Getting Ready for Sunday

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Sing to the Lord a new song. ­––Psalm 96:1

Today the whole earth sings and shouts for joy because the Lord is come. Heaven and nature sing, because “the grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11) in the birth of Jesus. We rejoice, because, “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us” (Titus 3:4–5). In Jesus, the grace and goodness and love of God flames out, like light shining in darkness. When the light of Christ falls on us, it both reveals the devices and desires of our death-bound hearts and also shows us the way to life. So, today, we—who once walked in darkness but have now seen this great light—are filled with joy. “For unto us a child is born” (Isaiah 9:6), even “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” the same one “who gave himself for us” (Titus 2:13–14).

 “Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us.” These words from the Letter to Titus are very fitting for Christmas Day. They come from one of the readings appointed for today: Titus 2:11–14. This passage is not as well-known as the story of the Nativity in Luke’s Gospel, but it expresses the whole meaning of that story, like a nutshell in which the whole Gospel is written in tiny script.

Jesus is the one “who gave himself for us” (Titus 2:14). In the man Jesus, the God of Israel gives himself for us. Our Creator gives himself for us in Jesus. The Word became flesh. Stop and wonder for a moment before this magnum mysterium, this great mystery.

“Who gave himself for us.” Titus expresses the mystery of the Incarnation in language picked up by Bernard of Clairvaux in a lovely passage:

‘What shall I render to the Lord for all that he has given me?’ In his first work he gave me myself; in his second work he gave me himself; when he gave me himself, he gave me back myself. Given, and regiven, I owe myself twice over. What can I give to God in return for himself? Even if could give him myself a thousand times, what am I to God? (On Loving God 5.15)

In giving himself to us in Jesus, the Lord gives us new life. The Lord gives us life in creating us, and gives us new life in the work of new creation in Christ Jesus, “who gave himself for us” (Titus 2:14). The Lord gives us ourselves, and when we had squandered ourselves, gives us back ourselves. Consequently, as St Bernard puts it, “Given, and regiven, I owe myself twice over.” Not only does our very life come as a gift from God, but the restoration of our life also comes as God’s gift. We have been given and regiven. We owe ourselves twice over.

What more can we do than to give ourselves to the One who gave himself for us? What can we do better than to praise our God and Savior? Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1–2).

Posted by The Rev. Chris Yoder with

Getting Ready for Sunday by the Rev. David Miller

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Do you like to wait? I don’t. Oh, I like to think I like to wait because I like to think that I’m a better man, a better Christian, than I really am. So, do you like to wait? Probably not. Tom Petty had it right when he sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” F. Scott Fitzgerald said it this way, “The three worst things in life are to lie in bed and not to sleep, to try and please and not be able, and to wait for someone who does not come.” That’s true.

Perhaps that’s why Advent really resonates with us. It’s like life in that it’s about waiting. In life we wait to graduate; we wait to get married; we wait to get a promotion; we wait in line; we wait in our car; we wait to get pregnant…but not necessarily in that order. During the season of Advent the Church reminds us that waiting is an essential part of our religion. We wait on the coming of Our Lord; we wait for the consummation of all things; we wait for the final judgment; we wait on eternal life.

There’s just something painful about waiting. And that’s why it’s good for us. That’s why patience is a virtue. You’ll never acquire anything worth having in life without at least some measure of suffering. In this week’s epistle, St. James gives us a lesson on waiting that is worth sitting down to think about: “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”

We know that Christianity is a religion of fulfillment. The Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, are all proofs that our religion is one of fulfillment. But Christianity is also a religion of waiting. We wait in joyful expectation for the Second Coming of Our Lord. We wait for heaven and earth to be one. We wait for the New Jerusalem. That’s why, says Bishop Robert Barron, there’s a permanent Advent quality to Christian life. That’s one reason why we resonate with it, because it speaks of our whole life. We’re waiting for the Lord.”

But, it’s hard to wait, damn it! That’s why we need the virtue of patience. What is St. James trying to teach us? All things worth having, worth knowing, worth doing, take time. I like to cook. I enjoy making a good meal for my family. If I want to make it extra special, I know that I’m going to need three things: 1) Time 2) High quality ingredients 3) And a good beer. Think of the young man or woman who decides to become a lawyer. What will they need to become a successful one? Three things: 1) Time 2) Commitment to their studies 3) And a good beer. Anything in life that’s worth doing requires time, and that requires patience, which requires beer. Seriously, time does require patience. Without patience you’ll never see anything come to its fullness. You’ll never see the flower bloom.

That’s why St. James says, “Strengthen yourself.” Why? You’re going to need to pray, go to the Eucharist, confess your sins, engage in the Corporal Works of Mercy, and read your Bible if your going to learn to wait with patience. You strengthen yourself by doing these things. As Arch Deacon Luck likes to say, “You have your part to play in acquiring the virtue of patience.” So friend, play your part and God will do the rest.

Posted by The Rev. David Miller with

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.