We light the fourth and final candle on the Advent wreath. The time is getting close.
The theme of that fourth candle is peace.
The fourth candle’s light shines, radiates, and advocates for a ‘peace’ that goes beyond the absence of hostilities between antagonists. Although at many times, I would certainly ‘settle’ for the absence of angry feeling and words, the lack of deadly weapons, and the ceasing of wars.
The biblical sense of ‘peace’ is the presence of wholeness rather than the absence of barbs and bombs.
I remember reading but don't remember who wrote a version of the old Humpty Dumpty story. Yes, Humpty might have been a good egg, but Humpty was also rather unaware and foolish. He was rounded and not inclined to be safe on any flat surface. He was roly-poly. Not like that roly-poly pudding in that Beatrix Potter story. Oh yes, there were Potters before Harry.
Why is something that is roly-poly trying to sit on top of a wall, we might ask. Ah, the answer might be similar to one re a couple of creatures in a lovely garden who are asked not to pick the fruit on the tree which stands in the middle of the garden.
We might foresee that both Humpty and those creatures in the Garden of Eden are heading for a fall.
We know from the nursery rhyme that ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again”. Broken. Goner.
But this other version of the rhyme asks “what of the King?” In it the King appears and puts Humpty back together again. We might say Humpty is whole again and alive, because all the pieces of his broken life have been put back in place – by the King himself.
That is my understanding of the Biblical sense of ‘peace’.
Blessed is this One who comes – to bring peace to the broken pieces of our lives. Who comes in love to risk being broken himself so that others may have peace and wholeness in relationship with God, self, and community.
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]
SERMON: “Abolishing to Establish”
5and he shall be the one of peace.
8When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, "See, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."]
In the depths of these dark days of winter, we are gifted with the appearance of Light.
John’s gospel declares, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
We may have our doubts about the truth of that verse, because we perceive some times get pretty dark.
But this night celebrates and calls us to see the vulnerable Light, the unexpected way through which the Light shines, the face of a human baby.
No, this night is not for us to get our minds a round, to plumb the depths, to fathom, to articulate all the gymnastic philosophical reasonings of how both eternal and temporal, the finite and the infinite, God and human can coexist in this Jesus.
This is a night to gently get our arms around this one who comes as one of us, with us, and for us. Let that light shine in the darkness of our thinking that God does not care, that God does not see, that God does not accompany the people of the world God so loves.
Hold that light high – or better yet, hold that Light lovingly close to your heart, to keep the darkness of all those other thoughts in their place.
No, the darkness has not overcome it because the Light has come to stand with the world not only against such darkness but also in the very midst of such darkness.
Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus' presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
SERMON (9:00 p.m. Service) “Living in a Extragavent Hope”
10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."
5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
[15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]
9:00 p.m. SERVICE LESSONS
7How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 8Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. 9Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 5For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 6And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” 8But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; 12like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.” 13But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
The Christmas season continues, at least in the church.
I realize that in the commercial world the after Christmas sales have been up and running since December 26.
But in the church the Christmas season extends for 12 days until The Epiphany (January 6).
But even in the church the gospel appointed for this Sunday has already moved us ahead 12 years. Jesus is on a trip to Jerusalem with his family. Mary and Joseph think he is in the care of other family members. When they realize he is missing, they have three anxious days of searching for him before they eventually find him in the temple.
I cannot imagine any more anxiety-producing situation than a missing child. That precious life which has been entrusted to us as parents is now, not only our of out sight, but also out of our care. We are concerned for the child and for his/her welfare and well-being. We can be critical of ourselves for not paying appropriate attention.
In these days after Christmas we know we have been gifted with the presence of this Child. And yet, we also confess that do not attend to this Child in our lives. Like his parents, we lose Jesus.
We also have the gift of this Jesus in one another. As Matthew 25 reminds us: “when did we see you (Jesus) hungry or naked or in prison?” We did not so see Jesus in one another. We lost Jesus by not seeing him in one another. “As you have done it to these, you have done it to me.”
So the second lesson for this Sunday invites us to so see and thus to bear with one another in kindness, compassion, patience, meekness, and humility. Bear with one another by forgiving one another.
Extend the Christmas season by seeing the gift of God-with-us in the world and in one another. And, as Mary was called to bear this Child, so are we called to bear the Child we see in one another with compassion and forgiveness.
NO BIG SERMON
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love,
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.