Blessed to Be a Blessing
Preparing for the Third Sunday of Advent: Two Days Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Isaiah 12:2-6
Old Testament: Amos 8:4-12
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15
O God of the exiles and the lost, you promise restoration and wholeness through the power of Jesus Christ. Give us faith to live joyfully, sustained by your promises as we eagerly await the day when they will be fulfilled for all the world to see, through the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
In his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns states that in the Bible there are approximately 5000 verses that admonish God’s people in one way or another to take care of the most vulnerable among us—the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the immigrants or resident aliens. God wants everyone to participate in the blessings of creation and the salvation of new creation.
In Advent, we prepare for the dawn of God’s re-creation in the birth of Jesus Christ. That re-creation not only involves eternity. Salvation is about more than going to heaven when we die, and we truncate the gospel when we make it about that alone. The salvation God has in mind is not just other-worldly. It is centered on this world. God wants to rescue our world from its demise and decay. The this-worldly orientation of salvation includes God’s abundance of provisions in all things that human beings need—food, clothing, security, freedom, and relationship. The salvation Jesus brings is holistic.
Amos stands firmly in the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament when he condemns those with wealth and power for doing the opposite of what the law of Moses commands:
Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
Jesus states, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). In our day, we might say colloquially that we are blessed to be a blessing. Selfish hoarding is not the way of God’s people. Ultimately we are not owners, but stewards of what we have received. God’s expects generosity of us. The salvation that Jesus brings is salvation from sin, which means among other things, the restoration of what our sin has broken through selfishness, greed, and injustice. Salvation is what God is doing to make all things right, that is, the way God has wanted them to be from the beginning for all persons.
Mary understands this when she sings for us every Advent season,
The Mighty One has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53).
In advent we prepare for the long restoration of all things that begins in the birth of Jesus, and will be completed when he returns a second time in glory. In the meantime, we participate in that restoration. We are blessed to be a blessing.
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