Reflections for this week (Dec 4-10)

I am speaking this coming Sunday (Dec 10, 2023) on Luke 2:8-14. Here are some of my own observations and applications. You can post your own thoughts about the passage in the ‘Comment’ section below. You can find the sermon videos posted here.

  1. This story is so familiar, it is hard to see or hear anything new. The Advent theme this Sunday is peace and so I am focusing especially on the angels’ song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE to those on whom his favor rests.”
  2. My first question is: what specifically are the angel’s referring to, that brings glory to God in heaven and peace to God’s favored ones on earth?
  3. My second question is, who are the ones on whom God’s favor rests? Does this refer to everyone, or to specific group? If a specific group, what group of people are favored?
  4. My third questions is: what exactly do the angels mean by ‘on earth peace’, when there has not been a single day of peace on earth since they said this?
  5. A Savior has been born to you; he is Messiah, the Lord. This is the good news that causes great joy for all the people. This is what leads the angels to sing ‘glory to God and on earth peace!’ But how will they recognize this Savior, Messiah, Lord?
  6. They are to look for a specific sign: a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. This is extremely odd, why would the greatest person ever born be lying in a manger? That is like saying: ‘the richest person in the world has come to Cambridge; you will find him staying at The Bridges’ or ‘panhandling on the corner of Park Hill and Water Street’ or ‘picking up groceries at the Self Help Food Bank’.
  7. It is the strangeness of this sign that suggests to me that THIS is what the angels are referring to in their song: it is how this Messiah is born and lives that brings glory to God in heaven and peace on earth to those favored by God. Unlike every other self-proclaimed messiah who claims greatness and strength, this one humbles themselves to the lowest place.
  8. I believe that this is the most remarkable thing about Jesus, and what sets Jesus apart from all others. Not his greatness and strength but his humility and grace. Later on Jesus contrasts worldly greatness with his humble greatness: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
  9. This clue also helps us to understand who God’s favored ones are. While God’s love for the whole world leads to Jesus coming (John 3:16), and the coming of Jesus brings great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10), there are some who are especially favored. Can you think who that might be? For the longest time I would have said ‘christians’, or maybe even ‘the chosen people’. But who does Jesus say are God’s favored?
  10. Jesus describes his mission in his first ‘sermon’: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) It seems here that God’s favor is announced to the poor, prisoners, the blind and the oppressed.
  11. In Jesus’s most famous sermon, ‘the sermon on the mount’, Jesus starts with this message: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12 I won’t repeat them all, but notice the theme, what all these people have in common. These are the people that are blessed – favored – by God.
  12. Luke recalls a little more of Jesus’s message: “Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:20-26) The thing to notice here is who are the ones that are not favored or blessed?
  13. What makes Jesus so remarkable as our as Savior, Messiah and Lord is how he becomes humbled with the humbled, to bless them. Jesus chooses to identify with society’s outcasts, rejects, unimportant, oppressed, unclean, unworthy.  The so-called great ones are humbled, and the so-called lowly ones are favored.
  14. One more Christmas connection – this is what Mary rejoices about too when she is chosen to give birth to Jesus: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant… He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:46-48,52-53)

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