November 27, 2022 (The first day of the first week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up. [There was none] because the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground. But streams [like fountains] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the earth. Then the Lord God formed a man [in His image] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; [at that moment] the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.5-7)
The God who dwells within us makes us His people!
The season of “Advent” for the mighty ones of God is the opportunity to prepare ourselves once again to remember IMMANUEL- God with/within us. What is it that we are to remember when we remember IMMANUEL? First and foremost, I believe it is a call to remember first- whose we are and then second- who we are. I have no doubt that for many who will read this reflection that sounds out of order. I am not confused in that proposal of the structuring of our remembering Immanuel. Sadly, the world certainly places the “cart before the horse” in this manner of speaking. The world would love for all people to consider first who they are and then align all other considerations to the corollary of whose they are. This is what I consider a “fatal flaw” in the thinking of the world. Think of the consequences of such thinking as it is now being presented within the current fervency of the culture and climate of “self first.” If we focus on self-identity without thought as to the root of that identity which precedes us and from which we draw our life, livelihood and living, then we are merely grounded to ourselves. All associations and connections in the relational understanding of our lives is then centered on what aligns best with me: my need, my hope, my purpose and my future. It becomes a rubric bounded by the perspective of “what about me.” And in the world today that is more and more frequently the question that is asked to determine the modus operandi for each person’s interaction with the world: our life on earth. Such questions in this genre of thinking sound like: what do I benefit from this; what gain is there to promote my own life; what safeguards are given for my personal freedom and how will I best be self-determinant and the ultimate authority for saying what is best for me. All of our activities in life, according to this genre of thinking or rubric of evaluating what serves me best, become focused on how I see myself as the true center of existence. Many will even allow themselves to believe that altruism, allowing others to “be themselves,” philanthropy and spirituality have nothing to do with preserving self, positing one’s self as the center of understanding or serving self need before the needs of others. A sincere investigation will bring to light the frailty of such thinking and the false image it projects. In all of that, how is the “me” preserved, protected and projected? We may even go so far as to validate the right of others to believe this “way” for themselves in order to preserve, protect and project the right for “me” to do the same for myself. We have little answer for the conflict which arises when “my” self and “your” self do not mesh and thus become counterproductive in accomplishing the fulfillment of “who I am.” That identity drawn from “who I am” as the first means of revelation then allows me to say “to whom I belong and who is then allowed in my identity circle as belonging to me.” Does everyone then have to become images or reflections of “me” in order for “me” to validate “them”? This is a dangerous proposition because it severely limits and inhibits the true sense of community and right relationships. That fruit, I am sad to say, is what is being born into the world today!
But, this is not the revelation or testimony of Judeo-Christian scripture! The more functional and productive order of thinking comes when the question of “whose I am” proceeds and guides our understanding of “who I am.” For those who are members of the “mighty ones of God, Yahweh Elohim” community, returning to the source of our identity and existence is critical. We are the Lord’s. We are the people of His Hand (for He has created us from the resources of creation- the earth) and the sheep of His pasture [for He has redeemed us from the world of lostness into the kingdom of being found in newness of life.] The identity of being “God’s people” comes directly from dissertation of creation as presented by Moses to the people of Israel. They were as a “lost people, sheep without a shepherd” in the land of Egypt. They had dwelt there for ten generations (400 years) which was long enough to begin to forget whose they were. This is was characterized in the description of Pharaoh’s understanding of the Hebrew captives serving in the Land of Goshen. He had become one who had “forgotten,” as if he never knew, Joseph and Joseph’s father- Jacob. Moses would have been relegated to that distinction as well because of his crime against the state and his exile into the wilderness. Moses would be the scapegoat on which the sins of the people of Jacob Israel was placed. The people themselves would be the sacrificial lambs forced to surrender their lives, their livelihoods and their living to Pharaoh in servitude to the one true god of Egypt. This is, of course, over and against the understanding we know of the One True God of all time, place and people which Moses will be redeemed to announce back to Pharaoh upon his return. Moses discovered who he was because he was led to remember whose he was. And that understanding drew back to the very stories of the awakening of the people of God called by God’s name dating to creation itself. It is in those creation stories that the priority of understanding “who we are” as a people is shown to be totally dependent on affirming “whose we are” as a people. In Genesis, chapter 1, God created the “people of God” in His own image; in the image of the Deity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They were created according to the Word and Will of God spoken into creation by the Holy Spirit who was under God’s command. All creation existed in obedience to the Word and Will of God. The veracity of that claim comes with the affirmation of God as to the rightness of the product, the good and the good and very good, which He declared each day of the created world’s life. In and during that time, the world (the community of humanity which was God’s) and the earth was synonymous. It was a unified and collaborative relationship between God and humanity and humanity with humanity (Adam and Eve). Not to be outdone, the creation story in Genesis, chapter 2, speaks to the further deepening of the understanding of being “God’s people.” Not only are male and female created in God’s image (chapter 1) but they are imbued with the very spirit of God. In Hebrew, the word is ruach which we translate as “breath of God.” In simpler terms to understand what transposed between God and his human creation is a “spiritual CPR.” Except, Adam was not yet alive until God breathed into him His breath of life and “inspired” the matter before Him to come to life, to live and to be alive! From that moment, the story of Adam is determined by the God to whom he comes from. Who he is is determined by Whose he is.
And what better way to understand the season of Advent we enter into today than to start from the “very beginning” of our own story of “whose we are.” We are the Lord’s people and He is our Lord. Without grasping this truth, then the “Christmas” story can simply exist as a good story of doing good first to ourselves even under the cover of doing “good” to others. We can replace God with whatever version of Santa Claus is chosen by race, gender, ethnicity, economics, ideology, philosophy, politics or user-friendly servant relationship. But, if we do not reach to the very spirit and essence of “whose we are,” then the spirit of Christmas presented to the world is simply of our own creation. In that respect, let me offer the following reality: from dust we came and to dust we shall return. Even the legacy passed on from generation to generation as “tradition” is finite because “eternal life” is only eternal so long as people will carry on “the family name.” In other words, there is nothing after death and so the “spirit” lives only as long as the flesh lives. However, if our “spirit” of Christmas is derived from the very truth of creation breathed into us by God Himself; designed in the image of the Godhead as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and called according to His purposes on the earth for His glory and the welfare of others for the sake of fulfilling the requirements of love with us and through us, then and only then shall we know the truth the sets us free from the burden of sin which desires to rule and reign on earth and in all creation. What is it that we are preparing ourselves for? The worship of God who through the Father who sent His only Son as the greatest gift of all redeems us and fills us anew with His spirit of life, living and purpose? The call to worship for all the world to know that He is God and He alone is our hope, joy and salvation? This, I would hope and pray, is who we are as we move into remembering the coming of the King of kings, Lord of lords, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father and the bearer of the weight of the true governance of the world upon His shoulders. Let the “spirit of Christmas” be born in us and borne by us today as we share the Good News of whose people we truly are!
You who has given us the greatest gift of all, life at the very center of all living, we return thanks in the form of praising You from whom all blessing flow. We lift up our true identity to You before all the world and say with great love- I AM of the Lord and He is mine; such faithfulness shall endure to all generations in the name of Jesus who is that great gift of life, living and living life to the fullest. AMEN.