Sitting by the blazing hearth: a simple pleasure that makes my heart glad. I love to watch the dancing flames, to hear the crackle of the burning wood, to feel the warmth that radiates into the room. So the wild force of fire, set loose by the strike of a match, becomes a source of heat and light and a power for good. I wonder if grace, the lived experience of God’s love, isn’t something like that.
John preached a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of Christ, and this ritual washing wasn’t just about purification, it was a sign of personal transformation, a commitment to live in a whole new way. Is there an outward sign of your own inner preparation for Christmas?
All week as I prepared to preach I’ve been remembering the sermon I wrote on these lections six years ago, right after the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. I’d finished one perfectly nice sermon by Friday, but on Saturday I sat down and wrote another one to speak to a world that had been changed by that tragedy.
Rejoice in God always, Paul writes in Phillipians. And my heart answers: Always? Always? How can we rejoice when our hearts are broken? We live in a world where terrible things happen, and sometimes it’s just so hard to see that light that shines in the darkness.
We preach on the same readings every three years, but the place where we stand is never the same. I’ll take a very different sermon into church with me this morning, but I offer that deadline effort from 2012 as my reflection on todays #AdventWord, #rejoice:
“Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul says in the letter to the Philippians.
“ … The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything,
… And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
You know, I hear those words, and I wonder what possible sense it can make to talk about the peace of God in a world where terrible violence takes the lives of innocent little children. But then I ask myself if there is anywhere except in God that we have any hope of finding peace.
Once again, we find ourselves a nation united in mourning. So often these days our country seems polarized and divided, but there is something in the shared experience of tragedy that still has the power to bring us together. Because of our common humanity, we experience what happened in Connecticut last week as something terrible that has happened to all of us. And all of our hearts are broken.
We can imagine the incredible relief those parents who were reunited with their children must have felt. But we know they’ve been marked by this tragedy, and their lives will never be the same. And we feel in our own hearts the pain of those who lost loved ones in Connecticut. We feel that unimaginable pain as if it were our own.
We hear a lot about John the Baptist in Advent, because his call to prepare for the coming of Christ is the essential theme of the season. John’s Advent preparation was all about repentance, about turning away from a life marked by sin, and from sins of economic injustice in particular. Our own spiritual preparation in Advent is about simplicity as we focus on the longing for God that is the deepest desire of our hearts. And yet at the same time we’re getting ready to celebrate, and the feast of abundance represented by the Christmas cookies and other holiday treats we prepare to share as we gather with people we love also serves to remind us of the generous goodness of our God.
Join the global Advent calendar at www.adventword.org
There’s some uncertainy about today’s Advent word: Is it #grow, as per the graphic circulated in advance, or #go, as per the website and today’s official reflection? I say it matters not, since my photo works either way.
She’s ready to go. The world that awaits is awesome, but it can also be a little scary. We grow by exploring, by opening ourselves to the wonder of it all, and by being willing to take some risks because total safety would be stifling. And to prepare for the journey, we dress warmly and hold hands with someone we trust. Come on, now: let’s go!
#adventword #go #grow
Help create a global Advent calendar at www.adventword.org