December 30, 2007

This morning’s worship service included four reflections on the scripture readings. The first three reflections were delivered in conversation with the children of the church. The fourth reflection was delivered from the pulpit. Whether you are experiencing these reflections for the first time online, or whether you were present at St. Andrew’s and are re-reading them now, I invite you to consider the questions for your own reflection that follow each of my scripture reflections. ~ Amanda Reflection #1: “Giving Thanks for the Blessings of the Past” Good morning. Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year! I haven’t seen most of you since Christmas Eve. Did you have a good Christmas? I had a very nice Christmas. Nick and I had a nice quiet day, we cooked a special dinner, and we invited some friends over for good food and great conversation. Today, I am thankful for the Christmas that I just had — for the celebrations at church, and for the chance to rest and relax for a few days. Think about the Christmas that you just celebrated. What are you most thankful for? (invite sharing) Today is December 30th — almost the very end of the year 2007. This is the time when lots of people start thinking back over the year, remembering all the things that happened and all the things they did. Think about this year — 2007 — What are you most thankful for in 2007? (invite sharing) Today, now that Christmas is pretty much over, … Read more »

January 6, 2008

Isaiah 60:1-6 Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14Ephesians 3:1-12Matthew 2:1-12 The story of the magi’s visit to the young boy Jesus in Bethlehem is the classic Epiphany story. We often sneak the wise men into the Christmas story in December, but its proper place is here: after the birth of the child, after the shepherds have returned home, after the angels have receded into the sky. Once again, of course, I should remind you that the shepherds and the angels belong to Luke’s story, and the magi are Matthew’s. The birth narratives should not be read as historical accounts of factual events. So we don’t have to worry about why the Holy Family who had travelled to Bethlehem for a census (in Luke’s account) are still there a few years later (in Matthew’s account) and living in a house. Chances are that Jesus was really born in Nazareth, the Galilean town where he grew up and began his ministry. But both Matthew and Luke come up with reasons for his birth to take place in Bethlehem, the city of David. It’s a great way to show that Jesus is the predicted Messiah, in the family line of David, born in David’s town. Likewise, there is no historical reason to believe that Gentile astrologers came looking for Jesus to worship him as a little child in Bethlehem. My guess is that no one knew that there was anything particularly special about Jesus until he began his ministry as a young man. But the story … Read more »

January 6, 2013

Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 Several times over the Christmas Season, I found myself in conversations about why we celebrate Christmas when we do. One person commented, “Every day is Christmas for me. We don’t know what time of year Jesus was born, do we? So I can celebrate his birth all through the year.” I certainly couldn’t dispute that! We really have no idea when Jesus was born, either what date or season, or even exactly what year. What the Christian Church has done is to choose a birthday for Jesus. We have chosen a time of year to celebrate and give thanks for the birth of Christ, for God’s incarnation among us. The probable reason for the selection of December 25th was to coincide with pagan festivals that were being held around the time of the Winter Solstice. I can imagine the Christian leaders speculating… Perhaps if we celebrate a mass for Christ at that time, Christians will be less inclined to get caught up in those other pagan celebrations. There’s good sense in that reasoning. And yet, there are other good reasons for celebrating the incarnation at the end of December. As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is the Light of the World. And so we celebrate his coming at the darkest, coldest time of the year, when the days are so short and we are longing for light. Many religious traditions do something similar. Jewish people, for example, celebrate the miracle of light with Hanukkah, an eight-day holiday … Read more »

December 29, 2013

Matthew 2:13-23 “Jesus and Harry Potter” Sometimes I have a hard time keeping the stories straight… First there is Luke’s story, in which Mary and Joseph are from Nazareth. They travel to Bethlehem for the census, Jesus is born in a stable because there is no room in the inn, and they receive shepherds who come to visit the newborn child. Then there’s Matthew’s story, in which Mary and Joseph are from Bethlehem. Jesus is born in his own home town, and some time after his birth magi from the East follow a star and bring gifts to the child who is to be the newborn king. My nativity scene melds the two stories together and confuses them in my mind. So for today, since we are focusing on Matthew’s story, I need to take away the characters that come from Luke. Today, Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus are in their own house in Bethlehem. There aren’t any animals with them because they aren’t in someone else’s stable. (Remove animals.) There aren’t any shepherds either; the shepherds belong to Luke. (Remove shepherd.) (Pick up the angel.) The angel still belongs, I think. Not the angel that made the announcement to the shepherds, but the angel who kept talking to Joseph in his dreams. First the angel told Joseph not to be afraid, to go ahead and take Mary as his wife. And the angel will appear again and again… warning, guiding, and encouraging the family through the dangers … Read more »

January 5, 2014

Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 “Shiny Happy People!” As I was reading commentaries on the passage from Isaiah 60 this week, a pop song from the 90’s started running through my head: “Shiny happy people.” Do you remember that lively song by the band REM? As I read and reflected on the prophet’s command to the people of Judah to “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” I couldn’t get the “Shiny happy people” song out of my head, so I gave in to it and looked up the video on YouTube. It began with an old man riding a stationary bicycle in a dreary-looking room, and then on the other side of the wall the band – dressed in bright happy colours in front of a colourful mural of similarly happy-looking people – began to play, and sing, and dance. It was carefree, full of smiles, and by the end of the song the band was surrounded by people dancing, and laughing, and having a great time. Meanwhile, the old man has gotten off his bicycle, and he stands watching the shiny happy people as they dance and sing. He doesn’t exactly look happy, but somewhat curious about what is happening before his eyes. I don’t know what the band intended to say with their video. Perhaps it was a hope that the grumpy old men of the world would lighten up and join in the party. Perhaps it was a subtle commentary on those who laugh, and dance, and … Read more »

January 4, 2015

Matthew 2:1-12 “Hope for all the World” People today are longing to make sense out of life and to find hope for the future. In the midst of the conflict, strife, and violence of our world… In the midst of personal issues and family struggles, they are looking for meaning, for hope, and for peace. But I don’t think that this is new. If you follow humanity back hundreds, even thousands of years, you find that people have always been longing for something more, and wondering what it’s all about. We have questioned our gurus and wise ones, speculated about the gods, and struggled to make sense of our little place in this vast universe. The gospel reading today is about some men who must have had just such a longing. The scripture calls them, “wise men from the East.” They were foreigners, Gentiles. They probably came from somewhere East of the Jordan river, from Babylon or Syria maybe. The main thing that always gets pointed out about these men is that they were not Jews. They were Gentiles. They were Gentiles in the extreme. Not only did they not worship the one God of Israel, and they didn’t follow the law given to Moses and the Israelites, but one commentary describes them as, “characters who could not be more remote from the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem in heritage and worldview.” They were Magi, magicians, sorcerers. They watched the stars and the sky, and predicted what the future would bring. … Read more »