“Salt of the earth”, “light of the world”, “city on a mount” – Jesus defines his disciples' identities with these and similar images. He doesn't suggest the ethical imperative “You shall” to his listeners.
He states facts: “You are”. He doesn't care about the “You”, the socially engaged individual. He says “You all”. This “You all” is today realised in community. Towards what it aligns itself with determines what its impact will be. Zest and radiance are augured, but not self-evident. mim
Jesus said to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.
The humble and poor in Zefaniah are not a slack group of timid, less fortunate and indecisive people who are looking for God for lack of the better. They're in fact hard-hitting realists who accept only God's measure in their search for justice.
Humble realism cannot be discouraged by the constant lagging behind the measure. And poor in the sense of the prophet is, who stubbornly contents himself with nothing less than the richness of the faith provided by God. The virtue of modesty is not a synonym for this, but quite the opposite. tac
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.
Why does the craftsman of Nazareth choose fishermen as his first contributors?
Maybe because they were in the right place at the right time? Or maybe because fishermen are used to work together, have learned to be awake, and know what endurance means: each day business starts all over again. Being faithful Jews, they also expect the coming of the new world of God. And they are realistic enough to know that their collaboration is required. But where and how? This becomes clear for them when they hear the words of Jesus calling them. They let themselves be gathered, to gather – with the expertise of those who know what is important. hak
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
The horizon is great and the hero of the story is rather small – the task is a global one and the recipient of the mission is almost entirely alone.
These are the proportions in which the reading of the prophet Isaiah sees the mission of Israel. The person Isaiah calls “servant” represents the People of God, Israel. As a small gathered nation, Israel is supposed to be the “light of nations”. Already at the time of the ancient world empires, it was just a tiny group, an insignificant people. But it had a universal effect, because again and again it lived as the People of God, letting itself get corrected and reformed, until today. The prophet also knows that in the People of God there must be “servants”, whose serving and humility are the nucleus of renewal and give shape to the success of the whole. These proportions are still valid today. acb
The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, the Lord says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
“so, what exactly then?”
Jesus of Nazareth – there is hardly any other person under the sun, people have so many questions about. Is he human? Is he God? Is he both? But how?
The gospel of his baptism tries to give an answer. It's not academically abstract, but vividly narrative: Jesus at the Jordan in a queue of penitents – together with every “Tom, Dick and Harry” from his people in Israel. It was given to him with his mother's milk – being a Jew requires a conversion to the righteousness which God means, that is, being “righteously” human before God and before neighbour, according to the Bible.
But it is the Baptist himself, John, who must be converted here. Because he thinks, the baptism of Jesus is scandalous. Does the Son of God need to convert? Just as the whole of later Christianity, John must learn: this baptismal candidate is a law-abiding Jew all along the line. And as such, he is eminently in the favor of God. As His son. bek
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The eighth day
The only historically certain event of everything the gospels contain about Jesus' birth and childhood is his circimcision.
Since Abraham, there is an unbroken chain of fathers, who admitted their sons to the People of God with this ritual. Thus, Christmas Day is just finished on Octave Day.
The church has declared circumcision day to the high festival of God's mother Mary and hence states the same, because a Jew is anyone born by a Jewish mother. This constitutes twofoldly: It was not enough that Jesus was born, he needed to be admitted to the covenant of God and Israel in order to live up to Israel's history. mim
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The form of presence
Logos, on par with God, has two major appearances: in the beginning of the Creation as wisdom – everything grew through him.
The second act is his coming into the world as words. However, he needs several attemps, because darkness does not want to capture light. Those who embraced him however were the Children of God, the people of Israel. Among them, Logos transforms yet with his last step of convergence: the word becomes flesh, a Jew. This is not recognised by everyone. Only the “we”, which is voiced by Johannes, recognises the glory of God in him. This way, Logos is within the world. Through the “we” of the Children of God, he is available to all humans. tac
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
The risk of trusting
Some media scientists are convinced: In our media-dominated and media-moderated society the risk of failure becomes less and less a factor for actions.
Risk is being blanked out. The result is that nobody wants to take responsibilties anymore. If there is no venture, no courage is required, too. Risk and trust are not contradictory, but the two sides of the same medal. This is personified today through Josef, son of David, as diclosed in his long genealogy. Without words, he takes responsibility through his actions, for the messianic sprout. He takes the risk of trusting the messenger. He is already being called “just”, because he did not aim to embarass his wife. Does he become more so through his trust and risk? hak
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
A friend from Israel taught me a word, which is not written in the bible, but is still always present in there: “Realization”.
It was the topic of his life. To emigrate. Instead of studying in Europe, he wanted to unload ships at the harbour of Haifa in order to create a country for Jews. The dream was dreamt already: a country on its own. What it needed was: realization. Realization runs like a golden threat through the texts of this third Sunday of Advent. That's no surprise, because those are words from Israel. Isaiah describes: blooming steppes; blind men seeing; jumping lames… Similarly, Jesus doesn't answer his disciples with ideas, but with facts: Tell what you hear and see. acb
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
A young shoot, a sprig from a tree stub – a common phenomenon. In this first reading, it has become metaphorical language.
The stub signifies the following: Something has ended, exhausted, fallen, who knows? And the sprig? Something new has emerged; not on its own, but with the stub's remaining power. Religious Israel borrowed this knowledge from nature and changed the way of the world. How so? It adapted this nature metaphor to it's history and claims: An end, a catastrophe, a worst case scenario can contain strength for a new beginning. This is why Israel understands the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by a superior enemy in the 6th Century BC as a consequence of their wrong, misguided and inhuman way of life. The country has even taken appropriate action. What happened? Even in foreign parts, in enforced exile thriving communities emerged without sacrifices or other cults. The synagogue community was born. Without it, Jesus of Nazareth is unthinkable. bek
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.