Tag Archives: advent

Water and wine with Jesus and John.

John 2:1-11

“What was the first time we saw through the skin and saw a glimpse of something more?” The old man shifted slightly on the chair. “That’s easy. Water into wine.”

“We’d had conversations with him. He shocked Nathaniel with his mind-reading or whatever it was. But at the wedding, it was clear that there was something more.

“We were sitting at the table, enjoying the party. We knew the bride, teased the groom about his good fortune. We asked Jesus whether he’d made the furniture. Peter and Andrew debated the quality of the fish. It was a wedding reception.

“Suddenly, everything shifted. Mary interceded on behalf of the family. She wanted to help them avoid shame. It’s the third prayer we heard, the first requesting something.

91710c3a-3795-43e7-9aa8-fc67fa357b31“When he told the servants to fill the jars with water, he wasn’t a guest, he was the master. He wasn’t serving himself, he was honoring his mother. He was blessing the guests. He was saving the family’s reputation in the community.

“And he didn’t lift a finger. No wave of the hands. No commanding of the water to change. The only thing that he did was to speak, to direct the servers.

“And then there was great wine, the best wine. And we knew that this was no ordinary teacher we were eating with. Because he kept eating. As if it was nothing for him to speak things into being, to have things change as people simply did what he said.

“It’s not that we never had questions after that. We were stretched, we debated. We asked foolish things, we ran away. But that one meal with Jesus made us look forward to more. We ate with him as often as we could.”

John looked at us. “Wait til you see the real wedding feast.”

Sharing can be fasting.

We usually talk about fasting during Lent. So it seems wrong to talk about fasting when we are supposed to celebrate Advent by looking at the meals around Jesus. But I want to suggest we can understand fasting as sharing rather than as giving up.

Usually, fasting is giving something up. When I think of giving up food or coffee (shudder) or media, I think about my suffering. And I think about the credibility I build.

But Isaiah redefines fasting. He quotes God saying,

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Suddenly, we aren’t giving up something merely to give it up. We are giving up part of our meal to share it with someone else. We are giving up some of our freedom, our “free time” and using it to bring justice to others.

John’s message to those wanting to change their lives echoes Isaiah:

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Isaiah and John are teaching people to live in community that reflects God’s compassion and provision. It’s possible that the reason some people have much is to share with people who don’t. And sharing includes attention, time, clothing, food, space, love, leverage, influence, freedom, faith.

For Advent, it’s better to have half a meal together than no meal alone.

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Sometime during this Advent season, I invite you to consider diapers for Advent. 

Looking forward to Advent

I’ve had mixed feelings about Advent and Christmas for years. Everyone’s happy and I get more melancholy. There are expectations of great love and great presents and great programs, and I feel inadequate.

But several years ago, I began to understand that spending time in preparation can help us handle seasons of expectation with wisdom and grace. A little more anyway.

Several years ago, I wrote an Advent reader.  It looked at the mixture of fear and hope and anticipation in the lives of people as Jesus first appeared.

As I started thinking about Advent this year, about a season of preparation for Christmas, I wanted to write something new. Writing is how I think. And in the reflection, I started to think about food.

That’s obvious, right?

bonnie doon.We talk about eating too much during the holidays. In fact, I’ve spent much of the year dealing with what happened last year.

And food can be a scary thing. I have several friends sorting through food allergies right now, deciding what can help them and what can hurt them.

But I realized that food, or better, meals, is a powerful way to reflect on anticipation and preparation. Having food, not having food, having meals, having community – all of these are deep in our hearts. And there are food images, meal images, all through the Bible. From good and bad food choices in the Garden, to feasts in front of enemies in Psalm 23 to vegetarian choices in Daniel to a wedding feast at the end of time.

Starting November 30, at 300 we’re going to celebrate Advent by looking at the stories of meals around Jesus.

I’d love to have you start thinking now, to anticipate our conversation about anticipation. So answer this question if you would: What’s the best meal you ever had?

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I’m suggesting a helping project around Advent as well: Advent Diapers.

Advent 24: Unexpecting

For the past month, throughout advent, we’ve been looking at the people who were expecting Jesus. In the town of Nain there was a person who wasn’t expecting him at all.  But her lack of expectation didn’t stop Jesus from helping.

Jesus and his disciples and a crowd were walking toward town. A funeral procession was coming out of town at the same time. The body of a boy was being carried out, the only son of a widow.

This woman was doubly bereaved. All support was gone. She was going to be at the mercy of others. But at that moment, Jesus showed up.

His heart went out to her.

The boy was given life back, the woman was given hope. And Jesus showed unexpected, unrequested, unbelievable grace.

But then again, that’s what grace is about.

(From Luke 7:11-17)

Advent 23: Hungry and rich

Levi had a pretty good job, at least financially. He collected taxes.

When you have the Roman army backing you up, you can make a comfortable living collecting taxes. You don’t have many friends, other than tax collectors and other people who have money but are socially unacceptable. But there is, I’m guessing, a sense of community among the outcasts.

One day Levi is sitting at his desk and Jesus walks by and says, “follow me.” An odd statement this is. It’s clear enough, this two word invitation, but out of the blue, it doesn’t seem to fit.

Except to Levi.

He gets up and follows Jesus. And then he throws a party. It may have been a going out of business party. It may have been a “here’s the man who gave me meaning” party. It may have been one of Levi’s great parties.

Whatever the theme, the honored guest was Jesus, and lots of people came. The outcasts sat inside. The religious leaders stood outside, scolding. But Jesus wasn’t at all confused about where he wanted to be. For him, sitting with people who were rich financially and hungry for meaning was exactly where he wanted to be.

It was far more fun than standing with people who were already so stuffed with meaning that they couldn’t hear the voice that counted.

(From Luke 5:27-39)