Pastor’s Letter for December 2023

Pastor Jim Martin of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Weston, WV
Pastor Jim Martin

The season of Advent is said to be a time of wonder and waiting.  Our focus of wondering and waiting is upon the coming of Christ, a second time.  After all, Jesus came into the world over two thousand years ago. 

What do we wonder about?  What preoccupies our minds when we consider the second coming of Christ?  Often we have heard it taught that people expect to experience the wrath of God.  We find associations of “wrath” in Apocalyptic scripture such as the last book of the Bible: Revelation. Here the faithful are vindicated and evil is destroyed.  Overall, Revelation presents a positive message of hope.

John the Baptist expected to see the wrath of God.  Remember John’s words to Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew’s gospel: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” 

This offers insight as to why John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or if they would have to wait for another (Matthew 11).  Did Jesus not quite line up with John’s expectation? Hear Jesus’ reply to John’s disciples: “Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy are those who do not lose faith in me.” 

When God incarnate (Jesus Christ) visited the world, our faith claims the Christ as fully divine, and fully human.  Jesus’ divinity is demonstrated through his birth to Mary and through miracles such as turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a pittance of bread and fish, walking on water, healing the blind, curing lepers, and on and on. 

Think of the gift(s) we receive in the person of Jesus Christ.  We set aside this season to prepare and then celebrate Emmanuel, God with us.  Have you considered what gifts Jesus brings to us as God with us?  Do you sense an emphasis on the divinity of Christ?  Are we guilty of minimizing or altogether setting aside the humanity of Christ and the gifts that are offered through His humanity? 

Jesus’ humanity, as a living breathing example, sought to teach us how to live with one another, how to love one another.  Jesus made room at his table for the marginalized, the outcast, the sinner.  He preached “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek …”   In large part, God came to us through the Christ to teach us about practicing God’s vision for humanity:  how we are to be; how we are to fulfill that for which we are created. 

John’s expectation of wrath did not come from God with us.  The only real wrath that we see in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the wrath which humanity exercised upon Him.  Nadia Bolz-Weber says that her thoughts at Advent ponder upon Jesus as a Holy Thief who takes away those things that lessen our humanity like envy, fear, anxiety, and misplaced anger.  As we wonder and wait this Advent let us pray that Jesus takes away any envy, fear, anxiety, misplaced anger, and wrath that imprisons us and lessens our humanity, so that we might be set free to know peace on earth and good will toward all. 

In Christ,

Pastor Jim