Summary: First Sunday of Advent dealing with how we share Merry Christmas with those around us.
Here are some classic salutations. Guess where they come from? "Hey Lucy, I’m home." "Whattzzsuuup!" "Na-nu, na-nu.". "Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight." "How you doing?" And what about, "Bah! Humbug."
You can probably come up with a dozen others off the top of your head have you ever considered that how we greet someone is an opportunity that God has given us to touch the life of another person for the sake of Jesus. This Christmas season you’ll be greeting a lot of people. Family and friends will get cards and phone calls. You’ll speak with clerks and shoppers. There will be wait-staff and people in line like you. There will be co-workers, students and teachers, bosses and employees. And every last one of these give us the chance to make their "Holy Days" more meaningful. What if we could season our greetings with the love of Christ?
In Scripture there are some pretty amazing greetings. Gideon is told, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." There was no one more un-warrior like than Gideon. Mary, a teenage Palestinian Jew hears, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The LORD is with you." Philip is greeted by Jesus who says, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." And the Apostle Peter hears, "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church."
God greetings are based on His knowledge of us not our self-perception. God’s greeting calls out from us that with which the Holy Spirit has gifted us with and to the purpose God has called us. Gideon isn’t a mighty warrior, yet. Peter isn’t a rock, yet. But God sees something inside of them no one else does. Colossians, like other letters, ends with a list of greetings. Paul’s greetings are based upon what he’s seen these people do while stuck in jail. Tychicus is greeted as a faithful worker and fellow servant. Onesimus, the runaway slave, comes back to share what’s happening to Paul. Aristarchus is a prisoner with Paul and Mark, who Paul and Barnabas argued about, is now with Paul as his helper. Whereas Paul’s greetings and description are positive, uplifting and call out the best ours sometimes fall short.
Greetings can show how close a relationship we want with a person. Squeals of joy, and a shout tell something much different than a quick head nod. A firm handshake into a shoulder-to-shoulder hug offers a different message than a simple polite hello. Refusing to make eye contact even when we know the person is there is a much different greeting than offering someone a soft chair.
What steps can you and I take, give greetings that are full of grace and seasoned with salt. Grace is the content of our conversation and our life. Grace is also the source from which, all our life flows.
• Grace has nothing to do with being polite.
• Grace has nothing to do with proper manners.
• Grace has nothing to do with a short prayer said before Christmas dinner.
• Grace is being treated in a way we don’t deserve.
That is what Jesus is all about, He came to us, Emmanuel, and so we were treated in a way we don’t deserve. John tells us that "grace and truth" came in Jesus.
When we are full of grace there is no room for regretting the past experiences of Christmas. When we are full of grace there is not room complaints about crowds, traffic, and noise. There is no room for busyness because being full of Grace focuses us on Christ. There is no room for self-doubt or selfishness because to be full of grace is to be filled with God’s gift, His Son and our Lord.
We are also called to be salt in the world. Prior to refrigeration, salt was how you kept meat from rotting. Today, it is the business of the Church to slow the decay, depravity and disease in our society and world. If left to its own devices the world would self-destruct but God’s great news is that Jesus has come and will make everything new. By the way, that good news is communicated by us.
It’s communicated in our words, to be sure. But the key way it gets across to people is through our lives. Jesus told us, "By their fruit you will know them." If you look back a chapter in Colossians or you recall Jason and Amber’s wedding you might remember the list Paul gives us. It is a list of good fruit that demonstrates one is held tightly by Jesus. "Compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline." When it comes to others we are told to "Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense." Those are the signs we are living salt crystals in a world where rot threatens to destroy.