Luke 1:26–38 (NRSV)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
In the busyness of this season it is extremely difficult to remember just how amazing it really is. While we are running through stores trying to find the perfect gift, having arguments over how much money is being spent or if we are actually going to buy gifts for that member of the family, making of travel plans and whose family we are visiting on which day, it can almost be overwhelming especially if you work at a place that people frequent during this season. But then there is the flip side of the season that seems to make it all worthwhile. I think everyone should take a toddler shopping for Christmas and just stand in wonder with them as they look at the displays. Yesterday while we were doing the normal holiday shopping we let Albert walk, and the screams of joy over every Christmas tree display was enough to bring a smile to the face of the grinchiest person. But even that does not really hit the deepest most amazing aspect of this season.
Today we meet with Mary in the pages of scripture. As we each consider this passage I would like us each to just empty our minds of the years upon years of Christmas stories and sermons that we each have wrapped up around this story. I want us to do that because to be honest we have become so comfortable with this story that often we forget just how scary, miraculous, impossible, confusing, dangerous, and gracious it really is.
The first thing to consider is the opening of this passage. In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee. There is much in just this one verse that we probably overlook or just forget. First off this occurs during the Jewish month of Elul, which is between August and September. Most of us do not grasp the significance of this month, but this month is one that is focused on Repentance and preparation for the most holy holidays of the Jewish calendar Rosh Hashanah the Day of Judgment and Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. It is said that the name of this month is derived from the verse “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” from the Song of Solomon. Basically this is a month of deep searching, asking for and granting forgiveness, and examination of one’s life and standing before God. There is a reason the writer of the gospel felt it necessary to include the month in the writing, through the naming of the month we are given a foreshadow of the very purpose of this event, Luke is telling us just how much God loves the world and how God is going to provide for atonement.
The second is the fact that an angel is sent. Today there is a resurgence of giving great honor to angels. I have to admit that for many years I had a guardian angel icon clipped to the visor of my car for several years…I don’t anymore because the clip broke, which probably means my driving is too much for the angel. But our culture puts a great deal of energy into angels, we study them, we have given classifications to them, we try to see them, we fear and respect them, but do we really know what or who they are? In scripture we only really meet two angels and a third is spoken about briefly. The two are Gabriel and Michael, the third is the one that rebelled against God. Michael is the protector or the leader of the armies of God for Israel and Gabriel is always a messenger. True there are areas of scripture that state that there are more than just three angels but we do not know through scripture anything about them. Really all we know about angels is that they are sent by God. They can only do what God allows them to do. In this case Gabriel is sent to give a message in a small town in Galilee.
Which raises another question why that small town? Nazareth is not an important place. In fact it is never mentioned in the Old Testament or in the Apocrypha, but it is just north of the most agriculturally fruitful valley in Israel in limestone hills. The people of Nazareth were most likely involved in agricultural or stone cutting trades, which is why most scholars believe Joseph was probably a mason and not a worker of wood since the term translated as carpenter is used for both. This town is insignificant yet it is the place an angel is sent, and the angel is sent to speak to someone that on the surface is equally insignificant.
If we were to look back through scripture to see every visitation by angels throughout the history of Israel who were they sent to? They were sent to speak to the patriarchs of the nation, they were sent to Joshua the general that lead Israel into the promised land, they were sent to prophets, never in the old testament was an angel sent to speak to a woman. I do not mean to be sexist by saying that, I am only trying to show that in most ancient cultures men were seen as greater than women, and the angels were sent to influential men. I want us to keep that in mind, Gabriel was sent not to an influential man, but a woman, a girl actually. An angel was sent to a young lady around the age of twelve who was yet under the care of her father. In light of the culture Mary was a person of very little importance in a town of very little importance, yet God was going to use this town and this woman, beginning in the month dedicated to repentance to show not only Israel but the entire world that humanity is loved by God.
The passage goes on to say that Mary was perplexed, confused, even fearful at this moment is there any question as to why she would have been confused. Imagine a preteen girl standing before messenger sent by God, knowing full well the history and significance of the situation. Never before was an angel sent to someone insignificant. Yet she would have felt far from significant given who she was and where she was from.
The message this angel gave was equally if not more perplexing. Basically saying, “You are so favored by God that you are going to become pregnant today and give birth to the highest King of Israel.” This is where everything gets scary, miraculous, impossible, confusing, dangerous, and gracious yet we have heard and read the story so often we tend to forget it. Consider Mary, a young woman who is promised to a man yet is not yet married. If she were to become pregnant it would be very scandalous. As they courses of history have progressed the taboo has significantly decreased to the point that most people do not even care if a woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. But in the first century this sort of thing could have dire consequences. A woman caught in adultery could be stoned, and Mary’s father would have the right to demand her life and the life of the father. This angel was telling Mary, “good news! You are so loved by God, he might get you killed.” But this is where it gets interesting, Mary doesn’t care about that part, her question to the angel is how can this be since I am a virgin?
