Recently we did a Bible Study called “The Art of Letter Writing.” The class prompted some conversation about that lost art, as well as recollections by many about notes, letters and simple ‘thank you’s’ that we miss. While it may be socially acceptable to send an email, it’s not the same as someone taking the time to write a short note, addressing, stamping and then being on the receiving end – getting that note in the mail. Seeing the familiar handwriting on the envelope. Folks reminisced and even brought in some beautifully written notes that held special memories. Parents try to instill that habit in their children. Using prompts and fill in the blanks to help them along. Sometimes even pleading – just a quick note to Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles because you know who is going to hear about if they don’t get that note.
Our yearlong theme this year is called “An Attitude of Gratitude”. As we were planning, we came up with a whole host of ways that we take things for granted. Reminders of the blessings that we’re surrounded with, that God gives to each of us. Sadly, too many of us are consumed by our own little world. There’s the sense of entitlement that comes with living in a consumer culture – with a Gospel message that’s counter to what we see and hear every day.
In our Forum Bible study two weeks ago, Pastor led us in an exploration of Matthew’s Gospel, the Gospel that we are reading almost every Sunday in this new church year. We talked about things to look for and to listen for in his proclamation. And one of the special things Matthew does, is to emphasize the importance of names. And today in our Gospel reading from his first chapter, we are going to look at one of those names, emmanu el.
And so to begin…with a Rogers and Hammerstein classic from “Carousel” that has become a standard at countless graduation ceremonies across the country and a favorite with soccer clubs around the world. And the good news is, because this is Advent IV with a minimum of music, I won’t be singing today….
In some churches, each Sunday in Advent is celebrated with a particular word. “Hope” for the First Sunday. Then Peace. Joy. And finally, Love. Our reading from Isaiah is one that really matches the theme of “Joy” for this Third Sunday of Advent. We sense the joy from the very first line of the passage – with deserts that bloom. And all the way through to the end – with God’s people rescued – their troubles a thing of the past – and who return home singing.
Isaiah speaks of wholeness for all of God’s people, not just those who are sick or suffering. But, for people who are marginalized; for those who are excluded; for the ‘other.’