Friday, First Week in Advent

by Matthew B. Harper

Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find. (Matthew 22:8-9)

The shocking thing about this parable of Christ’s is that we are the latecomers to the banquet. The ones who were out and about in the alleyways and poorhouses that night; those that were brought to the wedding feast and clothed with the festal garments, they are us.

It is humbling to think of ourselves in this context. But it is in this capacity that Christ comes to us, and that God offers us so much. I would rather think that God somehow needs me, but God doesn’t. It is that God wants me! I might think that I can do God’s work, but I can’t. It is the amazing and nearly unspeakable miracle that God wants to do some of God’s work through me!

And just this month as children sit and hope for the gifts of Santa, we must be ready to accept the gifts of God. We must be willing to come before Christ humbled and ready to receive the commissioning that God has for us. If we have talents and skills, then they were only given to us for a purpose. Jesus talks in this parable of giving the guests the wedding garments to wear. What garment has Christ given you? Do you have the humility to accept it? Do you have the courage to wear it?

The poor and destitute are always more ready to receive God’s love. We already know that we cannot make it on our own. All too often we think we can do it ourselves, and we are so wrong. So today I dare you to climb onto the lap of you divine father, and when you are done telling him what you want for Christmas, I dare you to receive and accept what God brings you.

He comes, the prisoners to release – He comes, the broken hearted to bind, the bleeding soul to cure; – let every heart prepare a throne, and every voice a song. (Hymn 71)

Wednesday, First Week in Advent

by Matthew B. Harper

Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, the tax-collectors and the harlots go to the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31)

It is disturbing to think that the people we least approve might be the first ones into heaven. And not just might be, according to Jesus, they are. If you think you are humble, think of the prisoners getting into heaven ahead of you. Does it disturb you?

The question is no easier from behind bars. In here there are inmates who are hated and despised. The rapists are a second class citizen in prison, the snitches rank a little lower, and it simply doesn’t get lower than the child molesters. And yet when I find it difficult in my heart to reach out to them in kindness, I hear these words of Christ in my head. When I harbor judgment and resentment, it is indeed they who will go before me into heaven.

The repentant criminals are among my favorite people in the world. The person who has honestly looked into the depths of their own heart, and seen the guilt and the need; and who has then in their longing and grief turned to God and let Christ fill and sanctify them; I love these men. But I find that I love those who aren’t repentant as well. When I see them in their pride and anger, self-righteous before man and God; I find only love, pity, and sorrow in my heart.

Is our church a Sunday country club or a hospital for sinners? I welcome and rejoice with my favorite people in church. We are all repentant sinners. But I also welcome those that I struggle with. I welcome the snitches, the child molesters, the rapists. I struggle, for I too need the maturing ministry of Christ, but I welcome them.

Christ turned none away, not even me, can I do less?

Herald, sound the note of pardon – those repenting are forgiven; God receives his wayward children, and to them new life is given. (Hymn 70)