Christmas Eve

I wrote enough daily reflections to last an entire week after the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Since Christmas Eve falls on a Monday this year, I will publish the remaining reflections through the rest of the week. This week’s reflections explore the theme: “The Temple reminds Community of Christ that God is with us, working through us to transform the world.”

Malachi 3:1
(fresh translation)

The Lord, for whom you have been waiting,
is coming to his temple.
He will arrive without warning.

He is coming to renew the covenant.
How eagerly you watch for him!

Look! There he is!

Reflection:

Lord—
You have come to your temple.

The infant body cradled in Mary’s arms is your temple,
because you are in it.
The stable that shelters you has become your temple,
because you are in it.
The whole world has become your temple,
because you are in it.

My body is your temple,
because you are in me.
My congregation is your temple,
because you are in us.
Community of Christ is your temple,
because you are in us.

Shine in us. Speak through us. Work through us.

You are with us. To God be glory! On earth be peace!

About this reflection

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Week 4: Sunday

I wrote enough daily reflections to last an entire week after the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Since Christmas Eve falls on a Monday this year, I will publish the remaining reflections through the rest of the week. This week’s reflections explore the theme: “The Temple reminds Community of Christ that God is with us, working through us to transform the world.”

Exodus 25:1-2, 8
(fresh translation)

God said to Moses:

Tell the Israelites to take up an offering for me.
Accept contributions to my offering
from anyone who feels moved to give.

Have the people build for me a sacred place
where I can live among them.

Reflection:

I am an Israelite, traveling with my people through the desert after having fled from slavery in Egypt. Wherever we pitch camp, we erect the sacred tent, the Tabernacle, at the center of the camp. I see the Tabernacle, and I am reminded that God, too, is traveling with us, living in a tent like us. I am reminded that I am part of a people who have entered a covenant relationship with God. I see the Tabernacle, and I am reminded that God is with us.

I am a 21st-century Christian. At Christmastime, I and other Christians adorn our homes and churches with nativity scenes, depicting Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi, adoring the Christ child in the manger. I see these nativity scenes, and I am reminded that God became flesh and lived among us—“pitched his tent” among us, according to the literal meaning of the Greek text for John 1:14. I see nativity scenes, and I am reminded that God is with us.

I am a member of Community of Christ. Twenty-five years ago, my faith community erected a temple in Independence, Missouri, where the founders of our movement had dreamed of building a “house of the Lord,” inspired by the Tabernacle and the Temple built by the Israelites in Bible times. I see the Independence Temple, and I am reminded that I am part of a community of Christ’s disciples who are working with God to bring about God’s vision for creation. I see the Temple, and I am reminded that God is with us.

About this Advent reflection

Week 3: Saturday

Ephesians 3:16-17, 20
(excerpted; fresh translation)

I pray
that God will strengthen and empower you
through his Spirit within you;
that Christ will live in your hearts;
that you will be firmly rooted in love.

God’s power, working in us,
can accomplish far more than we realize.

Reflection:

I’m going to repeat Paul’s prayer as my own. Paul uses the plural “you,” so I won’t just be praying for myself. I need to decide who else to fill in the blank with. My family? My congregation? Other groups or communities with whom I collaborate in ministry?

I pray
that God will strengthen and empower
me and __________
through his Spirit within us.

I pray that Christ will live in our hearts.*
I pray that we will be firmly rooted in love.

I have faith, God,
that your power, working in us,
can accomplish far more than we realize.

In Christ’s name I pray.
Amen.

* How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts
to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.

No ear may hear his coming;
but in this world of sin,
where meek hearts will
receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

(“O Little Town of Bethlehem”)

About this Advent reflection

Week 3: Friday

Doctrine and Covenants 164:9b
(fresh rendering)

God desires to transform you—
to transform you spiritually, as individuals,
and to transform your relationships.

It is natural for you to be afraid of transformation.
But your willingness to live in sacred community,
as Christ’s new creation,
must be greater than your fear.
Only then will you become who you are called to be.

You are called to make,
and then to steadfastly hold on to,
God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.
Your wholehearted response to that call
will make possible the rise of Zion the beautiful,
Christ’s peaceful kingdom.

Reflection:

Reading these words during Advent, I hear in the reference to “Christ’s peaceful kingdom” an echo of Isaiah 9:6-7. “To us a child is born… The government will be upon his shoulder… Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end… to establish his kingdom with justice forever…”

Today’s reading from Doctrine and Covenants tells my faith community that our wholehearted response to God’s call will make possible the rise of the kingdom promised in Isaiah. God is calling us to enter a covenant of peace, to live in sacred community, and to be a new creation—which will require us to be transformed.

What transformations do I need to make in order to respond to God’s call? What frightens me, or makes me uneasy, about those transformations?

About this Advent reflection

Week 4: Thursday

Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b, 3a
(excerpted; fresh rendering)

Restoring people to healthy relationships
with God, others, themselves, and the earth
is at the heart of the purpose of your journey
as a people of faith.

You are called to create pathways in the world
through which the peace that is found in Christ
can be made incarnate
in relationships and in cultures.

Where Christ’s vision is embodied
in communities of generosity, justice, and peace—
there is the Zion you have been longing for.

Reflection:

In that stable in Bethlehem,
God became incarnate—
in other words, embodied.

Now Christ lives in me,
by virtue of his Spirit living in me.
In that sense,
Christ is incarnate, or embodied, in me.

I am called—
or rather, I am part of a community of disciples who are called—
to find ways to make Christ’s peace incarnate,
to make Christ’s peace physically manifest,
in people’s relationships
and in their cultures, their ways of living.

I am called—
or rather, I am part of a community of disciples who are called—
to create communities
where generosity is embodied, or incarnated, in action,
where justice is embodied, or incarnated, in action,
where peace is embodied, or incarnated, in action.

In this way,
the Zionic vision that Christ taught
becomes embodied, or incarnate,
in communities of living people.

The Incarnation didn’t happen and end
in that stable in Bethlehem.
The Incarnation is an ongoing process,
which I am helping to make happen.

About this Advent reflection