1st Day of Christmas: A New Pledge of Allegiance – Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased their joy; they rejoice before you as with the joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the trampling warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his Kingdom.

After more than a month of rushing around like crazy people, buying gifts for our loved ones, our colleagues, our pets–after our marathon run to shopping centers, continuously investing ourselves in the world’s version of Christmas, sometimes we get to the end and wonder how we lost ourselves once again.

After the frenzy of the shopping season and the hustle and bustle of all the ways we celebrate Christmas, after opening our gifts on Christmas Day, we sometimes sit in silence and wonder why we worked ourselves up into a frenzy for something that ends so quickly.

At some point each year we realize all of the ways we got tricked once again by letting our culture tell us how to celebrate our Holy Days.

These words from Isaiah stun us into silence and make us feel a bit foolish.

This is no “Jesus is the reason for the season” message I’m bringing to you. I think that phrase is just as tired as the over-consumerism of Christmas. And dare I say, just as empty. These words from Isaiah teach us something different about our faith than any bullshit rhyming bumper sticker phrase out there.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.

These words from the prophet Isaiah tell us about a new order among the people. They are a desperate shout through the ages, and they tell us about the real meaning of Christmas, that light will one day chase out darkness—that meaning will one day replace meaninglessness.

Christmas according to Isaiah is about the ever-present hope for a Messiah to come and invade the world with new purpose and direction—to come and occupy this world with the divine peace and justice it so desperately needs.

Isaiah hoped for a new order for our world, and his hope is one that echoes through the ages and still has the power to cut through the gift wrapping paper-thin veneer of an over-commercialized Christmas.

These words from the prophet Isaiah urge us to shift our perspective and to open our eyes. They are words that tell of a coming light—a light that chases out the dark, that show us the way out of our meaninglessness, that reveals to us the One who has come to teach us allegiance to a new order for our lives.

This Christmas, the coming of our King means that we are invited to turn away from the noisy promises and promise-makers that have invaded both our Christmas celebrations and the world in which we live, and instead pledge our allegiance to the One who offers us our greatest promise.

Merry Christmas to all!

A reflection by Pat Ryan

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Pat is a candidate for ministry in the PC(USA) and is ready for a call. He tweets at @writingpat. You can see where Pat blogs at his about.me page.

10th Day of Advent: What Is Love? – Luke 1:68-79

What is Love?

In our current society, we have moved to a place where romantic love trumps everything and is the reason most marry or enter into relationships. We also have decided that when talking about how we should interact with others that it is the correct word to use, but often we use it as a synonym for respect, or to recognize each other’s mutual humanity. None of these things are in essence wrong, they’re just different ways we understand this word called love–the hardest of terms–especially when it comes to being loved by a God who creates and calls us while also giving us freedom within the created world.

Love becomes even harder to understand when it seems that a God who has that much power leaves us seemingly vulnerable and weak. What kind of love is it that allows for abuse, inequality, crippling poverty, hate, and so many things that harm the very people created in your image, God?

It is in these desperate places that people will act out of their desperation for those they care for. God shows us love through desperate actions. God’s love is the love of promise. A promise is a desperate act, an act that says “I want you to know that not only do I care about you, but I also hear what is important to you, and I will do everything I can to make that happen.” God is a God of desperate love and promises. Thus God is always for those who have nothing but their desperation and their word.

For them, and thus for us all, God will see the promise through: that we will find a new dawn breaking that brings with it light for those in darkness and in the shadow of death. A promise that God will grant a way of peace for us all.

Yet we are not just those who are given that promise. We are participants in that promise–joining in the work, joining in God’s desperation, joining in the promise-making.

We are, as John the baptizer was, sent ahead to prepare the way, to give knowledge, to forgive, to move, to act, to promise, to love.

A reflection by Adj Williams.

Adj Williams

Adj is the Director of Educational Ministries at Harbor View Presbyterian Church. Adj tweets at @keepsetting and blogs at http://keepsetting.blogspot.com