Church Write-Up (Catch-Up): Advent and Christmas 2019

This is a catch-up Church Write-Up, covering last week’s Advent service, last Sunday’s service, and this morning’s Christmas service.

A. In his Advent sermon, the pastor made a point about Malachi 4:2(3:20): “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (KJV). Many commentators say that this passage is referring to an ancient conception of the sun, which held that the sun was carried on the back of an eagle, who, of course, had wings. The pastor disagrees with this interpretation. The pastor notes that the Hebrew word translated as “wings” is also used for the edge of one’s garments (see Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 22:12; 23:1; 27:20; Ruth 3:9; I Samuel 15:27; 24:5-6, 12). The pastor applies this to the edge of Jesus’s garments bringing forth healing, as it did for the woman with the emission of blood who touched it (Matthew 9:20ff; Mark 5:25ff; Luke 8:43ff; see also Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:56).

B. At last Sunday’s church service, the pastor opened with a story about his brother. When the pastor was young, his brother left a terse, unclear note and left. Those were the days before the Internet, so it was easier for people to fall off the grid, since there was little if any way to track them. The pastor’s parents would still get the brother presents every Christmas, in hope that the brother would return. But, year after year, the brother did not come home. Years of unopened presents accumulated. One day, through a mutual acquaintance, the pastor’s parents learned that the brother was working in Texas, and they contacted him. The brother came home that Christmas, and it was an enjoyable reunion.

C. This morning, the pastor said that the Iowa caucus will be in January, and politicians will be verbose in making their promises. The same was true in ancient times, as well, particularly in ancient Greece. There, constituents would hassle politicians, asking the politicians to keep their promises. In Greek, what they said was the same as “Lord, have mercy.” The pastor also talked about how the Hebrew word for “word,” dabar, is powerful: when God speaks, it is done. So let it be spoken, so let it be done, to paraphrase Yul Brynner in the Ten Commandments. God’s word became flesh in the person of Jesus, and Jesus has retained the flesh that he assumed even after his death and resurrection. God’s word, or declaration, was that, in Jesus, death and sin would be defeated. We can have hope in God’s promise.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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