Goodness gracious. So if you’ve ever wondered when is a good time for a preacher to lose her voice, the answer would be – NOT Sunday.
Apparently my voice didn’t get the memo.
So I post this sermon for those of you who weren’t there on Sunday to read for the first time – and for those of you who WERE there, but couldn’t hear those my squawks and whispers, to read and catch what you missed.
(p.s. A TON of thanks goes out to my Deacons of the month, Church School Director and Moderator who stepped in on Sunday and took over a lot of my worship leading duties. I preached and presided over communion, but that was it. They were AMAZING!)
Rehoboth Congregational Church
December 7, 2014
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Preparing For Peace
Two Christmases ago, a gift bag appeared on my office door. Inside the bag was a mug; a mug that said, “All I want for Christmas is peace on earth and really cute shoes!”
There has never been a more perfect gift for me.
This morning we lit the second candle on our Advent wreath, the candle of peace. This candle now burns brightly next to the first candle, the candle of hope. These lights – lights of hope and peace – illuminate our journeys to Bethlehem, journeys that oftentimes so desperately need that light to shine.
We all pray for peace on earth. Week after week, we come together in a spirit of prayer and I say, “God we pray for peace – peace in our homes, peace in our communities, peace in our countries and peace in the world.”
We pray for peace around the world and yet news reports of violence and war continue to roll. We pray for peace in our country and yet issues of racial injustice continue to create turmoil and riots. We pray for peace in our community and yet differences of opinions create division and strife. We pray for peace in our homes and yet anger and hurt tear apart our families. We pray for peace in our hearts and yet the circumstances of life eat away at us, bit by bit.
But last week one small glimmer of light gave us hope in the midst of that darkness.
And today even more light shines, reminding us that we cannot achieve peace without holding onto the spirit of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace.
Interestingly enough, this morning’s reading from the Gospel does not talk about peace; it talks about preparation.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare you way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
This time of year is all about preparation. We prepare our homes (and our sanctuary!) by hanging and displaying décor so that we are always surrounded by the beauty of the holiday season. We prepare our shopping lists and brave the holiday crowds so that we can give gifts to our loved ones. We prepare menus and centerpieces for parties and dinners. We prepare vacations and family gatherings.
We spend so much time preparing our lives for the Christmas holiday.
But do we spend enough time preparing our lives for Christ?
Do we spend enough time preparing ourselves for the peace of Christ?
I got to thinking as I was reading this week’s scriptures and I started to wonder if we, as human beings, can wholly and completely receive the peace of Christ if we are not ready – really and truly ready – to receive that peace.
Now, bear in mind, this is a new theory, but stick with me for a second and ponder this question: Do we need to prepare ourselves for the peace of Christ in order for that peace to take effect and for us to then bear witness to our broken world?
I think we do.
I think that when John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness and proclaimed that Jesus was coming, he was not just telling people that something – or someone – was coming, but he was also trying to get them to see that there was work that needed to be done before he got there.
And I think that message is just as relevant today.
If we are not ready for Christ to come into our midst and to grant us his peace, then we will never be able to hold that peace in our hearts. And it we are not ready to hold Christ’s peace in our hearts, then we will never be able to share that peace with our families, with our communities, with our country and with our world.
Peace is not just a concept or a state of being; peace is something that we have to actively participate in throughout our lives. We have to prepare for peace; we have to step forward and receive that peace; we have to reciprocate that peace; and we have to – sometimes against all odds – advocate and fight for that peace.
This year I urge you to intentionally prepare yourselves for the peace of Christ. Look at it as though you were preparing for any other aspect of this holiday. Think about how you are going to achieve this. Make it a priority.
Come to church. Take part in the life of your community of faith. Set aside time every day to read an Advent devotional or calendar or reflect on the season that is happening around you. Spend time in prayer – or even just in silence. Reach out to someone who you know might be struggling. Let go of your judgment towards others and try to remember that no one is perfect. Consider alternative gift giving for that person on your life that you are struggling to find the right gift for – donate to a nonprofit (or your local church!) in honor of that person in lieu of another gift.
And share what you are doing with others! The Gospel says, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The good news is a GOOD thing; it is a thing that we should not be afraid to share with the world.
If you are a social media person, try to remember to snap a photo of your family at church and then post it on Facebook, just like you would post a picture of the kids with Santa.
(And then check in and invite people to like our page.)
Tell your friends that you are coming to church during Advent and on Christmas Eve – and then invite them to come along! Do not be afraid to let people know what you are celebrating this holiday season and how you are preparing to celebrate.
Because when that moment comes – when that moment comes where you have the opportunity to receive Christ’s peace and then step forward and share that peace – you will have more confidence and courage if you feel as though you are prepared.
This morning’s psalm assures us that God speaks a message of peace to his people:
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, for those who turn to him in their hearts.
God will speak peace to the faithful people who turn to God in their hearts.
We have to turn to God in our hearts if we truly want the peace of Christ to dwell in our hearts.
So while it might easier for me to find a pair of really cute shoes this Christmas season than peace on earth, I think we need to prepare ourselves anyway.
We need to prepare ourselves for that moment in our lives when God clears our vision and lays down a path for us to bring peace to others. We need to prepare ourselves to have the strength to take that first step, to have the confidence to step further and to have the courage to speak out.
So let us prepare the way of the Lord. Let us prepare for Emmanuel to come. Let us prepare a path for peace.
Thanks be to God!