Sunday, December 18, 2016 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

Advent 2016

"Still the Dear Christ Enters In"


            The idea of Messiah, God's Anointed One, being born at Bethlehem may not have been an absurd thought, but certainly it was more than a little scandalous.  The scandal is that the son of God could be born in a stable, laid to rest in a manger.  Surely God's son deserved a place more fitting for his holy entrance; he was worthy of dignity, great beauty, and servants on every hand.  Bethlehem was a scandalous entrance compared to what might have been, and surpassed only by the scandal of his death on the cross.  Think about it:  the Christ enters at Bethlehem of all places, a little backwater town which was all but forgotten by the world.  He was laid to sleep on cold manger straw.  Besides his mother and father, the only attendants present that we know about were the stupid, staring animals of that stable.  And yet, this is the way scripture says that our God chose to enter all of human history.

            As we have said over these past three weeks of Advent, no ear heard his coming that night, and once he arrived, some believed in him while others received him not.  Still, he came, silently and quietly, and he changed our world.  Phillips Brooks was right when he penned those other words to "O Little Town of Bethlehem:"

How silently, how silently,

the wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

the blessings of his heaven.

            The gift is that Emmanuel comes.  Our God is with us.  In Frederick Buechner's beautiful phrase:  "The claim that Christianity makes for Christmas is that at a particular time and place God came to be with us himself."  We are not alone; we have been found by God.

            How do you assure the continuing presence of Christ with you?   Having entered our world, how does the dear Christ enter our individual lives?  Beyond Bethlehem, what does one do to keep this Christ once he has been received?  You keep God's commandments.  You love other people as you love yourself.  You live in the world as one of his disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  You act as if his coming really did affect all of human history.  You live as though he actually lives in your life.  That is how we all keep Christmas and manage to keep the Christ once he has been received.


-- John Finley



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