Those that want to discredit the virgin birth will look deeply into the usages of words when it gets to this. They will say that the term translated into English could also mean young woman, or unmarried woman which is true, but the second word translated as virgin in Mary’s question literally means she has never intimately known a man and no man has known her. Impossible, confusing, dangerous, scary, and miraculous. She is faced with death, her reputation could be ruined, and her future uncertain. She had a great life planned for her. She was about to be married to a respectable man in the community, someone that could provide for her every need, and they would have a family and live a happily insignificant life together in the limestone hills of Nazareth, but an angel came to visit.
The amazing story of Christmas is that life is full of surprises, the seemingly insignificant can become the most important thing of all creation, and that God calls humanity to participate in making something out of nothing. The truth is God will usually uses the insignificant to do the greatest things and that usually happens when those called to participate have nothing to offer.
In the month of Elul, God through and angel told Mary, “that she is her beloved’s and her beloved is hers.” She was going to give birth to the king of kings, the son of the Most High, enthroned in the throne of David ruler over the house of Jacob in a kingdom that will have no end, he will be the very Son of God, and His name will be Jesus (Joshua) which means God to the rescue, God the deliverer, or God is salvation.
What does Christmas really mean? It means that nothing is impossible with God. It means that God is our salvation, God is our deliverer. It means that God will see us through if we will turn and follow Him and walk in His ways. It means we have hope, we have grace, and we are loved. It means that God so love the world that He sent His Son not to condemn the world but to save us. It also means that God want us to continue live and share that testimony in all that we do.
Do we live as if that is true in our lives? Do we believe that God can do the impossible through the most unlikely people? I believe that he can. I believe because I have seen him do seemingly impossible things. I come from a background that is not exactly remarkable. I came from an insignificant town in an insignificant state. I was born into a family that has no fame and no fortune. Yet I have seen God do amazing things. I was never hungry even though I grew up poor. God sent me to minister on the other side of the world, he provided all I needed for that journey and more even though there was no feasible way I should have been on that plane. But I am not significant, I had a child before I was married, my ancestor were not always the most righteous either, yet God has called and used us to extend his kingdom.
What does that say to us as a Meeting, us as a community? Though we may not be significant in the eyes of the world God can use us to do the impossible. I believe that God is at work all around us, I believe that God is about to expand his kingdom in a way that history has yet to see, and I believe that this tiny seeming insignificant Meeting which is part of a seemingly insignificant yearly meeting, which is part of a movement that developed into a seemingly insignificant denomination, is going to be right in the front of that great revival. I believe that this small meeting will participate in showing the world around us that it is its beloved’s and the it’s beloved is theirs.
As we enter into this time of open worship and holy expectancy I want us to consider a couple of things. I want us to consider a couple of statements made by Mary whom God called to participate in the changing and redemption of the world. The first is “How can this be.” This is the perplexed statement of those that are unable to see outside of the current situation. The statement of those that cannot see beyond their own abilities. The second is “Let it be.” Let it be is the statement of faith, belief. It is a statement that goes beyond understanding and trust and extends to entrusting the very future and reputation on God. Those are the two statements that are on the minds of each of us here today that are looking forward into cloudy future that God is calling us into. We are asking, “How can this be?” How can we feed the hungry, how can we cloth the naked, provide shelter to the homeless, and care for those that cannot take care of themselves. How can we bring hope to our community when we can barely take care of ourselves? How can we?
With God nothing is impossible. With God a child can be born out of nothing. With God a poor farm boy can go around the world as a missionary. With God an insignificant meeting can do the miraculous. If only we say to Him, “Let it be.”
John 1:6–8 (NRSV)
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to
the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
John 1:19–28 (NRSV)
The Testimony of John the Baptist
(Mt 3:1–12; Mk 1:1–8; Lk 3:1–20)
19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ”
as the prophet Isaiah said.
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
There is something about light. Light has a calming effect on children when they are frightened while sleeping, light give a sense of security and safety to those that are walking at night. Light removes fear, it instills peace, hope, and joy. Just a little light can change one’s perspective. The use of lights to celebrate Christmas, at least lights on the Christmas tree, goes back to Martin Luther in Germany. The story says that while he was walking through the woods he saw the stars shining through the branches of the evergreen trees and as the light was filtering down he had a feeling of peace flood his soul. So he hurried home and tried to recreate that feeling in his home by attaching candles to the branches of a tree. Just a little light filtering through the branches of a tree gave him peace.
