In today's reading Jesus offers his first public sermon, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. At first the people seemed pleased, but Jesus pushes further. He suggest that while the people may indeed share a hope, they lack the faith to see how God is working toward its fulfillment, let alone the faith necessary to participate in that working. This exchange reminds us that we cannot bind God to human assumptions. God always works in ways that catch us off guard. If we aren't open to this possibility and aren't willing to trust, the hope we herald could pass us by.
This weeks message is a reflection on the Baptism of Jesus. In subjecting himself to John's baptism, meant for sinful humanity, Jesus aligns himself with us. In so doing he transforms the water of baptism into a meeting place for the new covenant people of God of whom Christ is the head. Baptism reveals the mystery of our having been joined with Christ.
Throughout the season of advent we emphasized the coming of God into our midst. In these first weeks following Christmas we are confronted by the humanity of his coming. Today's messages wrestles with the mystery of Emmanuel. The one who comes to us as one of us, the Eternal Logos who while here on earth grows in both wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
Today we consider a scene from Jesus' childhood. He is brought to the temple, still an infant. Even so Anna and Simeon discern his presence and give praise to God. How sensitive are we to the leading of the Spirit that helps us to discern God's presence among us. How can we become more so? The first step is to pray. Lord, make yourself known. It is the Lord, by the Holy Spirit, that makes such things know. Let us ask God to do so and let us then watch with expectant hearts for Emmanuel to be revealed in our lives today. Let us watch knowing that he will be.
Our scripture lesson recounts Mary's angelic encounter and her faithful and humble response. Mary is called to do far more than bear a child but to raise one. Mary is called to love the one who is love, the one who will one day reveal God's love to the world. Though we are not called to raise the Christ child, we are called to love those around us as if they were the Christ himself. We too are called to love.
Years before Jesus, the prophet Joel offered words that describe the impact of Jesus' ministry. Peter would quote those words in the first sermon of the church. In using those words, Peter reminds us that Jesus came to reconcile us to God and to make peace.
In today's consideration of Daniel we see a clear demonstration of faithfulness. Daniel's faithfulness? Yes, certainly. But even more so, we witness the faithfulness of God, whose strong arm reaches and upholds us even in the midst of exile.
Jeremiah lived during a tumultuous time. He not only warned of the coming Babylonian exile but watched it unfold. His words were not all doom and gloom, however. Even as exile drew near, he had words of hope to offer too. He reminded the people that impending hardships would not last forever. His words can provide encouragement to us as well. In them we find a reminder, that God does not abandon his people, and that better days will come.