Sermon December 2, 2018
A gentleman from Ontario wrote that “When his daughters were little he would always tell them around Christmas that this is Jesus' birthday and he only received 3 things so do not be disappointed in what lies under the tree. When it came time for worship on Christmas morning, he asked the children what they thought Jesus would think of Santa and all the hype. Would Jesus ask Santa a question? His youngest daughter replied, "I think Jesus would ask how come I only got three things and none of them were toys?" ... SAL Ridgeway Ontario
Our liturgical season has changed. Thanksgiving is over and Advent has begun. Did you notice that we changed the colors on the banners to blue? The advent candle has been lit, the tone of our service is a little more contemplative. The world may have been talking about Christmas for several weeks but now we start talking about Christmas in church.
You know that Advent means coming. We look forward to the coming of Jesus. When you think about it, there are two different comings of Jesus that we prepare for. To start, we remember the first time that Jesus came to earth. We want to hear the story from Luke about how Mary and Joseph were denied a room in the Inn and we want to see the baby Jesus in the manger. That’s one coming. We believe that Jesus will come again at the end of the world. That is the second coming. Jesus told the story himself and we read it in today’s gospel. The Son of Man will appear on a cloud and judge all of heaven and earth. It will be a traumatic time with much fighting and lots of calamities on earth. It sounds like a time that we should fear. But for those of us who are faithful to Jesus, it seems like a time to look forward to because Jesus will be in full power. At that time, Jesus will judge us. It is our hope that we will be judged as having done well and we will be invited into heaven. We live our lives doing our best to follow the will of Jesus. We know it is the right thing to do and we hope that our good works will be recognized by Jesus on judgment day and that our wrongs will be forgiven. We live in the middle between these two comings of Jesus trying to look back and forward at the same time.
Most of us have been though lots and lots of Advents and Christmases. My suggestion is that you look for a way to make this Advent personal. It might mean that you change your point of view a little. Sometimes we approach Advent as something that is going to happen to us or for us. That Jesus is going to come for the whole world, or we remember that Jesus did come and did save us. I want you to think about the fact that Jesus is coming to you personally. It is not something that just happened a long time ago, or will happen later. It is something that is happening now.
What I am saying is that instead of thinking of this coming of Jesus as a passive experience, let’s find a way to be involved in it individually and actively. Jesus is coming for me and I cannot wait. I want Jesus to enter my heart and change me. Rather than remembering what did happen or imagining what might happen, let’s see if we can make something happen. Let’s seek an encounter with Jesus.
There are so many things we can do. For example, some of you will choose to have a special set of daily devotions for Advent. I have chosen to use this book called “O Wisdom, Reflections on the Names of Jesus”. Some people choose to make an Advent wreath and light candles at the dinner table just as we do here in church. Others have told me that in their house they had an advent calendar. Each day a child would open a little box on the calendar and a tiny figure would be taken out and shared. When she was younger, our daughter had a felt Advent Christmas tree. Each day, she would add an ornament to this tree. We are not kids anymore but let’s try to create some experience each day that reminds us of the coming of Jesus.
I know that many people feel the pressure of the holiday season. There are presents to buy, cards to send and gifts to wrap. There is decorating to be done and cooking to be completed. We may spend time at parties and we may make plans to see relatives. Is it possible that you could dedicate each of these activities to Jesus? After all, our decorating is about showing the light of Christ to all people. Our gifts can be given in remembrance that Christ gave us the gift of salvation. Our time spent with others reminds us of the times that Jesus shared a meal with friends or ate with those who argued with him about his mission on earth. Let’s consider our daily work this season as a way to honor Jesus.
I know that for some people, the holidays are a sad time. You miss someone who has passed or you cannot be with a loved one who is far away. I hope that you will find some solace as you turn your heart to Jesus that his coming may give you some comfort and peace.
I would encourage you try one more thing. I would suggest that you ask for and pray that Jesus will come into your life and into your heart. This is something we do often in our prayers and in our hymns. Some offer this prayer before a meal, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blest”. We sing the hymn, “Come Thou O Love Divine” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” as well as the anthem “E’en so Lord Jesus Quickly Come”.
Before the season is over, we will be singing that special hymn, “O come O Come Emmanuel”. But I think we should change the words a little bit. Yes we want God to be with us but not to ransom captive Israel but rather to lift us out of our depression. Yes, we want Jesus to come down from heaven and free us from Satan’s tyranny, to save us from our sins, to help us to sin no more. We want Emmanuel to come not to some ancient tribes on the mountain of Sinai but rather to those of us gathered here that we may follow the will of Jesus.
The presence of God in our lives is reflected in this beautiful passage from the letter to the Thessalonians. It is a prayer of thanks for the presence of other faithful Christians in our lives, especially those who inspire our faith and give us joy because of their dedication. It is encouragement for sharing our faith and helping each other during the times that we question our faith. It is a reminder that we live in the present, that we seek God each day and that our faith can be a source of joy. Paul was convinced that God would hear his prayers for his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica and that God would help them to grow in love and faith even though Paul could not be present with them.
At the very end of the Book of Revelation, the author, John, wrote that there will be a river of life flowing through the city and that on either side of the river there will be trees. The trees will bear fruit that will be for the healing of the nations. He writes that the Lord God will be the light and will reign forever. One of the last verses goes like this, “The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come Lord Jesus”
I believe Jesus is coming to us soon, to each of us, before this year is over. In that coming, let us hope that the nations will be healed.
I would like to paraphrase from a prayer found in the Book of Occasional Services. It is our responsibility and joy to listen to the message of the angels and to go to Bethlehem to see the Son of God lying in a manger. We seek to hear and heed the story of God’s loving purpose for us including the glorious redemption brought to us by Jesus. We look forward to greeting Jesus into our lives once more on this Christmas. This Advent, we await the coming of Jesus. We remember his first coming and we prepare for the second coming. Let’s also ask Jesus to come into our life today and every day of this Advent season. Let’s have an encounter with Jesus during this holiday season. Amen.
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