Why was this great man of God not in a state of peace already? If we were to look back through history we would see that Martin Luther was one of the early reformers of the church. He was a man that faced the changing culture around him and saw that God was in the midst of the change. But that did not necessarily give him peace because his situation was dire. The reformation sparked wars within Germany and across Europe. People were killing and being killed over expressions of faith. Not exactly the brightest time of church history, but it was a time that prompted great change. In the midst of this cultural war, a battle where Luther found himself not only in the middle of but on the front lines, it was a little light filtering through the branches that gave him peace. The light of the world had come to drive out the darkness, the light had come to illuminate the way, the light had come to give hope and strength to those whom where wearied through the constant debate and struggle of their lives.
I find comfort in that story. I find hope in the simple story of a righteous man finding peace in his soul by observing something seemingly simple. Of all the great things said and done by Martin Luther this one seemingly insignificant thing is probably the most universal.
If we look deeper into history, we would find that there was much change in Europe around the time of the reformation than just expressions of faith. Luther was a professors at a major university, the university system was beginning to take off. Education and the place of educators was becoming the seat of power within the culture. Literacy was on the increase among Europeans, and the invention of the printing press allowed more people to have access to written words because prior to that time books were hand copied and very expensive. More people could read, more people could write, more people could publish, and more ideas were being exchanged at a more rapid rate than any other time in history. Knowledge was on the increase and with knowledge comes more questions, with more questions people began to study to provide answers to the questions. For people to believe there needed to be proof, and the emergence of the sciences began to take a more prominent role.
This leads us to the place we are today. From that moment on there has been a continuous increase in technologies, new philosophies, governmental systems, and theology. As these things increased there was also newer struggles, different questions, and somewhere along the line just as in the reformation there has become a cultural struggle that has caused a questioning of God.
These cycles seem to have a place in the course of human history. Even the names included in the genealogy of Jesus indicate these very same cycles. A closeness to God, increasing technologies, technologies being used to dominate in war, desperation, poverty, a yearning for God, praises to God, and the cycle continues. It was during one of these cycles when the judges emerged as leaders in Israel, when the prophets began to teach, when the exiles occurred. It is during these cycles when Israel left their lands to go Egypt, found themselves as slaves, and made the exodus. It was during a cycle just like this that Jesus was born bringing light to the world.
Light is an important word. We have already discussed the effects of light, but there is much more packed into this word.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. (Genesis 1:1-4a, ESV)
Everything started with Light. The beginning of creation, the beginning of God’s interaction outside of himself is with light. Light among the Jewish people and among the Greeks was considered the beginning of knowledge. And was also the symbol of the presence of God. Which is why the festival of lights is such an important holiday. It represents the presence of God providing for the rededication of the temple and the nation, light brought hope. Light illuminates the darkness reveals the things that were previously unseen, it brings security and safety during the times of darkness. Light is the very presence of God.
This is where we find John in today’s reading. There was an understanding among the religious leaders that the Messiah was going to bring knowledge, hope, security, and peace from God. They were looking for this enlightened man to lead them into their bright future. John gave testimony to the light but he was not the light.
He cried out in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” And the people came running to him. They repented and where baptized in the waters of the Jordan as a symbol of their repentance. Yet he was very adamant that he was not the messiah. The religious leaders were confused by his teaching and his claims. He was not building a school or a following to himself as rabbis did during that time, but he was directing them elsewhere. Telling them to keep looking for the one to come, to prepare themselves for the one that would not baptize with water but with the Spirit and fire. Again there is a cycle of history, an emerging change in the culture that would redirect the courses of history.
Why is this so important? Because we all need the light. We are in the midst of another turning of the cycles of history. During this time frame we have a darkness surrounding us but there is a glimmer of light filtering through. We do not know exactly what the future holds but we do know that God is at work and we must prepare the way of the Lord. We must hold each other in the light.
The old Quaker term of holding someone in the light, is one that is derived from the understanding that God is light, he is the source of all wisdom, security, peace and hope. To be held in the light of God is to ask that God will provide guidance and understanding to the situation at hand. Basically it is a fancy way to say pray. But to hold someone in the light is different than just prayer, it is an acknowledgement that we do not know or cannot control the outcome. We hold people in the light because only God can truly direct us, and that light we are holding people in is Jesus. When George Fox was in the fields seeking understanding and heard the voice say to him, “there is one even Christ Jesus that can speak to thy condition.” He understood that it was Christ who was not only our salvation but our very guide in life. That if we wanted become disciples or followers of Christ that we would have to live, act and walk along the path illuminated by the light of God. But walking and living in the light is not always an easy task.
