Today’s message is drawn from two selections of the Revised Common Lectionary, Psalm 80:1-7,17-19 and Romans 1:1-7.
In the Psalms passages we have an uplifting message of hope and restoration. How fitting! Advent is a magnificent time of potential for individuals and churches. Psalms offers us timeless encouragement which is as relevant and helpful now as it was thousands of years ago. Why? Because humanity’s fundamental problems haven’t changed all that much across the ages. Fear, hardship, discouragement and many more negativities remain entrenched in the human condition. And this is why we need constant building-up through the power of God.
The psalmist’s plea for both temporal and spiritual restoration also reflects our needs. We, like those of old, need divine guidance as we navigate life’s dangers. Our mortal state is as frail and fraught with peril as is that of the ancient Hebrew author pining away in the Holy Land. We, too, cry out to God to listen to our prayers and overcome enemies, both of literal flesh and blood as much as from the paralyzing attitudes of doom and gloom. Our earnest plea to God reflects our need for connection to God to help us overcome all that would otherwise destroy us.
The next selection is Paul’s writing to the Christians at Rome, hence the letter’s title. Here we have one of Paul’s characteristic, positive introductions wherein he gives his credentials as a special messenger of God’s gospel. As a servant of Jesus the Christ, Paul weaves his opening sentences with a summary of the basic Christian message.
Paul’s greeting in Romans can serve as a metaphor for our Advent journey. All those embracing the Christian faith are invited to welcome the spiritual re-birth of the Christ-child. Yes, Christmas can be a time of reminder and renewal. Paul’s warm, gracious introduction in Romans is an encouraging start. The joy of this season promotes an opening of our hearts and minds. As such, we can solidify our Christian commitments upon the foundation of God’s love, mercy and grace.
How can we weave both Psalms and Romans together? That blessed state of connection with God—the psalmist’s plea—can be ours if only we seek it. What better time of year than now to embrace the hope of the Christ child in our hearts and minds. We can be as ready as ever to experience the spiritual rebirth Paul cites if only we joyfully share God’s message with all living creatures.
Get ready for Christmas! Before you know it, 2014 will be here and another year will be whizzing past. Don’t get left behind by the tyranny of the calendar. Cultivate the hope that inspired both the psalmist and Paul. We, like they, are God’s children who can be restored and revitalized by the transforming power of love and truth. Embrace all that God wants for you and visualize holding that precious Christ-child. The beauty of that imagery and the goodwill empowering it makes our joy complete. God bless you all and glory to God in the highest.