Season of gifts

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 21, 2008)
Common Lectionary Readings:
II Sam. 7:1-11, 16; Ps. 89:1-4, 19-26; Rom. 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

In this Christmas season, we pause to reflect on the many gifts we have received this year. God’s mercy is new every morning and God’s grace sustains us one day at a time.

Daryl and Cindy in Alexandria, Egypt

We are grateful for, and continue to be encouraged by, our children. Jessica is a social worker for the City of Denver and keeps us posted on political and economic news. Holden is a web programmer at Eastern Mennonite University and posts his latest photos on his blog. Jeremy is a 2nd year environmental engineering major student at Bucknell University and a resident assistant in his dorm. We always look forward to opportunities to see our children or hear their voices on Skype. Jeremy will spend Christmas with us in Amman.

We are grateful for the legacy of Cindy’s father, Vernon Lehman, who died November19 after several years of declining health. We will always remember him as one with a heart for service and adventure. He was an environmentalist in his own right, planting dozens of trees that now shade the Lehman homestead in Ohio.

We are grateful for our MCC colleagues and partners in this region. We continue to be amazed by partners in Iraq who courageously work for peace; by young adults in Palestine who maintain hope amidst military occupation; and by women in Gaza who operate small NGOs for the benefit of the community. The human spirit is resilient.

We are grateful for friends in many places around the world who encourage and pray for us. We miss our home congregation in Washington, D.C. but are grateful for the opportunity to worship at the Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican congregation in Amman. This week we enjoyed a Christmas program in English and Arabic languages.

We have been blessed this year to travel to many fascinating places – Egypt, Germany, Iraq, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey and the United States. The conversations, sights, sounds and tastes have been different and delightful in each setting.

The Common Lectionary readings for this fourth Sunday in Advent are about God’s gifts to us.

In the Old Testament reading, David wants to build a house for God (I Sam. 7:1-7). Instead, God reminds David that he has been and will continue to be the recipient of God’s gifts. God has brought David from a place of obscurity to one of prominence (v. 8). God has been present with David and cut off his enemies (v.9a). God promises to make David’s name great (v. 9b) to make a house for David and to establish his throne forever (vv. 11,16).

Likewise, the psalmist speaks of God’s gifts to David. God will establish David’s descendents forever and build his throne for all generations (Ps. 89:4). God has exalted (v.19) and anointed (v.20) David and will always remain with and strengthen him (v.21). God will deal with David’s enemies (vv. 22-23). God’s faithfulness and steadfast love will always be with David (v.24).

In the Epistle reading, Paul writes of the many ways that God strengthens us in order to bring about obedient faith (Rom. 16:25-26).

In the Gospel reading, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that God has chosen her to bear a son who “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk. 1:32a). God will give David’s throne to this child and there will be no end to his kingdom (v.32b). Mary can barely understand this mystery, but responds, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (v.38).

In this season of Christmas, may we, like Mary, humbly receive and ponder the mystery of God’s gifts to us.

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