Our world and our lives often leave us feeling discouraged, fearful, lonely, and even hopeless. The season of Advent anticipates the arrival of hope, peace, joy, and love in our lives. Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Each week, as we will reflect on what and who bring us hope, peace, jaoy, and love, we will orient our hearts to the ways in which God enters our world and our lives.
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During the fall months, we will follow David’s life in the Old Testament. David’s story is a story of humble beginnings, and his story holds a central place in the imagination of the Old Testament. The Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann has asserted, “More than any other person [in the Old Testament], Israel is fascinated by David, deeply attracted to him, bewildered by him, occasionally embarrassed by him, but never disowning him.” As we follow glimpses of David’s life, we will discover a person “after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). David got a lot of things wrong, to put it mildly, but he also acted with humility and courage.
The New Testament letter of Ephesians narrates the drama of God’s salvation of the world, God’s making peace with the world in Christ. Michael Gorman asserts, “Perhaps the world might actually sit up and take notice of the Christian faith if Christians really did embody the gospel of peace,” and Gorman says, “Ephesians is a letter about the gospel of peace.” While the church in Ephesus is a missional body clothed in the essentials for a real-life struggle in the world, the church in Ephesus is also culturally situated in the first century. Our reading together of the letter of Ephesians will seek to be faithful to the spirit of the letter while also engaging our contemporary life experience.
The Gospel of Luke gathers a varied cast of characters around the person of Jesus, as he shares good news to the poor, release to captives, and freedom to the oppressed. From small villages to centers of power, Jesus heals and teaches, and in the process, he reveals to us the dream of God in and for the world. The young pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ…Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a person must knock…Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.” The Gospel of Luke shows us the path of discipleship, of following Jesus in the world today.
The season of Advent marks the beginning of the church’s calendar with the anticipation and the birth of Jesus. Advent means coming. So, we are celebrating the coming of God in Christ at the first Christmas, and we are anticipating the ongoing coming of God in lives each day afresh. This Advent, we are following the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love with the Gospel of Luke.
The story of Ruth is a story for our times. It is a drama of grief and love and prejudice and promise during a time of manifold upheavals. Glenn Jordon has observed, “This short narrative features those who are forced to migrate to another country because of poverty of famine and therefore encourages communities to face the question of what constitutes national identity and belonging.”