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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent 4: a priori grace

12/22

Presbyterian Welcome in the house: John Russell, Mieke and Bob




The fourth and last Sunday of Advent.  Have to move Joe and his woman out again. Today we do all  four verses of  Barbara Lundblad’s re write of O come, o come…

1 O come, o come Immanuel                                                                                                                                
And bless each place your people dwell
Melt ev’ry weapon crafted for war
Bring peace upon the earth for evermore
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

2 O come green shoot of Jesse, free
Your people from despair and apathy
Forge justice for the poor and meek
Grant safety for the young ones and the weak.
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

3 O come now, living water, pour your grace
And bring new life to ev’ry withered place;
Speak comfort to each trembling heart:
“Be strong, fear not, for I will ne’er depart”
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

4 O come dear child of Mary come
God’s word made flesh within our earthly home.
Love stir within the womb of night
Revenge and hatred put to flight.


Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

Wayne has come and shares his music with us. And I learn we share a Pittsburgh connection. His hometown, too. And he was part of the Metro Urban Institute I helped found before I  left .  And we’re very happy to see our friends John Russell and Mieke from Presbyterian Welcome  with us this morning. A joy to remember that we were one of the founders, in line with out lgbtq inclusion heritage, and that we provided one of the first two office spaces. Our first reading is that classic Isaiah 7:

Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

For us, it looks like Jesus. For those who first read it, maybe the child of Ahaz.It was their immediate hostile neighboring powers they were concerned about, not an apocalyptic messiah.

And we talk about how it’s young woman, not virgin, although functionally it’s not that much different. (Although the story of Dinah in the Bible uses the same word, alma, for her, even after she is no longer a virgin.) That’s all the set up for the gospel, MATTHEW 1:18-25, where Matthew believes it’s important for home to connect with Isaiah as he presents his Jesus as living out the story of the people of Israel.

We go through most of the same material we did last Monday in Bible study. And it’s interesting that Mieke finds herself annoyed with Joseph. In her perspective, you don’t deserve extra credit for doing what any normal good person would do.

That’s a good intro to looking at the expanding meaning of righteous. Which in first century Palestine  meant follower of the law. Joseph, as a righteous man, should have obeyed the law and declared Mary’s sin publicly. But he decided not to before the angel spoke to him. An a priori grace. That must be part of Matthew’s point. And I continue to believe that this story informs the later story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. Perhaps the story of Joseph’s grace was part of the family’s shared narrative, shaping Jesus’ self-understanding. Joseph’s action  made Jesus’ birth and life possible.

We sing more than our fair share of carols for the last Sunday in Advent. It came upon a midnight clear, Gentle Mary laid her child, and  finally Go tell It on the Mountain.

Many of us have already left for home and family. Many of us are on our way. My son Dan joined us this morning. Micah arrives from Berlin this afternoon. Can’t help but wonder, what will be, Christmas Eve?

Rachel returns after services. She was here before and back now. Obviously been somewhere else. With a bulletin from one of those better churches. Her carts are still here.



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