When Martin Luther was gazing up at the star filtering though the branches of the trees, he was given a sense of peace. He was given a peace and an understanding that he was walking down the path that Christ had called him to walk. It was not easy because everything that he had previously known was removed and everything before him was uncharted. He did not think that the very church he loved would be split in half and that wars would be fought and lives lost. He thought he was reforming and reviving the church. But whenever things are about to change those that have a stake on either side of the change will seek to gain or retain control.
This is where we are today. In the midst of a culture war. Lines are being drawn and sides are being chosen. But the question I ask is, where is the light? In the first century these very same lines were drawn, as in the 15th century, and the 17th. There is a turning and a change, but God is still at work. Consider that for a moment, consider the history that surrounds these cyclical changes throughout history. Where was God in those times? In each case there was a religious establishment with great power, yet the powerful fell. Why did that happen? Because we are unfit to untie the thongs of the sandals of the one to come. We are prideful and bold in our righteous claims but are we really children of the light? Are we really walking down the pathways illuminated by Christ or are we walking down the pathways of man? Do we seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?
These are tough questions, questions that may be too scary to consider. If we were to claim to be following in the footsteps of Jesus we would have to examine our lives in the light of the Gospels and we would have to let others view our actions in the same light. It is scary because we know that we are hypocrites, we know full well we say one thing and do something else. We know full well that our actions and our words are not in unity. But God is moving among us. For those of us who confess and turn to Christ and seek to follow Him, He will begin to illuminate the path before us, and as we begin to walk with him he will give us the peace and hope that we are in the light. We will never be perfect even the disciple were not perfect, but we can be children of the light, people living and being directed by the very spirit of God and when we live lives directed by God things begin to change. That is the hope and the peace we gain during this season. Though we fail, though we may often live in the darkness, Christ came and offers the strength to overcome and the grace to change, and the light to walk by.
As we enter into this time of holy expectancy and communion as Friends, examine your life. Are we walking in the light, are we building a greater understanding of God though the study of scripture? Are we seeking the guidance of Christ through prayer? Are we encouraging or holding those around us in the light of Christ? Are we imitating and living the love of Jesus with those in our communities? Are we children of the light or darkness? Consider your life, and consider our world, consider the lights upon our Christmas trees, the life of Fox and Luther, and the saints of old and of new. Consider and listen. God is not finished yet and is beginning a new work all around us, will we be part of that work?
Mark 1:1–8 (NRSV)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
(Mt 3:1–12; Lk 3:1–20; Jn 1:19–28)
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’ ”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
There is much to celebrate during this season. It is the time where we look with anticipation to the hope we have in Jesus. We look back and reflect on the time prior to his birth where the ancients were hoping for the advent or the arrival of their anointed one, and we look to the future where we, like they were, are waiting for the arrival of Christ’s Second Advent. There is real emotion involved in these seasons of faith, there is a yearning even a desperation that our faith will become sight, yet we wait.
It is not that difficult to imagine the feelings of the people in ancient days, the desires of the faithful to see and experience the arrival of their long awaited messiah. For centuries they had heard stories of this mighty king to come, a king that would be greater than King David, the King that even their great king would call Lord. We feel those same emotions as we look forward to the end of days. When will it happen, will I be ready, will I experience it, will I even notice, are all questions that run through our minds. This is why this passage is so important to remember during this Advent season.
What exactly was John the Baptist? John is probably one of the most enigmatic figures in all of scripture, not the most mysterious because Ezekiel laying on his side was pretty mysterious especially when he turned over and laid on his other side. John the Baptist is a man that did things differently, his approach was different, his style was unique, yet he is so important. This unique style was foreseen by the prophets of old to the point that they recorded it in their testimonies:
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
John’s purpose was to prepare the way. Why exactly would we need to prepare the way when everyone was in a state of anticipation?
This goes to the very heart of the Gospel, and what it really means. This week I have struggled with this passage, I have thought of many different directions I thought I should take in presenting this, I even thought I had the perfect idea, but the Spirit changed my directions. The reason being is that those great ideas were my ideas, my thoughts, what I wanted to do. I was in the process way too much and I was forgetting the most important aspect that it is not about me. This is why they needed John, and why we need John in the advent season. John’s most famous quote is, “He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). He must increase.
