A Message from Pastor Vern
Seeing the title of this devotion your thought might be, “What in heaven and earth is that word?!” We are one week and two days away from Christmas Eve folks! Christmas is juuuuust around the corner!
The word “theotokos” is a Greek word: theo (meaning God) and tokos (meaning bearer). This word, “theotokos” is a name attributed to Mary the mother of Jesus, by many Christians (especially our orthodox friends) around the world. Mary is revered as the God-bearer who delivers God’s love in the world.
The image accompanied with this week’s devotion is of an icon - an artistic expression commonly used in many Christian expressions, that depicts significant stories or people in the Christian tradition. This image, the “Theotokos,” depicts Mary holding in her hands and within her being, Jesus, the Savior that she bears to the world.
We don’t have many icons around the campus of St. Mark’s, but we do have a lot of God-bearers around at St. Mark’s! Martin Luther has several ideas that I think relate to this idea of being a God-bearer. Luther wrote extensively on the idea of Christian vocation. Part of how we understand that is through the words of Ephesians (4:1-5) which say, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
In Luther’s understanding of vocation, we all have a calling in life (Paul writes about vocation and the marks of a true Christian in the words of Romans 12). For some, that is to teach; some to preach; some to practice medicine; some to engineer; some to share various expressions of art; some to advocate for others; the list of vocations is infinite. In Luther’s understanding, our vocation, our calling, is part of how we live out the very essence of who we are created to be: “Made in the image of God and created for and to be in relationship with God and one another” (from Genesis 1).
In short, you are a “God bearer.” While you didn’t carry in your being the Savior Jesus, like Mary, you carry the image of Jesus in the gifts, unique abilities, and passions that make you who you are. Through your personal and professional vocations, you bear the hope, peace, joy, and love (the elements of the Advent candles) of Christ in the world.
As a congregation, we are also “God-bearers” in our ministry together. In a council devotion Monday night, I talked about the recurrence of the word “proclaim” throughout the Advent and Christmas narrative. I asked the question, “What do we want the message to be both that we (St. Mark’s) proclaim in our community? And what do we want the message to be that our community proclaims about us?”
Think about that in a similar way this week: How can we bear or reveal God to our neighbors, to our communities, to the world, and how can we open ourselves up to seeing God revealed to us by our neighbors and the community around us?
Friends, the peace of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, be with you now and in the days of preparation and celebration that are just around the corner!