Advent Reflection Day 23

 Luke's account of Jesus' birth , with the manger, and the shepherds and angels, is the one that many of us may be most familiar with. Starting with verse 8, this is what Linus recites in the Charlie Brown Christmas show.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
What a strange story! A king--a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord--born to a couple whom nobody in podunk Bethlehem knows? Transient shepherds working at night are the first to whom the announcement comes? Angels? A whole army of angels? So the shepherds go to Bethlehem and find the child wrapped in rags in a feeding trough? That should be the hope of Israel? The hope of all humanity?

Where do you place your hope this season? Are you like me and so many others, placing hope in achievements, success, possessions? Is your hope in the favor or attention of someone wealthy, established, or powerful? Or is your hope in something else? Perhaps your hope is in the crying of a yet to be named infant, an unknown child with supposedly royal heritage? Is your hope in a child born in abject conditions? Do you find your hope together with the shepherds, transients who are just one step above being homeless? What is it about the human condition that we still can have hope even in the most inauspicious of new births and fresh starts? When the clamor and noise of the angels have left, and you look up once again to see Orion and Pleiades in the star-filled sky, will your hope be that you, child of God, were meant to breathe the cold night air and simply wonder at it all?

Each day of advent, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, I plan to post a few thoughts on an aspect of friendship I learned while writing my book, Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community, available on Amazon through this link. This will be a chance for me to share with you all a little bit from what I learned, while giving you, hopefully, a chance to take a deep breath during this busy season and do some reflection. Also, you won't have to secure another resource for Advent. I realize that you are all at many different places with regard to faith and belief, so use these reflections however you see fit. If you'd be interested in having me come speak at your church, lead a Bible Study, or even just Zoom or Skype in for a Q&A with a Sunday School class or other small group, let me know:


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