Here and now

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 19, 2010)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 7:10-16; Ps. 80:1-7, 17-19; Rom. 1:1-7; Matt. 1:18-25

We have been enjoying opportunities to catch up with family and friends. We traveled to Washington, D.C. the first weekend in December to re-connect with our small group from Washington Community Fellowship. What a delight to share a meal together at Union Station.

Sunrise over the Massenutten Mountains - Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Cindy spent this past week in Ohio with her mother and plans to bring her mother to Harrisonburg on Dec. 20. Daryl cooked a Tanzanian meal for his mother and for Holden and Heidi, which was followed by a rousing game of Scrabble. Jeremy and Lyndsay plan to arrive this weekend from Bucknell.

With our small group from Washington Community Fellowship

We plan to spend the week before Christmas together in Harrisonburg. One sad memory is that December 23 marks 20 years since Daryl’s father died in 1990 at the age of 62. We remember his life with great fondness.

We hope to travel to Ohio on Christmas Day and then on to Denver to see our daughter Jessica for the New Year.

Four inches of snow fell December 16 -- view from our front porch

The Common Lectionary readings for this fourth Sunday of Advent focus on various aspects of “God with us.”

Isaiah reminds us that God is with us when we face threats. Two neighboring powers threaten Judah’s King Ahaz. He and his people are “shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” (Is. 7:3). Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask God for a sign that God will deliver him. Ahaz is reluctant to ask God for a sign, but God gives him a sign anyway (v. 14).

The Psalmist reminds us that God is with us during times of mourning and loss. God’s people have stayed from God and God allows them to reap the consequences of their sin. But the people find hope in recounting the history of God’s faithfulness; and are confident that God will again restore them (Ps. 80:3,7,19).

In the Epistle reading, Paul reminds us that God is with us as we carry out our daily ministries. Paul identifies himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God.” (Rom. 1:7) Paul is certain that God’s grace and presence will enable him to faithfully carry out this calling.

The Gospel reading reminds us that God is with us when we are afraid. Joseph learns that his fiancé is pregnant. He is afraid about what people will think and makes plans to end the relationship with Mary. But an angel appears to Joseph and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, “because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 1:20). Joseph obeys. Matthew writes: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’” (vv.23-23).

In his book, Here and Now, Henri Nouwen writes, “It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries.”

May we embrace each moment during this Advent season as we remember that God is with us, here and now, whatever our situation may be.

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