“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. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)
“Love is blind.” At least, that is how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is in play, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved. There is some truth to that, but the kind of love we all deeply desire is a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind – that turns away from reality – is false love, while love that sees – that leans into reality – is real love.
John 3:16 is such a well-known Scripture passage because it describes God’s love as real love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). In the midst of a world stuck in the cycle of death, Jesus the Son of God comes to bring liberating life. Even as the world could potentially be condemned because of evil and injustice, God takes a different route by sending Jesus to save the world. Jesus Himself echoes this later when He says, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We see in Jesus the Messiah that God’s love is an eyes-open love, leaning into the reality of our world and our lives. Jesus shows us just how far God will go to hold us in His loving embrace.
When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:46-47, 50).
That little word ‘mercy’ is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s love. As we draw close to Christmas Day, let us join Mary’s wondrous call to praise our God whose love is not blind, but rather eyes-open about us and our world. Let us draw near with anticipation to experience once again the tenderly tenacious love of God found in Jesus the Messiah.
This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our journey of Advent and preaching series entitled “Canticles of Christmas” This second week of the series Kelly Erickson preached from Luke 1:46-55 on Mary’s song of praise in light of Gabriel’s announcement that we explored last week.
“And Mary said: ‘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.’” (Luke 1:46-48)
Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)
She goes with haste 80-100 miles south
Both ladies are full of the Holy Spirit
The older blesses the younger three times
Elizabeth names the truth of the Messiah in Mary’s womb
Mary’s Song – The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-49)
Mary is young and under the rule of the Roman Empire
Parallelism in how Mary takes great joy in her God
Mary contrasts herself with God
Mary Sings of the Upside-Down Kingdom (Luke 1:50-55)
Gives a picture of the New Kingdom created by Jesus
Shocking new order
Continues a pattern from the Old Testament (1 Samuel 2:1-8)
The prophets predicted this sort of kingdom (Joel 2:28-29)
This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:
- Spend time taking great joy in Jesus. Exalt Him; magnify Him; adore Him. Let His character overwhelm you.
- Practice silence. Come into God’s presence, not needing to speak, but just to be with Him. What do you see? What do you hear when you stop talking?
- Practice Noticing. Notice what God does. Notice His actions, His fingerprints on creation, His presence in others, and His goodness in your everyday interactions with others.
Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue the journey of Advent and our preaching series entitled “Canticles of Christmas.”
Here is a prayer for this second Sunday of Advent from The Book of Common Prayer:
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
If you are able to do so, let me encourage you to join us for in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus.
If you are new to Eastbrook, we want to welcome you to worship and would ask you to text EBCnew to 94000 as a first step into community here at Eastbrook.
Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.
If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.
“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.
“The Grand Miracle” – C. S. Lewis in Plough: “Supposing you had before you a manuscript of some great work, either a symphony or a novel. There then comes to you a person, saying, ‘Here is a new bit of the manuscript that I found; it is the central passage of that symphony, or the central chapter of that novel. The text is incomplete without it. I have got the missing passage which is really the center of the whole work.’ The only thing you could do would be to put this new piece of the manuscript in that central position, and then see how it reflected on the whole of the rest of the work. If it constantly brought out new meanings from the whole of the rest of the work, if it made you notice things in the rest of the work which you had not noticed before, then I think you would decide that it was authentic. On the other hand, if it failed to do that, then, however attractive it was in itself, you would reject it. Now, what is the missing chapter in this case, the chapter which Christians are offering? The story of the Incarnation – the story of a descent and resurrection. When I say ‘resurrection’ here, I am not referring simply to the first few hours, or the first few weeks of the Resurrection. I am talking of this whole, huge pattern of descent, down, down, and then up again. What we ordinarily call the Resurrection being just, so to speak, the point at which it turns. Think what that descent is. The coming down, not only into humanity, but into those nine months which precede human birth, in which they tell us we all recapitulate strange pre-human, sub-human forms of life, and going lower still into being a corpse, a thing which, if this ascending movement had not begun, would presently have passed out of the organic altogether, and have gone back into the inorganic, as all corpses do. One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea-bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders. Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe. That indeed is a point I cannot go into here, because it would take a whole sermon – this connection between human nature and nature in general. It sounds startling, but I believe it can be fully justified.”
“3 Popular Misconceptions About Advent” – Isabel Ong in Christianity Today: “For liturgy-loving Christians, Advent is a season of anticipation, marked by a posture of hopeful and expectant waiting. But for many evangelicals, it may pass by almost unnoticed and unobserved, whether due to an unfamiliarity with the church’s liturgical calendar or a cynicism toward Catholic practices. Advent means “arrival” or “appearing” and comes from the Latin word adventus. Each year, the season begins four Sundays before Christmas and lasts until December 25. It is divided into a period that focuses on Christ’s second coming and another that focuses on his birth. (Orthodox Christians observe a similar event, the Nativity Fast, from November 15 to December 24 before the Nativity Feast on December 25.) Advent began in fourth- and fifth-century Gaul and Spain as a season intended to prepare believers’ hearts for Epiphany (January 6), not Christmas. Epiphany is a day to commemorate the Magi’s visit after Jesus’ birth (in the West) or Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River (in the East). Today, Advent customs may include reading and praying through an Advent devotional and lighting one of four candles inside an Advent wreath each Sunday, corresponding to four weekly themes: hope, love, joy, and peace. Most wreaths also include a centrally placed candle to symbolize Jesus, the Light of the World.”
