meditation – Matthew 1: 18-25

December 9th, 2009

By Brad and Lindsey Kolb, EMU staff and alumni

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Look, it’s complicated…

The holiday season can be complicated. After thinking about travel plans, decorations, shopping, being “green”, consumerism, cooking, and Christmas cookies, we sometimes put our faces in our hands and wish it all away for a brief moment.

We can’t help but wonder if Joseph did something similar just after finding out his fiancée was pregnant. Joseph’s journey in this passage makes our holiday woes seem quite manageable. The Bible does not reveal how Joseph reacts to the news of Mary’s pregnancy, nor does it describe the dialogue leading to his decision to “divorce quietly.”  And yet, we can imagine that this was a very emotionally difficult process for Joseph. We’re sure he had many pressing questions for both Mary and God.

How could this have HAPPENED?

How could Mary do this to me?

What happens if I marry her now?

What if I leave her?

What will people think?

God made everything clear to Joseph in a dream. And when he awoke, he did exactly what he was told. Perhaps this dream filled Joseph with the complete peace of God and he was able to obey with confidence, knowing God was at work. Or maybe he awoke feeling scared, unworthy and filled with more questions.

Was the dream real?

Why me? Why Mary?

How can this child save people from sins?

How do we raise such a child?

Joseph’s situation was difficult, and yet he managed to follow God with obedience and continually show goodness to Mary. Likewise, we hope that our holidays can reflect obedience to God’s plan while continually showing love and grace to people around us.