How many times has something unusual happened to you and you’ve thought – hmmm…what was that about? Maybe it was just a coincidence or good luck or being at the right place at the right time – or – maybe there was something else at work.
So, see what you think about this. On a hot day in the middle of July, two people meet for the very first time on a public tennis court in Fort Collins, Colorado. One was from Richmond, Va and the other one from Boulder Colorado. Two years later they were married in Bath County, Virginia. What was at work for the two of them to be at that tennis park at the same time?
One of the tennis players was my daughter, Beth and she had a best friend from college named Haley who lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. When Haley became engaged, she asked Beth to be in her wedding in early June of 2017. Instead of traveling to Fort Collins just for the wedding, Beth thought – for some reason – that it would be fun to stay there for the summer. But where would she stay? Since Colorado State University is in Fort Collins, she thought that there might be a student there looking to sublet an apartment. Well, there was and she did. Her lease started in June.
The other tennis player in this story is Devin Copenhaver. How did he happen to be in Fort Collins in mid-July? Well, after he graduated from college, he went to work in San Francisco for a start up. Devin had always wanted to travel to India, and in the summer of 2017, he went there with the idea of working remotely for a couple of months. For reasons that he still doesn’t understand, he decided to leave India early and come back to Boulder where his parents lived. That put him there in early July.
Boulder and Fort Collins are about 50 miles apart – which is significant. So, how did Beth and Devin get together? Well, there’s this dating app called Tinder. After the wedding, Haley set Beth up on it as a way to meet people. At just about the same time, Devin put himself on that app.
Have you ever wondered why you do some of the things that you do? Is it routine or ritual? If you get up early in the morning to walk the dog, it’s probably routine. But does being outside in the fresh morning air make it more ritual than routine? Think about sitting down with your family to have dinner. That can certainly seem like a routine. But does it shift to ritual when you bless the food before eating it?
So what’s the difference between routine and ritual? They sound so similar and are sometimes used interchangeably. A routine usually becomes a habit – we just do it without thinking about why. A ritual has more to it. It has meaning or tradition that stirs up something deep within us. It points to something bigger than itself.
Mary and Joseph knew that when they took baby Jesus to the Temple when he was only 40 days old and there wasn’t anything routine about that. They were a Jewish family and they followed the Jewish ritual of presenting their first born son to the Lord. Such a ritual was in gratitude for their baby and as a reminder of the sanctity of their relationship to God.
Although baptism is a sacrament, there are rituals involved in it that uncover its meaning for us – such as watching and hearing water being poured into the font, or watching the priest make the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. They both point to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Who in the world is King Ahaz and what does the prophet Isaiah want us to know about him that would be of any interest to us so close to Christmas?
Well…glad you asked that question! About 700 years before Jesus was even born, there were two kingdoms where the Israelites – God’s chosen people – lived: Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
Israel had been threatened by the Assyrians for years and had finally been captured by them. Judah, however, was still independent. Its capital was Jerusalem and it was being ruled by a descendent of the great King David. His name was Ahaz.
The thing about the Assyrians is that they weren’t happy with just capturing Israel. They wanted to add to their empire and they set their sights south on Judah. King Ahaz was doing his best to hold them off, but it wasn’t easy. And he began to think that the best solution to the crisis was to make a deal with the Assyrians.
And that’s when Isaiah stepped in. He couldn’t help himself because like any prophet, Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece, and he needed to urge King Ahaz to have faith in the will of God instead of giving in to the will of the Assyrians. But Ahaz was scared and like anyone else, he wanted a sign that he and the kingdom of Judah would survive – but he wasn’t going to ask for one.