Advent Week Two

Some years back, in Southern California, a 12-year-old boy was brought to the hospital. He had been thrown from a horse. The boy had been traumatized by the experience. His eyes were open but he stared straight ahead. He didn’t recognize anyone. He made no response to anyone or anything. There was nothing physically wrong with him. There were no broken bones, no concussion. He was basically, scared stiff. This condition is called emotional paralysis, a form of psychosomatic paralysis.
Day after day he lay in bed responding to nothing. One day, a nurse had a moment of inspiration. She brought a six-month-old baby into the boy’s room. She sat the baby on his stomach. The baby began to make baby sounds and crawled up to touch the boy’s face. The 12-year-old boy smiled. He sat up and began playing with the baby. In a few days, the boy had fully recovered and was released to go home with his family.
This reminds me of the Advent and Christmas message. A little baby came to give us the gift of freedom, to heal us and to save us. A baby came to do for us what no one else can do.
Matthew 11 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. 2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
John is impatient with his cousin. He is in prison. He expects the Messiah to take up arms. To ready his followers and to take down the Romans. A short time before this, he had publicly exposed King Herod’s sin of stealing his brother’s wife. John was a hard-hitter and didn’t hold any punches. King Herod was selfish and sinful and John called it out for what it was.
Well, King Herod didn’t appreciate John so he had him thrown in prison. So, John was sitting in prison. He sent his messengers to ask Jesus basically, when are you getting the show on the road. When are you going to overthrow Herod and take the thrown yourself?
Jesus’ response to John was he had not chosen the way of power and rage but the way of love. Jesus chose to bring the Kingdom through love which is the most powerful and lasting thing in the world. It is love that sets us free. He said to John, look! The lame are walking, the blind see. Love came down at Christmas time to set us free from those things that imprison us.
He sets us free from selfishness. John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  Matthew 16:25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. If you truly love someone, you are released from the prison of selfishness. Jesus came into the world to free us from the sin of selfishness. To show us real sacrificial, self-giving love from the manger to the cross.
Jesus sets us free from the prison of hate. Hate can poison our soul. If we feel hatred towards anyone, we need to let go of it for our own sake, for God’s sake and for that person’s sake. We have to turn it over to God.
A great comedy team of Abbott and Costello had a radio program which included a classic, “Who’s on first”, routine. One night on their show, Costello was wearing a beautiful flower in his lapel. People kept complementing Costello on his beautiful flower, which he very much enjoyed. However, a neighbor named Scott came along, admired the flower, then without warning, grabbed the flower out of Costello’s lapel and put it on himself. Then he walked away whistling. Lou Costello was angry. As the show went on, he became angrier and angrier.
Finally, after replacing his lapel flower with another one, he said to Bud Abbott, “I’m ready for Scott now. Just let him try to take my flower out of my lapel now, and see what he gets!”
“What have you done, Lou?” Abbott asked. Costello answered, “I have put a hand grenade in my coat pocket and I have tied the flower to the pin of that hand grenade. When Scott takes my flower this time, it’s going to blow his hand clean off! That’ll teach him!”
Of course, because of his hatred, Costello wasn’t thinking right. While Scott’s hand gets blown off, it would blow his heart right out. That’s the way hatred works. When we lash out with hatred towards others, we damage ourselves. Jesus came down at Christmas time to bring goodwill and to set us free from the prison of selfishness and hatred.
Dear God, thank you for the gift of freedom, for setting us free from selfishness and hatred, by the power of your love for us. Show us how to escape from the prisons that hold us back from loving others and that keep us from doing your will. May this Advent season be a time for us all to grow. Amen.
O come, O come, Emmanuel is a Christian hymn for Advent and Christmas. Originally written in Latin (Veni, veni, Emmanuel), its melody goes back as far as 15th-century France.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Adonai, Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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