I am almost done catching up on posting, so I am going to post my Advent, Christmas and Star Sunday sermons today! I went off of the Year of Mark so that I could just “Do Christmas” and it was the best decision I could have made. I loved getting to really be intentional about preaching within the season and touched on some scriptures that we read every year, but rarely in a service where I have time to actually preach on them.
Here is my sermon from the first Sunday of Advent!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
December 2, 2018
Believe In The Magic Of The Season
We are going to take a brief hiatus from the Year of Mark for the Advent and Christmas season. We will pick it up again in January, after Star Sunday.
(Which, if you were here last year on Star Sunday, I hope you will consider sharing your Star Story with us. If you were not here last year on Star Sunday and have no clue what I am talking about, I hope you will join us that Sunday, January 6th, because it is a really good service.)
Here’s why we are taking a hiatus from the Year of Mark: I told my clergy covenant group this week that I am just not in the mood to do anything but Christmas right now – and that includes when I do church, as well. And while I have some good stuff that I really want to dig into next with the Year of Mark – some stuff that is coming up and some stuff that I want to circle back to – right now, I am just not in the mood to do anything but Christmas.
I want to decorate my church and my office. I want to listen to Christmas music. I want to indulge in delicious Christmas treats. I want to preach about this amazing story that, year after year, brings us hope, peace, joy and love.
I just want to step out of reality and believe in the magic of the season.
It has, at times, been a challenging year. Natural disasters have devastated communities, here in our country and around the world. Senseless violence has threatened people’s safety and refuge. Our country continues to face political upheaval. And our own church community has experienced a lot of really hard losses.
And here’s the thing – I do not want to put on rose-colored glasses, ignore the problems that need to be talked about and pretend that everything is fine.
But I also want to believe in the magic of Christmas, the magic of the Advent season of waiting, the magic of the incarnation and the magic of these beautiful words from the Gospel of John that the Word became flesh and lived among us. I want to believe in the magic of the glory of the Word, a Word full of grace and truth.
And even though I know there is evil and imperfection and sorrow and grief and uncertainty in this world, I want to believe in that grace and truth.
So we will pick Mark back up again in January. This morning I wanted to kick off our Advent season with this passage from the Gospel of John.
The Gospel of John is the most mystical of the four Gospels; so it is fitting, right? I want to believe in the magic of the season so I am bringing us into the most magical collection of the stories told about Jesus.
The reading that we just heard is from the very beginning of the Gospel; it is the prologue, which serves the purpose of first describing the cosmic and philosophical nature of our universe (that we cannot really comprehend), but then boldly declares this being – this person, this man, Jesus – as a physical manifestation of this cosmic and philosophical aura.
This passage from John is one of the most beautiful and poetic pieces of scripture. I have always found it hard to wrap my head around what the Gospel writer is saying here, but I also do not think we need to necessarily understand it in order for us to believe it to be true.
That being said, I do think these words are supposed to remind us, like I talked about last Sunday, of the incarnational nature of our faith; that faith is meant to be lived out, in the flesh.
And this year, I just want to believe. I want to believe in the magic of the incarnation; not only in the magic of the incarnation of God in Jesus 2,000 years ago, but also in the incarnation of God in our world today as good and kind-hearted and faithful individuals seek to do God’s work in their lives. I want to believe in the magic of the kind of incarnation that propels people to be kind and love one another. I want to believe in magic of the kind of incarnation that calls people to shine light into the darkness an unequivocally believe that love can and will always win. I want to believe in the magic of this kind of incarnation.
A few years ago, in lieu of a traditional Advent-candle-lighting liturgy, I invited people to share a testimony about where they were finding hope, peace, joy and love in their lives. These testimonies were beautiful representations of the incarnational nature of our faith. Through people’s stories we bore witness to the ways the Advent promises of hope, peace, joy and love were happening in our midst; through these stories the Word that was full of grace and truth became flash and lived and dwelled among us.
This morning I thought I would officially kick off our Advent season by talking about how God is incarnate in our world still today; how I see these promises of hope, peace, joy and love being fulfilled, even in the midst of a sometimes-challenging season of life.
Today we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath, the candle of hope. I found hope this week in an unexpected way – in increments of $17.21 as people supported our church through our Giving Tuesday campaign.
In my line of work, I hear a lot about how the church is dying; how mainline protestant churches around the country are struggling with dwindling numbers and struggling finances. As a church that falls in that demographic, we are not immune from those struggles.
And yet, this week, I had hope. I had hope as, all day, I received notifications from PayPal that people were donating to our Giving Tuesday campaign. I had hope as people stopped by the church office with checks and cash throughout the day. I had hope as people took pride in what we were doing and celebrated each goal that we met. I had hope as I read the nicest notes and comments that people wrote with their donations. I had hope when, at the end of the day, we had raised over $2,400.
I have hope for the future of this church.
Next week we will light the second candle on our Advent wreath, the candle of peace. I found peace last Sunday at our monthly Taizé worship service. If you have never been to our Taizé services, they are approximately 40 minutes long – and we spend 15 minutes in complete silence at the end of every service.
I love that silence. It is a time where I can talk to God, talk to myself, (think about my home renovations) and just be. We always say that style of worship is not for everyone, but for me it is just so peaceful.
The third candle we will light on our Advent wreath is the candle of joy. And I found joy last Sunday in the 28 children that attended worship and our Advent workshop.
GUYS. Do you know why we started the all-ages Advent workshop a couple of years ago? Because we had such low Church School attendance the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we could never get enough teachers so it made sense to combine everyone and do something simple.
And this year we had 28 kids.
The growth this church has seen this year, particularly with our young families, brings me so much joy.
The last candle on our Advent wreath is the candle of love. And I saw a bold and powerful witness to love this week when I put out a quick request on Facebook on Wednesday evening to see if anyone could make a meal for the Eckilsons while Audrey recovers from her heart attack and less than 24 hours later had 12 people signed up to make meals over the next three weeks.
I see love in action here at the Rehoboth Congregational Church.
This year I want to encourage you all the believe in the magic of this season. Believe in the Word made flesh, in the miraculously holy arrival of Emmanuel, God with us. Believe in the incarnation – as it was, as it as and as it still has the potential to be. Believe in hope, believe in peace, believe joy, believe in love.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us … full of grace and truth.
Thanks be to God!