Is church for people whose lives are already put-together, looking good and on the right path? Or is church a place for people with problems and struggles, constantly struggling to live up to an ideal that they can never seem to reach, and feeling crushed by their failure to be ‘better’ than they are? Is church for saints—or for sinners like me?
Today, as many of us worship on Christmas Day, we joyfully end Advent’s waiting with expectation and preparing with reverence. We awake today with that special sense of the ‘in the flesh’ burst of joy brought by Emmanuel—God being with us.
What images come to mind when you think of our Savior? Perhaps you visualize Jesus as an infant, picture him ministering to the poor and oppressed, think somberly of his crucifixion, worship him in awe as you remember his triumph over the grave and anticipate his coming again.
Advent is a season of longing, of yearning for what is to come. It is much like the preparation for a wedding, knowing that the celebration is coming but not here yet.
The images of sheep and shepherd are woven throughout the Old Testament scriptures. From the image of David the shepherd who became king to the prophet Isaiah’s sheep going astray, these strokes paint for us a picture of a Messiah who shepherds his flock. So why is the character of a good shepherd one we should remember during Advent?
That grace takes a new form in Mary’s baby. Rather than an elaborate religious ritual that enabled one person to stand, as a representative, in the presence of God, God used the most natural of events (childbirth) to come and stand in our presence.