Archive for December, 2018

To You 12-24-18

Candlelight

In this Christmas Eve sermon, based on Luke 2:1-20, I explore the importance of stories. Our common stories create a sense of shared community with one another and reveal important things about us and about what God is up to in the world.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/to-you-12-24-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

On this most special of nights, Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

I recently read a book that took an in-depth look at the history of human species…the various topics that came up covered pretty much all the bases that you might expect to find in a book like this…but one point came up that caught my attention…throughout the history of humanity…there is one thing that brings about unity and community more than any other…stories. (pause)
When we stop and think about it…a good story accomplishes all kinds of different stuff…and I can’t help but think that this is something that is built into the very fabric of our being…the ability to tell stories…and the bond that is created as we do so.

My wife often jokes with me that when I get together either with my old friends, or with my extended family…the same thing tends to happen…we all sit around, often times sipping on something tasty…and we tell the same…old…stories.  She’s right too…we don’t often do anything new together, just sit around talking about the old times…but by golly we have a good time.

This idea of story-telling…of reliving old memories together…it’s a good thing to do…and it’s a tactic that I often bring into different ministry moments.  As a congregation we’ve shared stories of how we see God active in our lives during the season of Lent. When I’m working with a couple in pre-marital counseling I ask them to tell me the story of their lives, both as individuals as well as their shared life together…and when I’m working with a family in preparation for a funeral I ask them to tell me stories of the person that they remember.

Telling stories…hearing stories…it serves a variety of purposes…but if I’ve noticed one thing time and time again…its that stories work. As we share them…we find ourselves reliving the sense of that earlier time…the community that was present between individuals…the joy of moments…the laughter than ensues as you start seeing tears leaking out the corner of one another’s eyes because you are overcome with laughter. The shared pain and sorrow that finds its way to the surface when we share stories of defining moments of a person that we’ve lost.

We tell stories in many different ways…whether sitting around a table reliving old times…or hearing a common cultural fable…or watching a movie, or hearing a song…truly, as people we are defined by the stories that we share…and something I love about it is the fact that stories do take on so many forms…and that whether or not they are factual…whether or not they are something that actually happened in history or if they are just a story that illustrates a particular idea or emotion…stories work to reveal a truth to us.

That’s the tactic that I often utilize when I’m exploring the scriptures as well…the stories that we find in both Testaments…stories that have long been debated as to if they “really happened” or not…but rather than getting bogged down into those details I just wonder…what truth can we find here? What does it reveal about the nature of God…or the nature of humanity? What does it tell us about ourselves? Or what does it reveal about the way that God’s working throughout this crazy thing we call life?  I believe with every part of me that this is what the scriptures do…they tell us stories that reveal aspects of these truths to us…and that includes the well-known story that we share tonight on Christmas Eve.

In those days the emperor of Rome had an idea…let’s count everyone…not because I care about all those millions of people out there in the far reaches of the empire…but because I want to know how many taxes I can raise…

Shifting gears, I can only imagine how THAT news was received in the tiny backwater town of Nazareth where a young carpenter named Joseph scratched out his day to day existence…alongside his super-pregnant fiancé Mary…when the decree went out that everyone had to go to their ancestral homes he must have let out a big sigh…and went to find Mary and say “well I don’t know what to tell you…but we’ve got to head down to Bethlehem.” Mary probably wasn’t too keen to make this 100 mile journey, bouncing around on the back of a donkey when she’s 9 months pregnant…and yet…off they go.

And wouldn’t you know it…things are so crowded by the time they get to Bethlehem that they get stuck in a corner…only available spot in whatever dwelling they ended up in was the place the animals typically inhabited…and then…wouldn’t you know it…it time to push…no hospital room…no epidural…no doctor telling you its going to be okay…but that’s the breaks I guess.

And in the end, Mary gives birth to a boy…they wrap him up in clothes and since Joseph didn’t think ahead to bring the pack and play, they lay him in a feed trough…and Mary tries to get some shut-eye.  But that doesn’t really happen for her…because at the same time that’s going on…there’s a batch of shepherds outside town…its nighttime and they’re just hanging out, keeping their ears open for the sounds of predators that might try to sneak in and grab their sheep.

I can’t imagine these guys were too excitable…but then in an instant…NO warning…BOOM here’s this angel and the whole area is lit up around them with divine glory…and as these random shepherds are trying to get their suddenly skyrocketed heart rates to slow back down while simultaneously picking their jaws up off the floor the Angel starts talking…probably in a voice that sounded like the “lets get ready to rumble” guy “Fear not…I bring you words of great joy…for behold…born TO YOU on THIS DAY in the city of David is a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

And maybe just maybe one the guys was like “What?” and then Gabriel said it again… “Ok…for those of you in the back…to you is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord.” And as the shepherds just sat there blinking he went on “Here’s the sign, you’ll find a baby wrapped in clothes and laying in a manger.” And then as an exclamation point a whole slug of other angels show up (singing) Gloria!…not to mention peace to the people whom God favors.

And then just like that…all the angels disappear…seemingly just as randomly as they appeared in the first place…and the shepherds stare at each other for a minute before one of them is like “Well, should we go check it out?” and another one’s like “I suppose so” and they all hightail into town and somehow manage to stumble into the right place and wouldn’t you know it…there’s Mary and there’s Joseph and there’s the baby….and Mary was probably like “Dudes, you stink, but yah here’s my kid.” And Joseph…well who knows what he was thinking at this point.

But then the shepherds start telling everyone what happened…and everything the angel told them…and I mean everything…like every single word up to and including “Born to you this day in the city of David is a savior who is Christ the Lord…and that we’d come here and we’d see you and we’d see him and here he is so HOLY COW…MAYBE ITS TRUE!”

And everyone was amazed and then the shepherds just took off again and headed back out of town and Mary treasured everything…which admittedly I sort of questioned…can’t help but think she was a little annoyed but at least with the shepherds gone all she has to deal with is a cow or a sheep or something trying to eat straw out from under Jesus.

(pause)

Crazy story isn’t it? But…it’s a good story…one that reveals SO much to us…honestly way more than I could even hope to unpack for you here tonight…and even if I tried to…honestly, how do we even begin to make sense of the story of God…the creator of the entire universe…the being or the force or the entity or whatever we want to call it…the thing that is so ultimately larger or greater or bigger than we are…the one who exists outside of our concept of reality and time and everything else…That one decides to enter into it…and not only that…but that huge big ultimate being who is all powerful and can do anything…enters in as a helpless baby born to unwed parents from an oppressed culture that are from a tiny backwater town in the middle of nowhere…and not only that…but he’s born in among a bunch of animals and strangers and is laid in a trough where, if a cow just happens to turn wrong he might end up getting bathed in something that would be really disgusting.

WHAT? (pause)

But that…is…the story. And as I hear this amazing story, year after year…amazingly something new jumps at me…every single time…and I wonder if that’s the same for you…I’m guessing it is…because every single Christmas we are hearing this story in light a different experience. Things have changed since the last time you heard this story…maybe things have changed for the better…maybe they’ve gotten harder…but regardless of the circumstances…know this…this story reveals a change.

It begins “in those days.” A past event…but when the Angel reveals the good news of great joy its this…Today is born to you a savior…Today.

Here’s the crazy thing about what God is up to through the birth of Jesus…something that goes way past my ability to understand or comprehend…God is taking a past event and SOMEHOW making it happen NOW as we hear it.

That seems to be the message that the angel shares…this good news which WILL BE for all people.  To you…for you…to you is born…THIS DAY…a savior. (pause) The mind blowing thing about God…whether we want to talk about the creator or the son or the Holy Spirit…the amazing thing about this good news…is that whenever we hear it…whether a batch of shepherds 2000 years ago in Israel…or us 2000 years later on just another Christmas Eve…or in any other situation…when we HEAR that good news…and I mean really hear it…we are drawn into that story and that story is drawn into us in a way that makes it real…right here…right now.

And the wonderful part about it…it happens to you…and it happens for you. That’s the gospel…that this is on your account…and that you get to be a part of it.

As I think about those words “for you” I can’t help but think they sound like communion…and this is fitting as we will celebrate communion together in just a few moments…the body and blood of Christ broken and shed for you…in order to bring you in community with the one who loves you and claims you…and not only that but also to bring us all into community with one another through this same shared experience…and this same shared story.

I don’t know how it all works…but I’m thankful that it does. Amen.

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Who Am I 12-23-18

In this sermon, I explore Mary’s visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-55. In this brief passage, we are reminded of the reality of oppression and marginalization and the privilege that lies on the opposite side. And yet, the promise of the gospel is that God’s mercy and love puts us all on equal ground.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/who-am-i-12-23-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

The grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen

Have you ever heard the expression “everyone is the hero of their own story?” (Pause) I think that’s a pretty accurate statement…and it speaks into how our existence…our life…our day to day is utterly shaped by our own experience…none of us tend to think of ourselves as the bad guy in any situation…but that we are simply doing the best that we can given the circumstances.

But sometimes I wonder if that’s always the case…and I think its safe to say that sometimes we all get caught up in the “poor me” mentality…that idea that things are everyone else’s fault…or that everyone else is being stubborn or narrow-minded.  I wonder, how many of us have ever been in a situation when we are listening to another person share their frustrations…their irritations…and we’ve thought to ourselves…or maybe we’ve just come out and asked the question “What’s your part in this?”  I think this is pretty universal…that we wear blinders to our part of things…to our responses or our statements…and we get caught up in the other persons stuff without considering what we can control…and I can think of no better way of saying this…of conveying this idea other than the phrase “Own your stuff.”  The good and the bad…I think we all fall in the trap of failing to own it don’t we? (pause)

In the interest of full disclosure…I’m gonna own some stuff right now…most of what I’m going to say will not be shocking…but I need to say it anyway.  I’m a guy…I’m nearing 40, and at this stage in my life I’m old enough to be taken seriously by the generations above me…and I’m still young enough to not be utterly blown off and disregarded by the generations coming up below me.

I am, as you may have noticed…white.  I am married with a couple of kids, and while that’s not a dead giveaway in every instance, it does point to the strong possibility that I’m straight…and I am. I hold a Master’s Degree making me pretty highly educated, and along with that I’m gainfully employed with a fair wage and organizationally required health insurance and retirement savings…and finally, the icing on the cake…I live in the US.  All of this adds up to the reality that I will fully own…I AM…one of the single LEAST marginalized people on the planet. (pause)
Now I can only imagine that you are wondering what this has to do with anything today…we find ourselves at the tail end of the season of Advent…the season of anticipation and longing for the coming Savior.  Today is of course December 23rd…Christmas Eve is tomorrow…and tomorrow night we’ll gather to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus…the birth of the savior…and as we know that’s a really big deal.

But before we can get to the birth of the savior…that mind-blowing guy who is somehow both fully God and fully human, we have think about how the human aspect gets into the world…which is the same as any other human…he’s born, but before he can be born, there has to be a pregnancy.

And that’s where we find ourselves today…our story begins “in those days” and in those days, Mary the mother of Jesus has literally JUST been visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she’s going to be pregnant through the power of God’s Holy Spirit…and that the child will be the savior of the world…and not only that…but that her older relative Elizabeth, who has been barren her entire life and is well beyond child bearing, is also pregnant.

And so…with haste…Mary takes off and goes on a visit…and this is the focal point of today’s story…the amazing Spirit-filled initial encounter between these two women who are pregnant in what can only be considered miraculous circumstances.

Now Mary and Elizabeth have some things in common but they’ve got some pretty distinct differences as well.  Elizabeth is older, perhaps even considered elderly…Mary is young, probably not even in her teens yet.  Elizabeth is the wife of a priest that is periodically active in the Temple…they’ve got means…enough that they actually owned two different houses…in the fairly well to do region of Jerusalem and Bethany right outside the city.  Mary’s engaged to Joseph, but is not yet married…and she’s from a tiny backwater town where she’s grown up in a tiny mud walled hut built over a naturally occurring limestone cave alongside countless other so-called “houses.”

But the thing that they both have in common is this pregnancy…now culturally speaking, there’s a lot going on here. Scripture tells us that when Elizabeth’s barrenness is broken and she’s miraculously pregnant she goes into seclusion…tradition in Israel says that she was embarrassed to be pregnant around all the city girls so she runs off to the country house…and that’s where Mary comes to see her.

What we don’t know is why…why does Mary come…it could be a lot of reasons. Maybe she wants to connect with a relative in the same sort of boat and have some girl-chat.  Maybe she’s going to serve as a mid-wife to her relative in the later stages of her pregnancy.  Or maybe, since Mary was now pregnant in “questionable circumstances,” and she lives in the epitome of the small town…she’s trying to get away too…after all she would have faced the possibility of scorn and ridicule and even being stoned to death.

Both of these women are facing tough circumstances…and the culture of the day certainly didn’t help any. It may seem utterly foreign to us now…but in that time, women were property…marriages were arranged for financial reasons…and other than caring for the house…pretty much the sole reason for women to exist was to provide babies for her husband…and preferably boys because the guy needed an heir.  They couldn’t own property…they couldn’t embark on business transactions…they couldn’t do much.  In short…they were marginalized to start with…and now you put these odd ball circumstances into their lives…and I think its safe to say that Mary and Elizabeth fall under the category of the lowly…the downtrodden…the very people that Mary starts singing about in the Magnificat.

I think its safe to say that their experience is the polar opposite of my existence…and in the interest of full disclosure…I feel very very uneasy in trying to tell you how you should think or feel about this divinely inspired exchange between the two women…because this situation is so utterly out of my wheelhouse.

As I’ve considered it…I think about those of you who have struggled with fertility…because that’s a reality…and I wonder how you hear this story of God’s divine intervention in not just one but two pregnancies…two pregnancies that build off of a history of other Old Testament pregnancies of divine nature.  I wonder if this strikes you as painful to hear as you wait and hope and hope that one day it will be your turn.

On the flip side…we’re in a day and age where a women’s worth is not…or in the very should not be dictated by having children…and I know many women who live a fulfilled life with no desire for kids…and I wonder how this speak in their situation to hear scripture saying that they are blessed through having children.

We can go deeper than that and think about those who are marginalized for all kinds of different reasons…because if there’s one thing we’re good at its pushing people to the margins over really pointless stuff…race, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, age, just to name a few…and it happens, sometimes intentionally…and sometimes its happening despite our ignorance of it…and we are blissfully unaware. (pause)

Now what I cannot tell you…is where you fall on all this.  Some of you may be sitting out there today and this hits close to home…because of something beyond your control that pushes you aside…that says you are somehow less. (pause) But on the flip side some of you might be uncomfortable because this brings up the sense of how you’ve benefited from it.

And that’s where I find myself today…and as I consider my own privilege that honestly is no more than dumb luck to be born this way…I can’t help but hear a rebuke in Mary’s words…God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts…he has brought the powerful down from their thrones…he has sent the rich away empty. (pause)

The crazy thing about scripture…about the gospel…is that in its very nature it brings comfort to the afflicted and affliction to the comfortable…and we see that on full display today…because God has looked with favor on the lowly…God has filled the hungry with good things.

Maybe just maybe what God is up to is evening the playing field…something we might call equality or justice…and in the midst of that…giving a reminder that when it comes to God’s mercy…when it comes to God’s favor…when it comes to God’s love for each of us…there is not a scarcity…but there is an abundance…that God offers it to each us in the same amount…and that the promises are that God will be found with those who are lowly…something evidenced in that God chose the lowest of the low…a young unwed mother in first century Palestine…a girl from a poor backwater town in the midst of controlled territory…she is the one who is chosen to bear the literal embodiment of the divine into this broken reality.

That through her…all life, broken as it is…is somehow glorified because that which is divine dares to be found in the midst of it…and in the middle of all this God has made promises to each of us…that no matter what our circumstances…that divine love and acceptance…that divine favor is shown to us…that’s the promise of the gospel.

Elizabeth poses a question that seems quite fitting…at one point she says “why has this happened to me?”  Might as well be asking “why me” or “who am I?”  I can only imagine that Mary asked herself that same question…and its one that we probably ask as well… “Who am I that God would see me…that God would consider me…that God would look at me?”

Know this today…the promise which God has made through the life and the death and the resurrection of Christ…is that you are claimed and you are loved…and that God will be found with the least of us in order to show us how universal his love is for all the world…that’s the promise…whether we feel encouraged by it given our circumstances…or if we feel the need to repent of something based on our circumstances…the promise is the same…we need only believe it…and blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.  Blessed is the one who believes…and may we all find the hope present in this blessing as we anticipate the change which our Lord is bringing into the world. Amen.

A Righteous Branch 12-2-18

In this sermon, based on Jeremiahs 33:14-16, we kick off the Advent season by explore a sense of longing for the future fulfillment of God’s past promises.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/a-righteous-branch-12-2-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace of the Triune God is yours, now and forever. Amen

As I was growing up, back during my late elementary and probably jr high days…my aunt was the librarian at the local public library in town, which was located straight down the street a few blocks away from my school. And once I had gotten old enough to be trusted to walk these few blocks on my own, I would often head down the street after school on those days when we needed to stay in town and get picked up a little later.

This in itself isn’t really a very big deal, but there was something significant along that route that I would walk that I can still remember to this day.  On one of the corners was a great big tree…full grown…the type with a big trunk that went up about 10 feet before the first major set of branches came shooting out, creating a small open spot right there in the middle of the tree. And in that gap…at some point the seed of a pine tree found its way in there…and apparently there was enough debris present to allow that seed to kick out roots and grow. And I remember being amazed at the sight of this small, maybe 2 or 3 foot high pine seedling that was growing up in the midst of another tree…blew my mind.

Now, I know its not THAT uncommon…I’ve seen it in other places in the years since, maybe you have too…but I remember being so impressed with that little tree…thinking how tough it is…or maybe we could call it stubborn…but you know what…plants can be like that can’t they…especially trees or shrubs.

I’ve actually got a little seedling that keeps growing up through one of my hostas over at the house…doesn’t matter how many times I pull it or snip it off…darn thing just keeps growing back…and in a lot of ways, that reminds me of the way that suckers will shoot up around the base of many different types of trees here in the Midwest…same deal…doesn’t matter how many times you cut them off…they’re gonna on growing.

Now, admittedly, this is a bit of an odd topic, but perhaps you’re starting to see the connection…not so much with our gospel lesson…but rather with the Old Testament reading out of Jeremiah that we are sharing for today…and the promise made by God to raise up a righteous branch…or righteous shoot to be a little more precise for David. (pause)

Now you probably know that my normal style is to base the sermon off the gospel lesson…but this week that seemed just a little bit off…probably due to the season that we find ourselves in today.  All we have to do is take a quick look around the sanctuary and we can easily see that things have changed…the blue paraments…the presence of the Christmas tree and other decorations…and the Advent wreath which today only has a single candle burning.

We are, of course, in Advent…a season of anticipation…of waiting…or perhaps the best way to describe it, is a season of longing.  But when we start to talk along these lines, perhaps we wonder just what it is that we’re waiting or anticipating or longing for.  If we shoot from the hip, we’d probably say that we’re waiting for the birth of Jesus…which of course we’ll celebrate at Christmas in a few more weeks…and that’s not wrong.  But I can’t help but think that the season goes a little deeper than that…and that sense of longing that we’re probably all familiar with goes deeper too.

As we look around at the world that we live in…as we take a moment and ponder on the state of things…as we somehow witness evidence of the broken state of our reality…I think we all long for a something more…a time when there is no poverty leading to people standing on street corners…a time when there is no sickness or disease causing our loved ones to waste away before our eyes…a time when there is no hatred or violence leading to news reports of genocide or hate crimes or mass shootings. (pause) We know that sense of longing don’t we? Even in times when the sense lies too deeply within us to put words to, we know that sense. (pause)

But you know…Advent is bit of a funny time…a strange season…because it doesn’t quite gel into our linear experience of time does it?  We find ourselves looking forward to the birth of a baby which has already happened…likewise we find ourselves looking forward to the return of that baby who grew into a man…the man who lived and died and rose again…and who promised that this wasn’t the end…and that one day he would return in glory…an event that is promised but that hasn’t happened yet.

This ambiguity is telling, not only of the season of Advent…but of this oddball thing known as the kingdom of heaven that God ushered in though a past event…through past promises that even now, many thousands of years later, still points us into a promised but unknown future…an ambiguity that exists within this crazy thing called life…within this crazy thing called faith. This way of living that looks backwards to past events and promises which speak into our life right here right now, and yet point us towards something more to come.

