Saturday, December 13, 2008

Still Needing An Advent

A Sermon for Advent 3 B – December 14. 2008

Yesterday somebody gave me a button that read “It’s OK to say, Merry Christmas.” I’ve been thinking about that button. I suppose that its main purpose is to let a fellow Christian at the cash register know that they can say Merry Christmas instead of “Happy Holidays” or some other such sentiment.

I put it on and wore it and will do it again when I go shopping – but, I won’t be wearing it here until Christmas Eve and then I’ll be wearing it for the 12 days of Christmas You see, I still am needing an Advent…and the church is still in Advent. We are in the place of getting ready to welcome a guest, of preparing our hearts for not only the remembrance of the birth of the Christ Child but also getting ready for the day and hour that we will meet him face to face….whether it is when he returns on the Day of the Lord or when we die.

It’s so easy to get swept up into some kinds of getting ready for Christmas: getting a tree, decorating the house, baking, getting gifts, sending out cards, visiting with folks we love, or maybe getting ready for travel. All of these are perfectly good things to do, but we risk missing some real opportunity if we don’t take the time to think about the spiritual significance of Christmas. We miss the opportunity to get in touch with our deepest longings and notice the signs that the prophets hold up for us. It’s a little bit like getting to work or showing up for school and realizing that you had forgotten that a major project was due that day – Just forgot…Head was too full of all kinds of other stuff or other things and people in our environment were clamoring for (and getting our attention), while the quiet but most important thing slipped by.

John the Baptist tells us something important today…Jesus called him the greatest man who ever lived…does he loom that large for you? Let’s think about some possible sources of John’s greatness. I want to look at just three

1. He knew who he was --- “I am not the messiah” …He was the forerunner – the one sent ahead . With all of Jerusalem coming out to be baptized, with all of the sensation and public attention he was attracting, it would have been easy to want to hold on to that limelight as along as he could….but he knew who he was and he acted on it…he was faithful to the call of God in his life….I like this little quote from Goethe…. “Never by reflection, but only by doing is self-knowledge possible to one.” [1] Contrary to what our culture teaches ("Look within , Grasshopper"), we learn who we are and what we are to be about by doing – not by sitting around and peeling back the layers of our inner onion.

So, let me ask you an Advent question --- what is God’s call on your life? What work has he given you to do? How are you doing?

2. John the Baptist had the eyes of faith to be able to recognize Jesus…how is your spiritual vision these days – do you see the signs of God at work around you?

3. Instead of envy, joy --- instead of living out of a place of limited good (there’s only so much limelight to go around) he was filled with joy at the prospect of simply being the friend of the bridegroom – (Remember wedding customs about friend announcing)…are we willing to step aside from the me first , ego driven individualism of the culture surrounds us?

So – here are some Advent questions we can ponder to get ready…

What calling has God placed in my life and am I living it out faithfully…and if we discover we are not, not, then confess it and ask for God’s help and guidance…

Am I in enough of a relationship with Jesus Christ that I am able to see with the eyes of faith? If we are not, then pray for a new start at Christmas…

Am I willing to give way and let Jesus Christ be the Lord of my life instead of my self? Are we willing to let him be the bridegroom? If not then confess, and say with John – Lord, grant that we might decrease and he increase.

If we can reflect about these questions – then, we will be truly getting ready for Christmas…not for commercial Christmas but for God’s Christmas. May God bless you in your Advent discernment. Amen.

JTCO – Advent III-2008
[1] Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) – Poet, novelist and dramatist.

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