Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

cross_punch_flower_283079_tnIt’s been an eventful couple of days hereabouts. I remember when I would come down into the basement of the Rectory and be upset because there was an inch of water in parts of the basement. For that reason we put many of our things in plastic tubs or placed them on dunnage. Unfortunately, in 8 inches of water everything floats until it turns on its side. The cleanup continues.

Advent can be an opportunity to cleanup. Lots of us focus on the start of the calendar year to make up and put into action resolutions which we hope will result in our betterment. But what if we didn’t put off an inventory and took this time 3 weeks before the start of the year to set in place the good things we could do for ourselves and others.

One of the things we might do is to do a bit of spiritual cleanup which, I believe, would result in a closer relationship to God and to others. If you haven’t learned it already, God banishes fear—fear of others who might not be like us, fear of inadequacy, fear of the unknown—all kinds of fear and replaces them with the good stuff of relationship with God and others.

At our 10:45 service Alexis Trinity Lyon is joining this church. Although she lives in Florida, I hope she will find a good church home with her parents and never lose the optimism and joy of life which radiates from her.

I believe that our Christian hope has much to do with how we approach life. It reflects the hope announced in our passage from Isaiah, the first part of which Jesus announced in Nazareth as his mission—to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and to comfort all who mourn.

We as Christ’s visible body are called to carry on that mission person to person and church to community.

This week we received a Christmas card from Roger and Shirley Bonnaffons, Ken’s brother and sister-in-law, who were flooded out by Hurricane Katrina. Our help to them made a difference and they have not forgotten. I believe they are living out Paul’s exhortation to the church in Thessalonika: where in part he calls upon them to give thanks in all circumstances and hold fast to what is good.

This is the second Sunday in which the gospel focuses on John the Baptist. He came to prepare people to experience the light of Christ which dispels the spiritual darkness that holds so many in despair. And he honors his role.

It occurred to me last night as I was working on this sermon that John had the opportunity to make all kinds of claims which could not be disproven by those who came out to question him. How could they prove he wasn’t the messiah or at the least Elijah come to announce the Messiah or the prophet foretold to Moses.

But no, he had the integrity of person and purpose to clarify his role as the forerunner who set the stage for the coming of Jesus.

When they demand to know why he is baptizing if he is not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, he ignores their challenge and instead points to the one who will come.

I found myself thinking about testifying—giving witness. It sounds scary but we do it all the time: try that restaurant, we had a great meal there; this is an exquisite vintage, how ‘bout those Giants?

Why then don’t we testify about our faith? Perhaps it is because we were raised to keep our faith private. Perhaps we are afraid that any simple expression of how we see God active around us will make our friends or members of our family uncomfortable. Perhaps we think we have nothing to share.

If we feel that way then I think it is time to stop from time to time and reflect on God in our lives. If we don’t pray, how can we know if God answers prayer? Are we afraid that God will answer ‘no? If we don’t read or listen to scripture and discern how it might be calling us to some kind of action, what guidance do we have except for Dr. Phil? How will we make a difference through our living?

Advent gives us an opportunity to take these concerns in hand and learn the truth about our spiritual lives. God has given us time and it’s too cold to sunbath in the backyard.

And now the sermon in 3 messages:

  • Let God help you to know who you are.
  • Take the opportunity to make a difference in some one person’s life as a start.
  • Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.

Amen.