Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent 3A Sermon by Deacon Pam

Preacher: The Reverend Deacon Pam Bright

Lectionary: Isaiah 35:1-10; Canticle 15; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

The pink, or rose candle that was lit in the Advent wreath a few moments ago signifies this is the Sunday of Joy, also known as Rose Sunday, Mothering Sunday, and Gaudete Sunday.

The Latin scholars in the group know that gaudete is Latin for rejoice, hence Sunday of Joy. On the third Sunday of Advent, we begin our transition from the somewhat penitential nature of this season to one of joyous expectation and preparation, of rejoicing for the coming miracle we can now almost see. We are pausing, for a moment, on our journey to Christmas, to rejoice.

The tradition began when Advent was referred to as Winter Lent, and the faithful were expected to fast regularly and to attend worship services daily. Can you imagine if we observed Winter Lent in our present culture? The economy would have to find another way to sustain itself and advertisers would be in trouble, but we might lose a few pounds instead of gaining.

Did you ever wonder why pink...or rose...why a pink candle, why rose vestments? I found out about this a few years ago and think it’s just way cool...the Light of the World is almost here-he’s getting closer and closer...and his light is so strong, so powerful, that when it shines through the traditional purple or blue of Advent, the color lightens to rose.

There’s something else about the third Sunday of Advent you may not have noticed...John the Baptist is always remembered on the third Sunday of Advent. He is a feature during Advent in general, but if you look at the Gospel lessons for all three years you’ll see each one is about John the Baptist.

Not the first person we think of necessarily when we think of rejoicing, is he? Wonderful proclaimer of the coming of the Lord, yes...joyous, happy guy? Not so much, not that we are told anyway.

But we have the advantage of knowing, with apologies to Paul Harvey, the rest of the story. We aren’t in prison because of our commitment to our calling, facing death, wondering if this could possibly be the One.

We have the luxury of knowing what the listeners in today’s Gospel were just beginning to realize, that the fulfillment of God’s plan was unfolding before their very eyes. So we don’t have an excuse; we have every reason to be joyfully expecting, waiting, anticipating and preparing.

When I think of joyful preparation, I always think of my Daddy.

See, my Daddy was a Baptist. Until he became a Methodist, much later in his life, I have no idea that Daddy knew beans about Advent or Advent wreaths, about a season of expectant waiting, listening and preparing. I never heard those words used at any rate, and we never had an Advent calendar or anything like that.

But the way my Baptist father approached preparing for Christmas has caused me to think in recent years that he would have made a great Episcopalian; he just didn’t know it.

Daddy loved Christmas and almost everything about it. He loved the cold weather and he particularly liked it if it snowed. He was the one who decorated the tree and the house, inside and out. He was the one who carefully and beautifully wrapped our packages. He loved the music, something he and I shared, and he loved new Christmas specials-he didn’t think so much about me wanting to watch the same ones over and over though.

No, it wasn’t the season of Christmas Daddy had a problem with-it was when it got celebrated. The timing of when we did certain things was the cause of heated debate every year while I was growing up.

My momma wanted him to decorate the house and the tree early, at Thanksgiving time, like everyone else mostly did. If Daddy had had his way, we would have decorated on Christmas Eve. The concession, always with a lot of back and forth between them, was somewhere around December 19 or 20th.

Both of them, my mother and my father, complained during the process-Mother about how late it was, why bother, and Daddy about it being too soon.

Daddy would say “It’s okay to get excited, but you can’t rush a baby. Babies take time. You gotta take the time to get ready for a baby. He ain’t here yet. It ain’t time. Don’t rush him. He knows when to come. That’s his job- it’s our job to be ready. You just can’t rush a baby.”

And it is-our job to prepare, our job to get ready. With Advent, we wait and watch and listen and prepare for the coming of a child, a child who changes everything, a child who as a man will say we are all God’s children, who will say love one other, who will say give to those who ask, who will say be peacemakers, who will say we are the light of the world.

What are we going to do with this baby, this child who is Immanuel, God with us? As we prayerfully listen, what new thing is being born in us, as we prepare our hearts, our lives for the coming Christ child?
I don’t have to tell any of you being joyous, especially during this season, is difficult for many of our brothers and sisters in this community, in our nation and around the world. And you might get tired of hearing it, but it’s our job as followers of Jesus, to do something about it.

Writer David Wolpe shares in his book Teaching Your Children About God the wonderful story of the man who stood before God, his heart breaking from all the pain and injustice in the world. “Dear God,” he cried out, “look at all the suffering and the anguish and distress in your world. Why don’t you send help?” God responded “I did send help. I sent you.”

We all have a ministry. Each and every one of us are called to do the work of helping God heal the world. What is God calling you to do? How will we show with our lives what we believe, that God has come among us and that coming is reason for great rejoicing-for all of us?

My prayer for all of us is that the remaining two weeks of Advent will be a time of joyful waiting and listening, of preparation and anticipation for just what God is bringing about in our hearts, in our lives, in this church, in our community and in the world. I pray we will continue to ask ‘what are you calling me to do, what is being born in me?‘make the time and space to hear God’s answer, then respond to that answer in faith.

I’d like to close with a prayer written by writer Marianna Williamson that for me captures some of these thoughts.

Dear God,
The world is not as it should be.
There is violence and famine and sickness and pain.
Let those things die, dear Lord.
May we be reborn.

My heart at times is not as it should be.
There is conflict, unforgiveness, judgment and rage.
Let those things die dear Lord.
May I be reborn.

Where a brother sees not
The beauty of his brother
and a sister sees not
the glory of her sister
where a brother sees not the innocence of his sister
and a sister sees not the brilliance of her brother
may we be reborn.

May only love remain.
Forgive the horror.
exalt the glory
redeem the past
release the future
wipe away all tears
deliver us to joy
correct our thinking
and heal our hearts.

May fear now die dear Lord
may we be no longer who we used to be.
Release your glory
which lies within us
that the world may be reborn.
This is my prayer for us
this is my prayer for me.

Amen. May we be reborn. Amen.

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