Friday, December 16, 2016
The very first words that Paul wrote in his letter to the congregation in Rome had a way of getting at the heart of the matter.
Paul got to the point in his salutations. They provided a connection with his audiences and set the stage for needed understanding. Matters of calling, gospel and Spirit came to the forefront in these first lines in the book of Romans. As he developed his letter he brought depth and clarity to the central things he first mentioned.
Hearing these words of greeting today, with Christmas around the corner, I can see better the gift of congregational life. While Paul felt “set apart for the gospel” he recognized and affirmed the ministry of the baptized, “called to belong to Jesus Christ.” This is the kind of belonging that flows from grace and mercy. It is a fuller engagement in the work we are called to.
Notice that Paul mentioned both the birth of Jesus and the resurrection in the same sentence. It all adds to the mystery and wonder of the nativity. The event of Bethlehem set in motion a redeeming grace – God at work making all things new.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark street shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. (ELW 279)
The gospel Paul proclaimed reminds us of both the vulnerability and the grittiness of the good news of Christmas. Redeeming grace is close at hand. Our attention can be given over to the places and people and events where in faith we see God drawing near to set free and to make new.
Our attention can be given over to the opportunities before us to be gospel to others.
We find our way to worship in this season because as always we need the gospel. We need a presence and a promise that addresses our fears and lifts us to hope. We need the light – the radiant light – the everlasting light.