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Repurposed wonder

Pastoral Messages | December 26, 2019

Mid-Advent, if you were to peep my church office, you’d find a disheveled scene. Fifteen hand soaps in an opened box on my desk, a manger full off socks waiting to go to Family Resources, and a displaced baby Jesus doll resting on an office chair.

Today, you’ll look at your calendar and discover that it’s “Boxing Day.” With its traditions stemming from the aristocratic societies in the United Kingdom, Boxing Day is a day to present a Christmas Box to those less fortunate – tradespeople, servants – usually filled with cash, durable goods, maybe some leftovers from the Christmas dinner. For many of these folks, their services were needed on Christmas Day, so their day of celebration would have to wait until the 26th.

Throw into this mixture a recent Fresh Air interview I heard with Adam Minter. Minter grew up in the “junk” business and his growing fascination with where donated items end up led him to relocate to China and then Malaysia, as well as begin chronicling our relationship with stuff in his two books Junkyard Planet and Secondhand.

Minter’s reflections have been humbling for me because our North American economy is such that we rely on a lot of highly disposable commodities in our daily lives. We don’t view our belongings so much as “merchandise,” like our grandparents’ generation did, but we sure own a lot of stuff.

I don’t have to remind you that Christmas has become a holiday overrun with obscene consumption. It’s a tired argument. You know it, I know it, and still we set ourselves out to buy things – things we might throw away, things we may never use. So with the backdrop of Boxing Day and Adam Minter’s reports on our discarded Christmas lights (harvested for copper in rural China, by the way) I can’t help but think of the original story of Christmas – Jesus born to two poor parents, far from home, in a stranger’s borrowed barn – as a story of repurposed wonder; like the Christmas ham bestowed with a ribbon to the farmhand, or the long-emptied jar of pasta sauce that now gets used and reused over and over again in Bangladesh.

The scary thing about this repurposed wonder is that the farther we get from simple living, the less likely this gift is for us. The “Christmas Box” containing the incarnation of God himself is one to be received by those who are “poor in spirit;” and to embrace that kind of poverty we have to declutter our own souls, our consciousness, to see this dire need we have to be pardoned our sins; to receive God’s love once more.

Eventually, I too will clear my piles. But inwardly, I also hope to find a little bit space to contemplate my own “poverty;” the corners of my life where I need Jesus to be gifted to me once again.

-Kendra Thompson, pastor of children and family life

3 Comments on “Repurposed wonder”

  • Carol Seitz

    December 28, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Ah! We tend to be an aristocratic nation. Forgive me again Lord and move in. There is all kinds of room in my soul.

  • Roger Schantz

    December 26, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    I never understood Boxing Day as clearly as now! I need to simplify my world more! Thank you…

  • David DeWit

    December 26, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Great points! Thanks for sharing.

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-14

Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 148

Hebrews 2:10-18

Matthew 2:13-23

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Psalm 147:12-20

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 1:10-18

Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 29

Acts 10:34-43

Matthew 3:13-17

Isaiah 49:1-7

1 Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” 5 And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Psalm 40:1-11

Thanksgiving for Deliverance and Prayer for Help To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,[a] out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. 4 Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods. 5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted. 6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear.[b] Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7 Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.[c] 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” 9 I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. 10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. 11 Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Salutation 1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord[a] and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my[b] God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of[c] Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 1:29-42

The Lamb of God 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”[a] The First Disciples of Jesus 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed[b]). 42 He brought Simon[c] to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter[d]).

Isaiah 9:1-4

The Righteous Reign of the Coming King 9 [a] But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 [b] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Psalm 27:1-9

Triumphant Song of Confidence Of David. 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. 4 One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. 6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. 7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Divisions in the Church 10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.[b] 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God[c] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. Christ the Power and Wisdom of God 18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee 12 Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”[b] Jesus Calls the First Disciples 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People 23 Jesus[c] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news[d] of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.