And that sense is why I chose to focus in on Jeremiah today instead of the gospel. Now a touch of background…Jeremiah was a prophet. He was active about 600 odd years prior to Jesus…and while he was active for several decades, the most pressing historical aspect during his time was the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian empire.

Jeremiah was active when they first came in and exerted their authority, hauling off the existing king and establishing a puppet government that would serve their interests…and he was still around a dozen years later when that puppet government got a little too big for their britches and tried to shake off Babylonian rule, only to have the Babylonians come in and lay waste to Jerusalem and haul everyone off into exile.

These were the events that Jeremiah talked about…a coming judgment…death and destruction and exile and isolation…prophetic words that actually landed him in jail when the local powers that be failed to listen…but words that would ultimately come true…and would result in the loss of the Promised Land…the loss of their national identity…the loss of their capital and the religious center of the temple…

When Jeremiah speaks these words, its still future tense…but it wasn’t far off and many of those who heard his words lived to see the reality…and yet in the midst of that turmoil…as their cultural and religious identity was utterly shunted to the side…they are reminded of the promises that God had uttered hundreds of years earlier…to the great King David as he still sat on the throne…that his descendent would hold the throne forever.

But here’s the thing about that past promise…David, as great as he was…and as much as he was praised for the heart he held for the Lord…David had his issues…his son Solomon…for all his wisdom…tried to “honor” the Lord by building the temple…by using slave labor…think about that…he honored the one who delivered their culture from slavery, through slave labor.  His son Reheboam…he made the foolish choice to treat the people even more harshly than his father had…resulting in the split kingdom and 10 lost tribes of Israel.  And all those kings that came after them, all the way down to Jeremiah’s time a few hundred years later…well they all had issues…and none of them managed to lead the people in the ways of God’s justice and righteousness…most of them did the polar opposite. That whole Davidic dynasty…can’t help but think that it failed on that front. (pause)

But then there’s Jeremiah…who in the midst of all kinds of turmoil, utters words that point the people back to that past promise…and gives them something to hold onto in the midst of pretty dire circumstances…a past promise that reminds them that whatever is going on right here, right now…that’s not the end…that there is more…that restoration is possible…and not only possible…but according to the Lord…is SURELY coming.

But what’s it going to be…or perhaps more importantly, who’s it gonna be?  This righteous sprout…the one who will bring about that divine justice and righteousness…the one who will lead the people in ways of honoring God’s justice…who will live their lives in a way that God will call righteous? Who will that be? (pause)
This is an important question to ask…and when we answer it…we tend to think that this must be Jesus right? We’re not wrong to do so…for Jesus was a descendent of David…and he has ushered in this new kingdom of Heaven…and as follower of Christ…we do have the tendency to view the scriptures through this lens…but its also important to remember that this is not the only way that the world sees or hears the promises uttered by the prophets.

But what we might just share in common with our Jewish brothers and sisters is the re-assurement that the promises of God will come to fulfilment and that somehow, someway, we will be included in that. Our understandings might be very different…our way of looking at just how God might bring about that future fulfilment is also different…but the promise is, I believe…the same.

Now how its gonna look, that’s open to interpretation…and I think its safe to say that no one really knows just how God’s gonna bring it all into completion out there in the unknown future…but what does seem to be apparent is this…that God’s going to bring about something utterly new.

God will raise up one from that line of David that will do what no earthly king was able to do…to live in a way that truly reflects and embodies that divine justice and righteous…and the very last words from Jeremiah reveal this…that the name of the city…the city we know as Jerusalem…it will be changed…and it will be called The Lord IS our righteousness.

Whenever something or someone gets a new name in the scriptures…it pretty much ALWAYS indicates a new identity…a new understanding…maybe we can even say a new creation…and however God is going to bring about the future fulfilment of this past promise…its gonna be something new…we don’t know what or how or when…but I believe however it comes about, we won’t be disappointed…and that in one way or another…the promise remains that we will be grafted into that righteous branch…the promise that somehow we are included…and this is true now…and at the same time the promise has yet to be fulfilled…and so for that future fulfilment of this past promise…we wait…we anticipate it…and that is what we long for. May we keep that in our hearts during this Advent season. Amen.