This concept is powerful, because it is the exact opposite of the religious superpowers. Every church wants to grow in number and increase, every seminary wants increased enrollment, every leader wants an increase in their influence, these ideas of increase are not something that is new to religion. But that is not what John is telling us. John came to prepare the way for something different, a call to repentance.
There has been a struggle from the very beginning of humanity, a struggle we still fight to this day. It was a struggle that first started with two people and a crafty serpent. The struggle is which course I will take. The serpent tempted our first parents with the possibility to become equal with God, to have the knowledge of good and evil, and to be able to chart their own destiny instead of relying only on the word of God. As a result sin entered the world, through one simple choice of eating. Sin is an interesting concept, we each have a definition of what sin is. Actually the more accurate statement is that we each have examples of what sin is because the definition is very difficult to pin down, but I will make an attempt. Sin is anything that hinders or causes us to step away from God. Sin can be anything and everything. Sin is a course of life.
A course of life. I want us to think of that for a moment, a course of life, a way of life. That is the very meaning of John’s mission, to prepare the way. The term “way” is a term that has many meaning but one that stood out to me the most as I was in prayer and study is that this term was used to describe the course or pathways of a river. It was also used to describe a journey, and a lifestyle. I found each of those definitions remarkable. Each of those definitions point to an idea of movement something that is not stationary but constantly moving toward goal. A river begins small, a small spring or a simple drip from melting snow in a crevice on a mountain, but the course moves gradually more drops come together and more crevices building into a stream, more streams come together to form a river, and rivers come together to form massive waterways that can carry that single drop of water and everything surrounding it to the sea.
If that is the course, sin disrupts it. The term damnation is something that disrupts the flow or the course of water. Sin is damning it hinders the course of that single drop of water as it make its way to the sea. Does that mean that it will never make it? Not necessarily.
John came to prepare the way. The term prepare is also interesting, it means to make ready, suitable, or to equip in advance for a particular purpose. John came to prepare the way among a people group that was very religious and faithful. Think about that for a moment. They were not ready, suitable, or equipped for the messiah even though they had been living in a state of anticipation for Him. The religious establishment was at its peak, the worship of the God of Israel was the richest religion in the entire empire. The Temple of God was the greatest house of worship human eyes had seen and yet these people were not ready to for the messiah. Not only were the people of Israel more faithful than probably any other time in their history but they were actually converting non Jewish people to their faith that is why there was a court for Gentiles at the temple, it was for the God fearers that had not fully converted. Yet they were not prepared.
They were not prepared because they were increasing instead of God. They were focused on the wrong journey, and damning the course. John cried out in the wilderness for repentance and called people to be baptized as a sign of forgiveness of sin. As a symbol of reentering the course of the river of life that would take them into the land of promise. And John said that he only baptizes with water but the one after him would baptize with the very Spirit of God.
There is a lot to think about. Are we ready? Are we equipped? Are we prepared for the advent of our Lord? These are very tough questions that I hope we will wrestle with as we walk the courses of our lives this week. But the interesting thing about this struggle is that we have a community that will help us stay on course, and we have history and traditions that can guide us as well. Last week began to use the Christmas tree as an illustration for the hope we have in Christ as we wait in this advent anticipation. The evergreen tree gives us hope in the everlasting love and strength of God, the ability Christ has to redeem all people, and the victory we can have in Christ through the darkest days. But none of us just have a tree in our homes to celebrate Christmas, we each hang ornaments on the branches. Even these can teach us something about the hope we have in Christ and help us prepare for his return. The first ornaments to be placed on the trees were apples. These were used in the middles ages first during nativity pageants that spoke of the hope we have in Christ. These pageants began with the story of the fall of mankind. The priests would hang apples on the tree to represent the fruit that Adam and Eve ate ushering sin into humanity. These paradise trees and the fruity ornaments then represented the need for and the victory of Christ over sin, taking what once damned us, what once distracted us from the courses of God and then using that very thing to redirect us to himself again.
Sin detracts attention away from God, the Spirit redirects the attention back to him. Sin takes us off the pathway, but the Spirit guides us back. We seek to increase, but the Spirit diminishes our egos so that He can increase. The ornaments on the tree represent the sin that Christ has redeemed, they represent the grace that God has provided through Jesus. Jesus is the pathway, Jesus is the course, Jesus is the way, and He is calling us to enter into the flow of the Spirit so that we can be carried to goal.
As we enter into this time of holy expectancy consider the courses of our life. Are we being damned or are we flowing free? Are we damning or are we preparing the way of the Lord? Consider the Christmas tree before us consider your lifestyle and the ways we live out our lives, are they shining balls highlighting everlasting love, or are they the fruit leading ourselves off course?