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Sunday, December 1, 2013
Today’s Reading | Luke 1:5–13
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” (NRSV)
It is probably not an accident that Luke’s story of Jesus begins in the temple. For ancient Israelites and Jews, the temple was the intersection of divine and human realms, a thin place in which the concentrated presence of God dwelled. This holy space was held in deep reverence and was only entered by certain priests. It was this sacred duty that brought Zechariah in contact with an angel of God, announcing the birth of a son named John who would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus.
John would grow up to be a prophet who operated outside the official religious institutions of his day. Out in the wilderness, far removed from the sacredness of the temple, John nonetheless brought his followers into contact with a thin place as he baptized them in the Jordan River. When Jesus himself submitted to baptism, it is said that heaven opened up and God’s presence was made known through a divine voice and a manifestation of the Spirit.
We believe that Jesus represents a unique coming together of divine and human, the world as we know it and the world as God desires it to be. Rob Bell has said that Jesus lived as if the whole world was a thin place. God is not confined to a temple—or any single place, for that matter. God is with us everywhere.
During this season of Advent, as we prepare our hearts and minds for the ever-present coming of Christ, open your senses to God’s presence around and within. Perhaps the whole world is indeed a thin place, waiting for us to enter.
God of wonder and mystery, help me to be attuned to your presence all around me. May the birth of Christ remind me that you do indeed dwell among us. Amen.
Written by John W. Vest, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
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