Good Morning! We had our Hanging of the Greens service on Sunday and it was such a fun way to get into the Advent and Christmas spirit. There were definitely a few comedy of errors moments (we almost lost a strand of garland off the balcony) but it was nice to just laugh and remember that God doesn’t ask for perfection.
Here is my sermon from Sunday – enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 27, 2016
Advent Starts With Us
I am so not a morning person.
I wish I was, I really do; I am envious of those people who pop up at 5AM without an alarm and go for a run, have their first cup of coffee, do two loads of laundry and clear out their inbox before my alarm even starts going off. But that is just not who I am; I am one of those people who needs multiple alarms, fully utilizes the snooze button and has perfected the art of showering, putting on makeup and getting dressed in less than 30 minutes, all in the name of “five more minutes” in my warm and cozy bed.
All this is to say that, of all people, I understand the significance of what Paul is getting at when he wrote to the Romans and said, “now is the moment for you to wake from sleep.” 
Because some things are easier said than done.
But wake up from what? As much as I would like to think the citizens of Rome could sympathize with my night owl tendencies, I think Paul was actually getting at something a little bit deeper here.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we become believers.
Like in many of Paul’s letters, his focus here was eschatological; he was concerned with the Second Coming, the end of the world as they knew it. The moment was then because they quite literally did not know how much time they had left.
Granted, the end of the world is not something we are as concerned with in our own lives and existence; but I also would not say that things are particularly stable in our world right now, either. The news is hard to swallow sometimes. Just this week, national headlines were filled with a country still divided following a presidential election, protests over the Dakota pipeline turning violent and news of a deadly bus crash devastating a community.
News from around the world is not any easier to see or understand. Heartbreaking photos and videos continue to come out of Aleppo and other parts of Syria, reminding us that war-torn countries do not only exist in scriptural texts and history books, but in our own lifetime.
Here at the church, it has not been the easiest of years. Families in our community have struggled in real ways; some have suffered unimaginable losses. In board and committee meetings, we have had many conversations facing the reality of what it means to be the church in today’s changing landscape of ministry. We have come to terms with inconsistent attendance and prayerfully worked through financial challenges.
The thing is, we are not confronted with the urgency of the Second Coming the way Paul envisioned it when he wrote this letter to the Roman church. But we are confronted with the urgency of the everyday reminders of what it means to live in a broken world, of why we need God to come into our midst and intercede where our own imperfections lie and of why we need to continue to write this Christian story.
Now, more than ever, we cannot afford to pull the covers over our heads and ask for five more minutes. God needs us. We have to wake up; we have face the world that we are living in and do the work that God is calling us to do.
Paul wrote that, “the night is far gone [and] the day is near” and I think this speaks to us today because it reminds us that God is getting ready to use us to do something powerful and life changing.
But what is that something?
Part of the Advent season is discerning what God is calling us to do and who God is calling us to be. When you read the news and think about the world we are living in today, it is easy to think that you, one person, cannot make a difference. But the Christmas story is not just a story about the birth of Christ; it is also a story about the moment God used humble beginnings to come into and change the world.
My Tuesday morning bible study and I are currently participating in a five week study of Advent, using a walk through of the Holy Land to look in depth at Mary, Joseph, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the manger. During our first session last week, we looked at Mary and the city of Nazareth. The narrator of the DVD pointed out that Nazareth was not a wealthy or prosperous city; in fact, most of its citizens were fairly poor. Mary was poor; her family was not powerful. She probably never would have thought that she had the capacity for greatness.
And yet, she was the one who God used as a vessel to bring Jesus into this world. As a poor girl with humble beginnings, God used Mary as a vessel to bring hope, peace, joy and love into this world.
When we tell this Advent story we must remember that, in our own humble lives, God can use us, too, as vessels to bring hope, peace, joy and love into this world. We might not be rich or powerful, but we do have the capacity to do God-sized things.
That means we have some work to do. Paul said, “Let us the lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” and this call is just as powerful and poignant for us today as it was when he wrote it nearly 2,000 years ago. We can make a difference in this world. We can transform lives. We can create news that does not make our hearts hurt, but burst with love and hope.
Yes, we may live in a world that is often plagued with darkness, but, in our own lives, we can shine light into that darkness. We might not be able to fix all of the problems in our country or the world, but we can start here, in our community, with our families and with our friends, coworkers and acquaintances. We can teach our children how to do this in school, at sports and other activities, on the bus and with their friends. We can show love, kindness and compassion to other people, we can make sure that everyone is treated equally and we can speak out against bullying and gossip.
The world is a tough place to live in, but the Christmas story reminds us that just as hope, peace, joy and love started with an innocent child born in a humble manger, it also starts at home in our lives every single day. Paul said, “let us live honorably” and today this reminds us that we have to demonstrate our prayer for this Advent season in the actions of our lives. Advent starts here. Advent starts with us.
Paul told the Roman people to, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and today I give to you this same call. Clothe yourselves in the Gospel; wrap yourself in the magic of the Christmas story. Get ready to do the work God is calling you to do – to bring hope, peace, joy and love into the world; to shine light into the darkness. Get ready to rise up to the potential of what God is calling you to do and what God knows you have the capacity to do. Get ready to live out the Advent season right in your own lives and change the world.
As you journey through this Advent season this year, do not get caught up in the stress of the holiday season; wake up to the magic of it. Let yourself be overwhelmed by the power of what it meant for God to come into the world in humble and human flesh in a manger in Bethlehem. And then let yourself be inspired by what it now means for God to come into the world through our lives today.
So wake up! Advent starts today. And it starts with us.
Thanks be to God!