Many times, our waiting will take a countercultural shape. Christ entered creation fully in the flesh, becoming part of human experience. Thus we believe that the gospel can take root in every culture, and we believe that this rootedness expresses God’s deep desire that the good news be sung in every language and played by every instrument. But today’s reading insists that the gospel is at one and the same time countercultural. When Paul greets Christians at the heart of the Roman Empire in the name of “the Lord Jesus Christ” and when he refers to “Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:5) he isn’t simply dressing up his letter with high-sounding religious language. Rather, he makes a sharply political statement by saying that Caesar is not Lord. That dynamic can change everything, and it can even get you into trouble, as we see with Jesus and Paul and with many Christians of conscience throughout the ages.
But you don’t have to commit treason in order to be countercultural. Consider baptism, which redefines what we thought we knew about family, making it far wider than we had thought. In the baptismal rite of The United Methodist Church, we’re reminded that baptism places us in a fellowship with “people of all ages, nations, and races” (UMH, 34), and we’re asked to commit to that fellowship. Consider the Eucharist, which redefines what we thought we deserved, what we thought belonged to us, and what we thought about who gets to eat. The gospel uses these common elements as the first step in redefining almost everything. What will you do about these things? For this year’s holidays, consider placing a chair for Christ at your feast day table, and then invite someone to fill it.
“Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.” Amen. (BCP)
We are close to the reality of Jesus, in whom we have invested so much of our life and faith. Jesus is larger than life, shattering all the categories of conventional religious recognition. On the one hand, it is asserted that this is the “Son of David,” in continuity with the old dynasty and the old prom- ises. On the other hand, this is one “from the Holy Spirit,” not at all derived from the human dynasty. This twofold way of speak- ing about Jesus does not re ect vacillation or confusion in the community. Rather, it is an awareness that many things must be said about Jesus, because no single claim says enough.
• Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How and when has God saved you in unexpected ways?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What grace- lled steps have you taken to bring salvation and restoration to the world?
• Read Romans 1:1-7. The author suggests adding a chair to your feasting table. Whom will you invite to ll it?
• Read Matthew 1:18-25. When has God meddled in your life? What was the outcome?
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