PENNSYLVANIA SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Emanuel
United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"
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Dear Friends -

“ In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
Luke 3:1-6


It is striking that Luke begins this section of his gospel with a “who’s who” list of the movers and shakers of Jesus’ day, including the Emperor Tiberius, along with the various governors of the region – Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias – and the religious leadership – Annas and Caiaphas. Luke ends his list of those holding worldly power by telling us who holds the real power - God's power: “The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” The word of God came to John – not to religious leaders Annas and Caiaphas, not to political leaders Tiberias or Pilate or Herod or the others, not in Jerusalem, not in Rome, but to John in the wilderness. John’s father, Zechariah, was a priest, but John’s life, following the Spirit’s guidance, took a different path, which led away from the center of authorized religious worship into the desert. And the people responded, leaving their normal routines to go to John.

God’s love and grace appeared among unexpected people, such as John the Baptist, in unexpected places such as the desert, and not to all, but to those who were open to receiving it there. But that openness to God’s grace didn’t just happen; those who came to John had to make room in their lives for John, had to take time from their ordinary lives to travel to the wilderness and hear John’s words. God’s love and grace appeared even more powerfully in a babe lying in a manger in Bethlehem, but Mary and Joseph needed to make room for his coming. And God continues to work in unexpected places and people, as people make room for God in their lives and communities. God’s love and grace are at work as we worship at Emanuel Church, but may work even more powerfully when worship ends and we return to our families, our workplaces, our communities, and live out the teachings of Jesus.

Throughout Scripture, when God has wanted to rescue God’s people, God sent, not armies, but babies – babies such as Isaac, Moses, and Samuel in the Old Testament, babies such as John the Baptist and the Christ Child in the New Testament. We want God to act quickly and forcefully, but instead, God acts slowly, in out-of-the-way places, by way of ordinary people, through love. And in order to participate in God’s saving acts, we need to make room, room for the Christ child, room for the teachings of the adult Jesus, room for the Holy Spirit, who continues to remind us of all that Jesus taught. (John 14:26)

Amid the predictable binge of Christmas shopping and feasting, may we leave room for God to work in our lives, as we keep our eyes and ears and other senses attuned to discern where God may be working around us and in us. Blessings for Advent, Christmas, and the New Year!

See you in church!

Pastor Dave





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