Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fourth Advent

It is a simple but I think also poetically and symbolically suggestive observation that the word Bethlehem, the little town of our Savior’s birth, is drawn from two Hebrew words, for “house” and “bread."

I’m not sure if that’s because in some deep background of antiquity this was a village of bakers. I guess names and titles don’t always come about in such obvious and literal ways. But the echoing is nonetheless interesting and meaningful I think, in a devotional way.  A holy resonance.

We never have one thing at a time.  Words, images, meanings jumble together.  And the journey of Mary and Joseph through these early winter days and nights from Nazareth to Joseph’s ancestral home connects us even now on the Fourth Sunday of Advent to that gathering as the Promised Child of Bethlehem would one day take the loaf in his hands and say,  “this is my Body, given for you.”

Picture for a moment, the manger itself a kind of Holy Table, where, in our hearts and minds, the wood of the Cross becomes real for us, where he has given himself for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  The Lord’s Supper.

The Manger his Throne. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  His Mercy Seat. The royal platform of his abundant generosity and healing and blessing.

It is my hope and prayer that through this Advent and as we fly along into Christmas this week, each of you, all of us, may know and experience his mercy, his abundant generosity, his healing,  his blessing.  As the carol says, “Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice: Christ was born for this.  Christ was born for this.”

The reading from Second Samuel builds a long line of connection from the story of King David to the story of his son King Solomon. As we hear this passage this morning we of course know already that Solomon built a great Temple on the holy hill of Zion. But we know as well that the true home of the Lord of heaven and earth is in the hearts of his people, where he is and will be enthroned forever. 

And in the womb of Mary is the Word made flesh.  The Lord, in his holy Temple.   Let all the earth fall quiet before him.  As we notice with the beautiful Annunciation panel in the Clara Miller Burd Nativity Window, in the South Transept.  Just to pause with her in our minds and hearts on this Fourth Advent Sunday.  Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.  Blessed among women.  Blessed the fruit of thy womb.

Many streams, flowing together this morning, contributing to a deeper river of meaning.  The beginning of the story, and it’s end.  Last Sunday the whole story unfolded right up the center aisle of St. Andrew’s Church. With thanks once again to the kids, who know this story by heart.  The Angel Gabriel. Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds, the Baby in the Manger. The Star. The Wise Men from the East, at the end of their long journey. 

It’s hard to think of a story that we’ve heard more often. A child is born in Bethlehem. The town that is called “House of Bread.”  The house we enter each time we come forward to Holy Communion with him.  The story long ago and far away. And yet it is certainly true as well that every time we hear it, when we tell it to our kids and when they tell it back to us, it is fresh and new. And it is like hearing it all again for the first time.  Happy Advent.  Merry Christmas.

May he indeed be born again into our lives, may he find his home in our hearts.   To know the Bread of Heaven born for us: and may we be fed and nourished and sustained by him and in him today and always.

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