Monday, December 18, 2017

The Advent Season, A Call to be at Peace with God

Pastoral Prayer

I want to look at two scriptures today.  The first is Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, the second is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.  The scriptures are a gift, imparting the peace of God.  It is a reminder that each of us lives, moves and breaths in the presence of God.  The scriptures remind us that God is active and engaged in the affairs of humanity, in your life.  I caution each of us here today not to take God’s presence for granted.  God is our deliverer and we should not be tossed to and fro by the circumstantial evidence of our day but lean more so into our relationship with the everlasting God.  And this is the Good news of the Advent Season that God is our deliverer and comforter, and lover of justice.  That unconditional love, justice and truth have the final word in our time.  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, in his acceptance of the Noble Peace Prize, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality this is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant." I suggest that what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was saying, is that God has the final word.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians exhorts those who call Christ Savior and Lord to rejoice, and to trust in the faithfulness of their God. (Thess. 5:23-24)  The Apostle Paul is exhorting the Christians of Thessalonica of A.D. 52 and the Christians of today to trust in the faithfulness and the unconditional love of God.  The Apostle Paul could write these words having gone through many trials and tribulations for sharing the Gospel. Shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, situations, circumstances did not matter. He was centered in Christ.  He embodied the Advent, living in communion with God.

The words of the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul call each of us to receive the Advent Season as a time of preparation and expectancy, where hope, joy, peace and love define our perspective on this life and not just this season.  Far from a time of consumerism and profits the Advent Season is God’s gift to those who long for the Good News, for the proclamation of liberty, for freedom, for the sustenance of their body and soul, and a renewal of their strength to address the injustice which inhabits much of life today. It is a time of fasting like Lent, and a time of reflection. Graciously and joyously receiving the gift of Advent, the birth of the Christ child, is more precious than life itself.


Woe unto the one who denies this great gift of God.  This is a fool’s errand.  Yet there are some who choose to not only deny the gift of the Advent Season but the very God who created life itself.  This sad and tragic affair became prominent with the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who, having never gotten over the death of his father, who was a pastor, made his famous statement, “God is Dead, a rejection of Christianity as a meaningful force in the world.”  He saw “humanity” as the driving force in the world and no need for God or the Church.  I suggest that his rejection of God, and in this sense his denial of peace with God, In the end led him to become insane, dying a tragic and lonely death.  

Considering the tragedy of disbelief, we are called to receive the Advent Season to maintain our sanity, to re-center ourselves as a means toward peace with God and as a reaffirmation of our faith.  Like the Apostle Paul, the one who truly receives the gift of the Advent in their heart, has new life in Christ and is at peace with God.  In this they rejoice!  

In a world of high speed super highways, high speed internet, 24-hour news and entertainment cycle, social, political, religious and cultural upheavals, polarization, growing economic inequality, gentrification, an economic policy controlled by the 1%, global warming, drug addictions and nationalism, the Advent Season reminds each of us that God has heard our cry, seen our tears, our laughter, and intimately knows our deepest longings, frustrations and sorrows and joys.  While God is not a baby sitter or Santa Claus, God is not oblivious to our circumstances or our situations.

The Advent Season as well as the communion we receive each Sunday are those sacred intimate pleasures which God, as a matter divine grace, imparted through Christ.  Our awakening to these matters of divine grace compel an overwhelming gratitude as they strengthen us in our faith and empowers each of us to address the concerns, challenges and joys of this life. In his book “The Centering Moment, Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman writes, [Read Howard Thurman, pg. 57, The Centering Moment]

After working in food pantries, visiting homeless shelters, visiting the sick and shut in, those suffering with HIV/Aids, those in chronic pain, and those families living in poverty, matters of divine grace are a provocation for survival, for getting through one day at a time. For the people and their families, I have met in these situations the Advent Season, like the communion is sustenance for their life and soul. You see, the reason why the Christ child was born in a manger was so that God could address the issues of all humanity, of every human being and not just those in power who have wealth and privilege.

The Advent Season is a profound, hopeful and somewhat unsettling answer to the concerns of humanity. It is a reminder that God is intimately engaged in our life’s, this we know through faith. So, the question before us today is” How shall we respond to the Advent Season?” How do we respond to God’s gracious love as expressed in the birth of the Christ Child?  I suspect the only answer would be to give our gifts, talents, time, energy, our enthusiasm, our praise, glory and honor, with thanksgiving, that is,  all of who we are or hope to be for we have nothing except that which God has given.  

Psalm 116:12-19

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
    You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
    in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Let us Pray