Matthew 2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
I used this same scripture a year ago. Likely, not many care nor would have noticed, but this last year has been a rich experience as we now usher in Year B—the Gospel of Mark. The reason I use Matthew is that I grew in my appreciation of that gospel this year from teaching it at Bible and Breakfast and Sunday’s Adult Study.
Mark doesn’t offer us a birth narrative. Mark starts this way: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” I love what Luke and Matthew do with Jesus’s birth and their explanation of what leads to that moment when ‘angels fill the sky.’ Mark, however, makes the knowledge of Jesus NOT in his human birth, but his ministry. I know this sounds strange, Mark’s “birth narrative” is encapsulated in that phrase about good news. Unlikely the world where we say: “Do you want the bad news first or the good;” Mark is about the lasting good news of Jesus. You see that by what Jesus does and says; in the healings, meal sharing, and teaching that confound the world.
Where will the good news be this year? I have lived where Christmas shopping has gradually worked its way back into the early Fall. In a way, we could argue that this is working ‘the right direction’ but with the wrong message. Where “Black Friday” (sounds sort of ominous, doesn’t it…even as I know it’s about “being in the black” profit-wise) has become not a day but a way; if the true Christmas permeates earlier each year, how many people more might be cared for when sick, fed when hungry, and learn that the joy and difficulties of life are in God’s hands. Christmas spirit would make “giving” a ‘mark on hearts’ that understands good news. While I am extending the imagery in contradiction to the “Christmas sale” behaviors” that define this season, moving the “Christmas soul” behavior into our very nature would make Jeremiah’s prophecy a reality―that God writes the law on “our hearts.” We will know God by God’s own handiwork…a VERY Christmas reality shown in Jesus.
I am heartened in many respects with what is happening at Faith United. Parents have taken on the responsibility to assure our kids have a Sunday School. Lisa Gaskill has generously and inventively been mastering the Family Ministry work where Jim Kreider laid so wonderful a base. Peter’s Porch has taken on its own “being” where God’s abundance come in generosity that always surprises me at God’s power. Bible and Breakfast and the adult Sunday study have a core of people that have opened new doors to our thinking and mission perspective. Council has grappled with who we must become and asking core questions of our future.
Having said that—and what I list above is but a sampling. We still have issues we must engage ‘sooner rather than later.’ For our “good news” work to continue, the church family must grow. We have people who truly care. We must grow our invitation that others see life more fully and richly within serving Christ. Christmas can be the “beginning” of the good news for many who have no firm spirituality. People “church shop.” Think what that could mean in today’s consumer mentality if the reflection of church…the unity of the church…the form and “reform” of the church… begins this Advent by helping them shop at Faith United.
I hope to see you at our Christmas Store December 9th from 9:00-11:00 AM. Bring a family who needs to know CHRISTmas good news. Be here to be a light shining to others.
With blessings…Pastor Joe