As in Advents past, I have used theme words for the Sundays of Advent this year. My goal has been to focus us on certain aspects of God’s work in Jesus as we prepare for the gift of Christmas. Advent, of course, is the four week period of waiting, watching, and preparing for the “coming,” as the Latin word Adventus describes. I’ve invited us to center on the following Advent themes respectively: Longing, Annunciation, and Jubilee. This week we turn our focus to Vindication, which means to be right or justified.
Since I am trafficking in large words today, let me add another: Heresy. Heresy is a term that describes attitudes, speech, or behavior counter to accepted dogma on a particular subject. It is most often used in theological terms, when one begins to color outside the lines, as I’m about to do.
Years ago, a friend gave me a spike, through which a hole had been drilled and a red ribbon affixed. They told me it was a Christmas tree ornament and should be displayed prominently to remind all that Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” to quote John the Baptizer in the gospel of John (1:29). I quit using the ornament in pretty short order. Why?
For me, the ornament reduces Jesus to a one-dimensional character. To be born only to be murdered? The only joy in that is the golden ticket to heaven, making Jesus basically irrelevant as anything other than cross-fodder. I told you to expect heresy.
Our Advent theme today is “Vindication,” as previously mentioned. We are going to spend our time hearing Mary, the Mother of Jesus as she sings her amazing praise to God for what God is doing in history (Luke 1:46-55). In her song, Mary lifts up God’s concern for God’s world, especially the haughty, the poor, the brokenhearted, the hungry, and the oppressed. Mary offers us a vision of God’s work in history arcing toward justice. Jesus is not born to help people escape the world. Rather, Jesus is born to lead people to change the world. Mary’s song invites us to live into God’s new reality of shalom, you know, peace on earth, rather than hide and watch for our chance to go to heaven, hopefully unscathed.
Those who suffer from the above condition are vindicated. Those who actively work to alleviate the conditions that contribute to the above are vindicated. The rest? Just don’t be the rest.
God has a clear vision for creation. God sent Jesus to articulate that vision and lead us to help it become reality. God then sent the promised Holy Spirit to empower us to do Jesus’ work after His death and resurrection. The ultimate vindication will be to hear Jesus say, “well done, faithful servant…(Luke 19:17).”
This, friends, is a Merry Christmas.
See you Sunday,
PS: Don’t forget our Candlelight Communion service Christmas Eve at 6:00 p.m.