November 30, 2020
November 30, 2020
Today’s readings are about Noah’s flood and our baptism. These are not the usual just-before-Christmas themes, but they lead us to Advent’s deepest meaning. Advent is a time of preparing, not just presents and festive meals, but a place for Jesus to find home in our lives. In the early church adult converts were baptized at Epiphany. The church set aside Advent, like Lent, as a time for understanding what it means to be baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom 6:1-11). Advent invites us to sing with the old hymn, “In Bethlehem’s inn there was found no room for thy blessed nativity. . . . Come into my heart, Lord Jesus; there is room in my heart for thee.”
The Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (UMH 211) has an ancient history. It was sung before the year 800, not as a hymn, but one verse for each day’s worship, as an introduction to a Bible reading, an “antiphon.” Imagine living in a community that gathers for worship daily, both morning and evening. In the weeks before Christmas the worship intensifies each day in beauty, praise, and wonder at God’s great Gift to the world.
The understanding of God as Emmanuel, “God-with-us,” dates to the ancient Hebrews. God’s presence in the cloud and pillar of fire led them in their wanderings, and later God’s presence is signaled to the prophets in signs, from earth-shaking thunder to the “sound of silence.” In Jesus, God takes on human form, lives our life and dies our death that we may have hope in God’s resurrection power. Jesus, our Companion, our Brother, our Friend, is made known to us in word and deed, in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and in the gathering of those who love Jesus: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt 18:20).
Every evening before Christmas, the choir sings the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise for God’s promised Savior (Luke 1:46-55) and preceding it, an ancient antiphon, which each night reveals another aspect of God that is embodied in Christ Jesus, born of Mary.
QUESTIONS FOR THE FIELD
- The people of ancient Israel were slaves of Egypt. Why does Paul warn us not to become “slaves” (Rom 6:6)?
- What does it mean to be “ransomed”?
FAMILY FIELD TALK
- What does “God with us” mean to you?
On “Day One” we hear the singing of these words and we pray with them:
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.