The Joy Virus

Edina Morningside Community Church

Scripture: Luke 2:1-14

I noticed something new this year at Christmastime: all the carols that mention joy. Of course, there’s “Joy to the world!” but also, “Joy, joy, for Christ is born” and “joyful all you saints arise”! See if you can finish these: “Tidings of…comfort and joy!” “Peace on the earth, good will to all…great news of joy we bring.” “O come, all you faithful…joyful and triumphant.” and “Good Christian friends…rejoice!” You get the idea.

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1 John 4-5

Good morning! Merry Christmas Eve to those who are celebrating today and tonight! We finish up 1 John today with the second half, chapters 4-5. This first continues echoes of the argument about Jesus’ metaphysical identity which arose yesterday. Here the question is whether Jesus was real (in the flesh) or a spirit who only looked real. Christmas Eve seems an appropriate time to grapple with the question of Jesus as divine or human or (somehow, mysteriously) both. Throughout the first centuries of Christianity, different groups formed and broke away from the orthodox faith as they claimed Jesus wasn’t fully divine, or wasn’t fully human. The matter wasn’t “settled” and orthodoxy established until it was literally voted on by all-Christianity councils that formed the creeds in the 300s. This writer stakes the claim firmly to Jesus as God in the flesh, contending that anything else is from “the antichrist”.

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1 John 1-3

Good morning! I think of 1 John as famous for its commands to show Christ-like love in tangible ways. While that does feature as an overall theme, when we read chapters 1-3 today we’ll see that other subjects come up prominently as well. 1 John shares significant imagery and themes with the gospel of John, which is why some presume that disciples of that John are the ones who wrote the letters of John. In addition to discussion about the Christian vocation to “abide in Christ”, and the Christian identity as “children of God”, 1 John 1-3 similarly uses a light/dark dichotomy to emphasize sinfulness and righteousness. Christ rescues from darkness, and love is the way to demonstrate one’s allegiance to “the light”.

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2 Peter

Good morning! Today in 2 Peter we continue reading the words of an early church leader, trying to evoke the disciple Peter in writing to early Christian churches. Here the author refers specifically to the Transfiguration as confirming Christ’s glory, and mentions “our beloved brother Paul” whose letters are “hard to understand”. These references fail to convince me that this is genuinely Peter’s voice though, because the context and intent of this letter (like the first) emerges out of a time significantly later than that of the disciple himself. 2 Peter communicates the strong “us” versus “them” mentality which emerged in the decades after Christianity had taken hold, and seeks to allay doubts about Christ’s nonexistent triumphal return.

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1 Peter

Good morning! On this shortest day and longest night of the year, I give thanks for this community of light and wisdom. You have been sources of encouragement and hope in all the past year. Since we read 1 Peter today, I might say (in a paraphrase of 1 Peter 2:10) “once we were no people, but now we belong to each other and to God”, though I won’t presume that all of us are on the same page regarding those things. 🙂

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James

Good morning! Today we read the book of James, which Martin Luther famously called “an epistle of straw”. He disliked this book’s robust emphasis on the importance of righteous human behavior as opposed to faith alone. I find it curious that James self-identifies as a teacher, since we mostly think of teachers narrowly as those who convey information. The descriptor works for James though if we realize that his teaching has more to do with mobilizing people for action rather than conveying book knowledge. Contrary to Luther, I believe James may be an essential book for stereotypically action-oriented millennials, and any in the 21st century who feel compelled to “do something” with Christian faith rather than simply profess it.

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