A week or so ago I stepped into the Urban Bakery, a coffee shop at the corner of Green Lake Way North and Wallingford Ave on the north side of the lake. It was early. The streets were pretty deserted. The café was empty except for two other old guys. While I was waiting on my sandwich, I eavesdropped on their conversation. As is common these days, their talk focused on their worries about national affairs. At one point, one of the old guys said, “I’m not worried about myself. I’ve had a great life and I’m pretty well situated. It’s my grandkids and the world they will inherit. That’s what I’m worried about.”
At some point, as we mature, our ambitions and even our desires change. We turn from fascination with our own successes, our own triumphs, to the triumphs and successes or our children and grandchildren. Our highest ambition is to see the well-being of our grandchildren.
We endow scholarships and chairs at universities. For the kids.
We fight for the preservation of public land so succeeding generations can taste some of the wildness and beauty that nourished our own souls.
We fund programs that help disadvantaged children because we hope that hidden somewhere among those anonymous faces is the genius who will cure some incurable disease, the composer who will write the music that thrills audiences for ten generations.
Full human maturity comes when our own lives are nearly forgotten in our ambition and longing and joy in the children yet to come.
This happy ambition for the next generation is expressed throughout the Bible story and reaches its climax in the Christmas story.
The prophet promised:
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders.
His name will be Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.
The fruit of his reign will be everlasting justice. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The Gospel says:
Shepherds were out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. The angel said, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy for all people. Today, in the city of David, a Savior is born, Christ the Lord. And this will be your sign: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Then vast choir of angels appeared, praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:8-14)
The prophet promised:
The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
The Gospel says:
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for the child in her womb is conceived of the Holy Spirit. She will bring forth a Son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.” Thus was fulfilled the word of the prophet, “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:20-24
A prophet said:
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, (Numbers 24:17)
The Gospel says:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.” When these Wise Men finally found their way, they entered the house and when they saw the child with his mother, Mary, they fell down and worshiped Him. They had opened their treasures and presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2)
One of the notable women in the Old Testament was named Hannah. She was a beloved wife and was childless. In response to her prayer and the blessing of the high priest, she became pregnant and gave birth to Samuel, one of the greatest of prophets. In celebration, she offered this prayer/song. She sees the impact her son will have on his world and celebrates it as if it were already accomplished.
Do not act with pride and haughtiness.
Do not speak in arrogance!
For the LORD is a God who knows what you have done;
he has judged your actions. (In the birth of this miracle child)
The bow of the mighty will be broken,
those who stumble will be strengthened (because of the birth of this miracle child)
Those who were well fed are now starving,
those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children,
and the woman with many children wastes away.
The LORD gives both death and life;
he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
The LORD makes some poor and some rich.
He brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the LORD’s, and he sets the world in order. …
Those who fight against the LORD will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
the LORD judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
he increases the strength of his anointed one.” 1 Samuel 2
Then Mary is visited by an angel and told she, too, will have a miracle child. She echoes the words of Hannah in her prayer/song.
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich empty away. Luke 1
Now, I will light the final candle of this Advent season, the Christ candle, the light expressing our conviction that the baby born in a barn and cradled in a feed box was the embodiment of the fullness of God. And we pledge ourselves to see in every infant the embodiment of heaven’s promise and its care our highest duty.
Lighting the Center Candle, the Christ Candle
Christ is born.
God is with us.