Advent 4, Dec. 22, 2019

Title:Advent 4, Dec. 22, 2019

 Advent 4, Year A, Dec. 22, 2019 – Baptism and Christmas Play (full size gallery)

Advent 4 is traditionally the Christmas Play. Here is a review of the past plays. We have pictures back to 1998 so it has been going on that long. It is kept fresh with each play written for that year though you can expect to see the usual characters – angels, shepherds and sheep. The play is original for the current congregation. The bulletin is here.

Most churches have Christmas plays featuring children which derive from morality plays during the Reformation colored by our current celebrations from the 19th century. However, St. Peter’s play is not just a play for children but the entire congregation. We had a congregation of 55 on sunny 2nd Day of Winter with seasonable temperatures.

This year we had a baptism prior to the play because the baby would star as Baby Jesus. Da’von ny’kese Townsel, son of Cornesha Howard and David Townsel was baptized.

The play takes place with the Trinity, God, Son, Holy Spirit looking down at the world. God sees the world as beautiful but the Holy Spirit laments “I’m having trouble getting through to people. They are barely able to catch their breaths, much less breathe deeply enough to take me in.” Jesus adds “And their hearts have turned to stone, impervious to love. They are busy hating on each other.” God adds his response – “They seem so distant and lost from us, and they’ve made a mess of our good creation “But….many people are praying for rescue. Holy Spirit: “I’ve noticed too, as I blow where I will on the earth, that not all hearts have turned to stone. Take Mary, for instance. What a kind heart she has, overflowing with love.”

All three say together: “We will become one of them so that they can find their way back to us. ” The Christmas story is told with Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three Wisemen and Herod.

The challenge of Christmas is to be able to bring this past, Christ born long ago, into the present and to keep it present. With the birth of Jesus, God invites us into the mystery and the joy and the wonder of something that happened long ago and yet is happening again for the first time, now and yet paradoxically is already present. Ironically, our mission is not to bring Christ to people, but to help people come to know and embrace Christ already present. That’s the point of our services this week.

David Lose, the president of Luther Seminary, writes of the embrace of Christ for this week – “God is joined to us fully and completely in the flesh of the birth of the Christ child and thereby takes on our life – our hopes and dreams, faults and sins, ups and downs – and gives us Christ’s own righteousness. The sins are ours, but Christ takes them on as if they were his; and while the righteousness is Christ’s, we now can make full use of it.”

Today’s readings explore the meaning of Emmanuel, God with us. In Isaiah, God gives reluctant Ahaz an astonishing sign of divine sovereignty: Emmanuel. Paul, in the opening words of his letter to the Romans, summarizes the rich meaning of Jesus, God among us. In today’s gospel, an angel persuades Joseph to welcome Mary and her holy, unborn Child into his home.

Matthew describes neither the event of Jesus’ conception nor of his birth, but rather the reactions and responses of others to these happenings. For Matthew, the significance of today’s gospel lies first in Jesus’ origin and second in Joseph’s actions.

The child’s name, Jesus, (the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning “Yahweh is salvation”) shows that “he will redeem Israel from all its iniquities” (Psalm 130:8). For the first of many times Matthew makes his announcement of fulfillment–the time of fulfillment is now begun in Jesus’ birth. The name “Emmanuel…God with us” (v. 23) is for Matthew a central statement of Jesus’ identity and his relationship to his people, the Church.

Joseph’s response to Jesus’ origin assures Jesus’ Davidic descent and thus his Messiahship. Betrothal was a binding promise to marriage, and although infidelity by the betrothed was punishable by death, the wronged husband could choose to quietly break the marriage by sending the betrothed back to her family. Yet Joseph was obedient to the lord’s command and took the crucial legal step of recognition by naming the child, thus making the necessary connection in the genealogy.