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In keeping with tradition Bayshore Baptist has produced its annual Advent devotional booklet. Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and going all the way through Epiphany (January 6) there is a one page devotional thought for each day of the Advent/Christmas season. Each day’s devotional is provided by a different member of the Bayshore family. That means a total of 41 different saints have offered their reflections on the Scriptures in light of this holy season.

I have been truly blessed by this simple resource. I begin each day by reading and reflecting on the thoughts and experiences of fellow saints. The theme for this year’s collection has been “Promise.” I have found great wisdom and encouragement in listening to others share how their lives are impacted by promises ? both the promises we make and, most importantly, the promises God makes. We do well to listen and learn from others, no matter the season of the year.

But what makes it an even greater blessing is that this is not some random collection of “others.” These are my brothers and sisters in Christ. These are the people who belong to my church family. Yes, someday when I am with Jesus I will see firsthand that the family of Christ stretches through all time and space to include anyone who has ever called on his name. But in the meantime I don’t just belong to some abstract universal community; I belong to this particular community. God could have put me in any number of congregations, but he has chosen to put me here in this congregation. These people ? not others ? are the ones with whom I await the coming of the Lord. This church ? not the one across town or across the state ? is the one with whom I journey towards eternity.

That is what Christmas is about. The Incarnation means that God got real specific. He didn’t reveal himself through some abstract concept or some universal truth that could be plopped down anywhere at anytime. He revealed himself through a very specific person named Jesus, who lived at a very specific time in history among a very specific group of people who had a very specific set of hopes and dreams. Some theologians have called this “the scandal of particularity.” Jesus didn’t come to give us “larger truths” that could be applied regardless of who teaches them. For centuries people of tried to move Jesus out of the way to uncover the universal message he taught, as though that message was not tied in any direct way to the One who brought it. But it doesn’t work that way. Jesus did not come to teach truth; Jesus came to be truth. That means I can’t deal with God unless I deal directly with a first century rabbi who had some rather peculiar ways of living in this world.

And I can’t deal with that peculiar first century rabbi unless I deal with the rather peculiar group of people among whom he has placed me. The Incarnation still requires me to live with the scandal of particularity. I am not called to “love” in some general sense. I am called to love and live with Sam and Amy and Jim and Anna and Becki and Mark. These are specific people whose names I know and whose lives I share ? for better or worse. It is in the uniqueness and concreteness of this particular group of people that God reveals himself. These and others form a very specific community of which I am an inseparable part.

Which is the real reason why our Advent devotional book has been such a blessing to me. There are plenty of places I could go to find insight and wisdom from others, especially if all I am wanting is a clever thought or a new turn of phrase on a familiar Scripture passage. But there is nowhere outside my community of faith where I be joined more deeply to that very community. And in being joined more deeply to that community ? with all its particular hopes and dreams and quirks and blessings ? I am being joined more deeply to the One who put on flesh to save us.

Thank you, Bayshore, for continuing to reveal the Incarnate One!

Merry Christmas,