The Gospel in one word: Love
I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
I love the Wizard of Oz. Anyone who truly knows me knows this is the case. I have read many of the original books. (By many I mean 5-8 of the 14-20 books.) I have seen the Chicago version of Wicked. I own the Wicked CD as well as the MGM CD. I have read the book Wicked. I have read and own the comprehensive commentary on the original Wizard of Oz. I watched Disney's Return to Oz, The Wiz, Syfy's Tin Man, two of the silent movies, and of course the original MGM Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If I thought into more I am sure I could add more to the list!
I even speculated story lines in hopes to delve into fan fiction someday. One possible fan fiction nugget revolves around the Wicked Witch of the West. In one of the books, mentioned merely as a side story to the greater story arc, one of the main characters tells about a sorceress who enters into Oz and falls in love with a resident of the land. Apart from this story, almost everyone who has at least watched the MGM movie knows, the Wicked Witch of the West meets her demise through liquidation. I have always wanted to bring these two tales together. As I would tell it, perhaps the sorceress and her love wanted the perfect child. They decided the best attribute to any young girl was sweetness. Instead of using the traditional methods of child creation they decide to physically make their daughter. Because sweetness was the most important part of this child they make her entirely out of sugar. Immediately they begin to see the problem with their sugar baby. She could not be washed for fear she would wash away. She also began to spoil. The Sorceress, not knowing what to do, doesn't try to help the child, but banishes her. Away from her parents she continues to spoil to the point of being pure evil.
As a culture we think about love and sometimes get lost in the ooey gooey sentiments of Valentines Day
and Hallmark cards. We think love always needs to feel good. It spills over into our everyday world. We live in a culture where everything apparently has an easy fix: "Look good in three easy steps!" "Melt away pounds with one easy pill." "Find the perfect person with this one perfect website." It gives the impression that what we love is made of pure sugar. Inevitably it spoils and confuses us when we discover there is no easy answer to love. Love is more complex and deep than simple sugar.
When Mary realizes what God has done to her and to her cousin Elizabeth love spills from her mouth. Her words are gloriously complex. She says she is raised but low. She says she will be honored but is a servant. This, in the context of a girl who could be stoned for being in the situation she is in. There is nothing easy in her words even if it sounds like she is saying it in an easy way.
If we are ready for it, Advent can be time to prepare for the unexpected. How does one prepare for something they know nothing about? Focus on hope, peace, joy and ultimately love. Consider these four attributes to be like the survivors kit for a ever-growing clinical world. Having hope, peace, joy and love can help us when the weak become strong, when the poor shall become rich and the lost shall be found. It will keep us from taking the easy way out, which is usually the incorrect route too. Finally, it help us be fruitful, and Mary's song can echo on all of our lips:
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened--
I’m the most fortunate person on earth!
Isaiah 12 CEB
We may give up on God, but God will never give up on us. We may say 'no,' but God keeps pushing us in the right direction... No matter how much we ignore, deny, loathe or crucify our God, God will always try to relate to us. We can only taste the fruits of our labor because of that abundant grace. In that we should find joy.
Where does joy live?
As a child I always understood Christmas Joy in relation to presents. The more presents I had under the tree, the more joy I was going to experience on Christmas day. I ultimately realized I was wrong. Even the few years I went home with a bag full of stuff, I never found my joy under the tree.
I believe to understand Christmas joy we must turn first to the bible. No, I am not going to immediately talk bout the birth of Jesus, and I am not talking directly about the Isaiah passage. I want to go all the way back to Genesis, with the story of Abraham and Issac.(I am linking to my Abraham and Issac sermon here.) Abraham was about to sacrifice or kill his son, the future of the people of Israel, as an offering to God when an angel tells him to stop. Instead, there was a ram caught in a thicket. The angel tells Abraham to use that for sacrifice instead of his son. Abraham named the mountain where all this took place, "God will provide." Thinking about today, what does that mean? Does God provide abundantly, or just enough? The answer lies in what God is providing.
If God is providing for our earthly needs it is always just enough. A ram for sacrifice was just enough. Manna from heaven was just enough. The widow's jar that fed her son, a prophet and herself through famine was just enough. Any more could have spoiled the gift or them.
If God is providing for our spiritual needs it is always in abundance. By God we are loved abundantly. We may give up on God, but God will never give up on us. We may say 'no,' but God keeps pushing us in the right direction. It is in abundant love we should find our Christmas Joy. It is Christmas Joy I pull from Isaiah 12:1. I hear it because God gives abundantly to the Israelites- abundant grace; abundant love. Because of that there is abundant joy which should erupt on our end from this verse.
See, we get caught up with the 'stuff' of Christmas, as if objects had the power to bring us joy. If that were true God would always give of our physical need in abundance. But, all that would do is spoil the gift or us. That is why things like manna come to us as just enough.
Like I said before, the joy I felt at Christmas wasn't found under the tree, but around it. It was God's abundant love personified through my family and friends that brought the true joy of Christmas home.
Come to think about it, we spend Christmas celebrating the birth of a savior, God made flesh, and we celebrate in joy. Why? Because the birth of Jesus was an act of abundant love. That abundant love was made real through the creation of a family: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. No matter how much we ignore, deny, loathe or crucify our God, God will always try to relate to us. We can only taste the fruits of our labor because of that abundant grace. In that we should find joy.
How to follow the map to peace
Luke 3:1-6 CEB
I decided this Black Friday (but we may as well call it Black Thanksgiving seeing as it took place on Thursday) I was going to get some of those deals Walmart was advertising. For good measure I arrived at 7:15pm for an 8:00pm deal. Apparently the wait for some began much earlier for the parking lot was nearly full and there were people huddled over sections waiting for the magic hour to strike.
When 8pm came there was screaming and grabbing, pushing and shoving, but very little peace and good will.
Yet, peace is what I would like to talk about today. When we struggle to keep the check book in check. When we push each other to get that must have item for 50 percent below retail. When getting along with our family is a test of our will power. It is at those times we need to seek peace.
The birth of Jesus did not come with sales, Christmas trees or a holiday ham. Yes, those things can add spice to our season, but it must not distract us. The road to peace is about preparing. What are you preparing for this season? Are you preparing for a Christmas extravaganza? Or, are you preparing to worship the new born Christ Child? Sometimes those Christmas Extravaganzas can leave us feeling more anxious than loving. If we cannot get rid of our Christmas fears and anxiety and make room for peace, how in the world will we have any room for the joy Christmas brings? The answer is, we won't. I suggest if Christmas is going to bring more worry than relaxation, find what is worrying you and let it go. Make room for peace.
I hope you find peace this Christmas season. God bless!