Romans 1:1-7 (NRSV)
Chapter 1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, Verse 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, Verse 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh Verse 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, Verse 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, Verse 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, Verse 7To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ve been avoiding this text, its talk of being called, death, and the obedience of faith seeming too heavy during this Advent season of joy and hope.
I’d rather watch my children in the Christmas pageant, dressed in sheep ears and singing carols out of sync, or pressing red hots into their cornflake wreaths and sneaking bites while I pretend not to see. I’d rather cuddle on the couch with the girls on each side thumbing through their children’s Bible to see the sweet baby Jesus cuddled in his own mother’s arms.
I don’t want to think of the innocent set apart for the labor of sainthood. I want to keep them here in this Advent waiting and the “not yet” of the hard parts of the story. I want to receive the easy gifts of the season—the grace, not the apostleship.
And yet, as I kiss the heads of my young daughters, I hear God inviting us to belong to Jesus Christ, the one called Emmanuel, who in painful times and tender times alike, offers the presence of his grace and peace.
Dear God, thank you for the promise of your presence and the reminder of this Advent season that even as you call us to the sacrifice of service for your gospel, you also bless us with the gift of that same gospel, God among us and for us. In your spirit of holiness we pray, Amen.