“Tolkien Was Right: Notes on the Respect for Marriage Act and the Post-Boomer Church” – Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy: “Some time after his death, an editor was going through the papers and books in J. R. R. Tolkien’s library when he came across an old copy of C. S. Lewis’s pamphlet ‘Christian Behavior,’ which would later be re-published as one section in Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity. Folded inside the book was a letter Tolkien had written but apparently never sent to his long-time friend and fellow Oxford don. In it, Tolkien took issue with Lewis’s treatment of divorce in the pamphlet. Briefly, Lewis argued for the creation of two separate marriage institutions within the United Kingdom. The former, church marriage, would be handled by the Church of England and defined by Christian conception of marriage while the latter, civil marriage, would be overseen by the state and would be governed by the moral norms in favor with British society. Through this, Lewis thought, British Christians could preserve Christian ideas of marriage, including the prohibition against divorce, while honoring civil laws that were far more permissive regarding divorce. Tolkien objected strongly to the idea and wrote an aggressive letter to his friend saying so. ‘No item of Christian morality,’ Tolkien said, ‘is valid only for Christians.’ In other words, Christian morality is human morality because Christianity is a true account of reality, including the human person. You can’t create bifurcations between a kind of privatized religious morality and the real public morality that governs our common life together.”
“Government legalises 125 churches and places of worship” – Christianity Solidarity Worldwide: “On 14 November the government committee which oversees the legalisation of churches in Egypt granted legal status to 125 churches and places of worship during a meeting chaired by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. The decision brings the number of churches that have been granted legal status since the committee began its mandate in 2017 to 2526, and follows the legalisation of 239 churches and places of worship at a similar meeting which took place in April 2022. In Egypt, churches must apply for legal status for their buildings, which in the past had to be approved by the security agencies. However, under the Church Construction Law (Law No. 80 of 2016), which was approved by the Egyptian Parliament on 30 August 2016, the power to approve the building and renovation of churches was extended to provincial governors. Despite this improvement, the legislation remains discriminatory as the same requirements do not apply to Sunni Muslim houses of worship, and other religious groups, such as the Ahmadi, Baha’i and Shia communities, are not covered by the Law.”
“Agrarian Spirit: Cultivating Faith, Community, and the Land“ – Brian M. Howell reviews Norman Wirzba’s Agrarian Spirit in Christian Scholar’s Review: “There is now a well-developed Christian literature addressing the dualism of mind- body, and the consequences for our health and flourishing when this dualism is taken for granted, ignored, or unchallenged. Theologian Norman Wirzba suggests there is another dualism that similarly threatens our spiritual-physical-social health; this is the dualism between humanity and the rest of creation. This might be thought of as the split between humans and nature, but Wirzba, the son of Canadian farmers who has been profoundly influenced by the life and thought of poet-scholar-farmer-theologian Wendell Berry, does not just want people to get in touch with nature, swarming national parks to vacation off the grid. Rather, Wirzba wants people to get in touch with the created order through the work we undertake in cultivating, harvesting, and consuming that creation. He wants us to live in a deep understanding of our relationship to, and interconnections with, creation in order to flourish in our lives together and with God. This recent book offers his readers the theological and theoretical support for his position, while ushering us into practices and postures that can transform our relationship to creation. Like his other many books, the writing is lucid and compelling, immanent and transcendent, calling Christians to a new understanding of how we can reform our theological imagination to be part of God’s work to bring all things—human and nonhuman—back to a restored order. No book can do everything, and there are elements of Wirzba’s work that may prompt the reader to bring more voices to the conversation, but this is an outstanding place to start for both personal and communal work in the redemption of our earthly call to live fully within God’s creation and live wholly in our creaturely selves.”
“Forget Charisma. Look for the Weak and the Slow.” – Interview with Pete Scazzero by Matthew LaPine in Christianity Today: “Pete Scazzero hosts the Emotionally Healthy Leader podcast and is the author of several books, including The Emotionally Healthy Leader and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship. Scazzero founded New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, where he served as senior pastor for 26 years. Matthew LaPine, a Christian minister and writer on mental health, spoke with Scazzero about a pressing challenge pastors are facing today: recruiting and developing leaders in their congregations. ML: Pastors are feeling overstretched and emotionally exhausted, and many have asked CT how to raise up and train leaders in their churches in this moment. Is this the right question to be asking right now? PS: I do think it’s the right question. Every leader needs to be asking that question: How do I develop and raise up leaders? We’re called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. This is a huge task right now. Almost all the churches I have talked to have lost 20 to 40 percent of their people. And the folks who are in the room are new. So you’re starting over as you build relationships with a lot of new people. This takes a lot of time—years actually.”
Music: J.S. Bach, “Schwingt freudig euch empor,” Cantata BWV 36 / Part 1, John Eliot Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir