Fourth Sunday In Advent

love.pngOn our journey to Christmas we have lit the candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy on our Advent Wreath. We relight them now to remind us of the hope that Christ will come again, bringing everlasting peace and joy. This is the fourth Sunday of Advent so we light the last candle of Love. To a world of empires and despots, war and greed, grief and apathy, we proclaim that love is strong enough to overcome all evil and that compassion is more powerful than fear. The angel Gabriel reassured Mary “nothing will be impossible with God”. The power of love is the power to overcome what we think is impossible. Love tells us God doesn’t want our excuses for why we dare not try, but our faithfulness to do. As we light the candle of Love, we remember that God so loves this world that he sent his only son, Jesus to save us. We do so in honor of those who have shown us how to love even when doing so is not convenient or sensible. We remember those who show us that compassion–unconditional love–is central to a Christian’s life.

Let us pray:

All loving God, break into our world and our hearts again. Magnify your love in us until it overflows to our neighbors. Renew our faith to relive the wonder of your love. Prepare our hearts to be transformed by you that we may shine the light of your compassionate love. Come, God of Love. Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

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We Can Find Joy

1 Thessalonians 5.pngAs you recalled this past Sunday we lite the third candle for Advent which is called Joy. This week, we have heard from the Apostle Paul, writing in his very first letter to the Thessalonians—the earliest piece of writing in the New Testament. What is the subject of Paul’s letter to the earliest Christian community? Joy. Specifically, joy in the midst of difficult nights. The Psalmist writes,
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5, NRSV)
Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning! As I think about the season of Advent, and read from Thessalonians on this third week into our journey, I can’t help but hear traces of the Psalmist in Paul’s words:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise the words of prophets,
but test everything.
Hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely;
and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, NRSV)My friends, nobody said the journey was going to be easy. Maybe it is for the best that Advent always starts off with a hard dose of reality. But as we enter into the homestretch of the season and begin final preparations not only to celebrate the birth of Christ into the world and his coming again in final glory, but also to welcome friends and family members who are coming down home, some of whom might not be gathering with good intentions, let us not quench the Spirit. Let it be in a spirit of grace that we acknowledge that for many of us, welcoming guests or going home will never resemble in any way the pictures of perfect familial bliss that we see in the constant holiday barrage of Photo shopped advertisements, holiday television specials, and Christmas movies. Nevertheless, let us enter into this time with rejoicing, prayer, and giving thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. For no matter how hard the journey may be some days, we know that joy is our true home, and our true home is with our Savior Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

 

Third Sunday of Advent

Joy.pngWe have lit the candles of Hope and Peace, and relight them now to remind us that our hope is in Christ and that he will come again to bring peace to the world. Today begins the third week in our Advent journey, and so we light the third candle, the candle of Joy. In ancient times, the prophet Isaiah said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; to those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.” Many suffer from despair, anxiety, or holiday blues. Others experience only the dark side of human nature. Christ’s light has power to overcome all dark places in our society and our souls. The Psalmist tells us “to make a joyful noise to the Lord, for the Lord is God who made us and whose we are, whose steadfast loves endures forever and faithfulness to all generations. Now we light the third candle, the candle of Joy, as we remember the angel’s words to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” We light it so that all who reap blue harvest from seeds of sadness may know the joy of Jesus Christ. We light it in honor of those who show us the joy of following Christ.

Let us pray: God of Good News, as we await your coming we give you thanks for the joy we have in Christ Jesus. May all who seek such joy find it. For all who have ceased to believe in its possibility, may you work through us to show your joy already present. Come, God of Joy, come.               Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

A Season to Change

Isaiah 11.pngA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with the righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give with justice he will give decision for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.        Isaiah 11:1-5                          I will baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, who sandals, I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirt.                                              Matthew 3:11

Once again, we have entered into the season of advent, anticipating the birth of Jesus and hoping that soon very soon that the promise of peace on earth would become true, but can we change our own lives if not the world. As we stop and look into the manager of a tiny little baby perhaps we can say to ourselves what does this all mean. We can pick up a newspaper, watch the television to take notice and to say where is this peace on earth? So much violence in our world and at times so much hate, where is this love that people seems to be talking about especially that we seem to hear it more during this season. As we begin to prepared for this season in many ways such as baking with our children or grandchildren, going shopping in a crowded mall where at times people can be a little crazy, okay you may be thinking they can be nuts at times, the beautiful lights we all see, and the music that is playing on our car radio, and even the movies on television which reminds all of us this season. I personally love the smell of a fresh Christmas tree in my home, which reminds me of the season. Are all the different traditions that we have in our own families does this tell others and also us that we are ready to make a change in our own lives? Are we showing others of what we do or say that we are followers of Jesus, we are his disciples. Even thro this is a beautiful season there are so many people who are hurting this time of year and need to hear about the hope we have in Jesus. Christmas is a profoundly beautiful season, but for some it also highlights the losses, griefs, and heartbreaks in their lives. In Isaiah 11, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a ruler who would be a descendant of Jesse. Jesse was the father of ancient Israel’s great King David. This descendant would rule with true justice and true faith, and he would establish true peace. This peace would be so great that even wild animals would be able to lie down next to one another and even a child will lead them. This descendant would also become a standard for people throughout the world. And, this descendant would be sought by people throughout the world. As Isaiah talks about this future King, he is telling us that he will be able to look into the hearts of people and judge based on the truth. The poor and oppressed will find a champion in him. This ruler to come will stand for justice and will impose punishment of evildoers. This King will not be clothed in royal purple or anything so fancy, his garments will be righteousness and faithfulness. As we heard from the gospel of Matthew we come to learn that John the Baptize was the one to prepared the way of the coming of the Lord. In most households when someone says, “Company’s coming! Everyone works and clean up the entire house in preparation of their guest. The gospel of Matthew has John proclaiming, “Messiah is coming! But do not go and clean up your house. Instead, mend your heart! Clear your lives of any obstacle that would hinder his coming.” Housework requires the right tools to use. The type of tools John has in mind are repentance and baptism. Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means change of mind, to change one’s life completely. Repentance is like driving down the wrong road, then turning around and going in the opposite direction. Baptism is the symbol that one has repented and been cleansed of sin. This was important to John’s ministry that he became known as John the Baptizer. How do we, as followers of Jesus Christ, return the purpose of Christmas to the focus of Jesus? How do we prepare for his birth and for the second coming, it is not by having parties, decorating our houses, and giving gifts wrapped in fancy paper, but instead by giving ourselves anew over to the way of Christ? I suppose giving ourselves over to Jesus Christ begins with God’s gift of grace to us. It is something we feel inside. Some call it a moment of conversion. Others call it baptism by the Holy Spirit. John Wesley the founder of Methodist called it assurance. Maybe during the season of Advent, we could call it the Spirit of Christ coming into our hearts. But whatever we call it, we will know when it happens to us, because it does cause us to confess our sins and turn ourselves away, over and over, from the trappings of this world so that we can reorient ourselves back toward Christ.

Grace and Peace yo You My Friends

 

Second Sunday of Advent

Peace.pngWe began Advent last Sunday by lighting the first candle, the candle of Hope. We light it again today to remind us that Christ is coming to fulfill God’s promises. Today we light the second candle of Peace. The prophet Isaiah said, “Comfort, comfort my people” to a nation anxious about invasion and exile, as he foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace. Our world is still filled with violence and abuse, where families are torn apart by war and children used as soldiers. Isaiah’s words continue to speak to us that Jesus will bring us to an everlasting peace. Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn to give birth to Jesus, but we can heed John the Baptist’s command to make room in our hearts. Wherever there is war or mistrust between people, families, or our own hearts, God is present and leading us to imagine new ways of living in peace. Christ is our only hope, and our peace is found through him. We light this candle to remind us of Jesus’ life-giving peace to all who trust him. We light it in honor of those who live the Gospel truth that war does not make one great. It is the peace workers who risk much so that others may live without fear.

Prayer: We’re in trouble, Holy God. So many in the world do not know peace in their countries or in their hearts. We use weapons of steel and barbed words to wound one another. We seek balm for our restless hearts in the things that only make is more wounded. Open our hearts to Jesus so we may have the peace of his holy presence and live it in our unpeaceful world. Save us from outside violence and inner turmoil. We need you. Come, peaceful God, come.                            Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

First Sunday In Advent

Hope.pngToday is the first Sunday of Advent, so we light the first candle on our Advent wreath: the candle of Hope. Twenty-five centuries ago, in a time not much different than our own, when the Israelites had little hope for the future of their country or their people, the Jewish prophets called to God to come to the people and make thing right. They told the people and us that a messiah would come as a new hope in the midst of suffering. Their prayers were answered with the birth of Jesus, also called Emmanuel, a Hebrew word which means, “God is with us.” Today begins our Advent journey of waiting for the birth of the one who is called the Light of the World and the Hope of the Nations. As we light the candle of Hope we give thanks for the prophets of today who dare to speak words of hope for liberation who say “No” to the evil in the world, and who call us to overcome our comfortable fears so we may let go of faulty ways of thinking and doing and explore new realms of unimagined visions of how things could be.

Prayer: So many in our world, Holy God, have lost or put their hope in false promises. Sometimes it feels you aren’t with us but are far, far way. We pray that you come into our world again. Be Emmanuel for us so we may notice where you are already present. Enter our hearts to see in new ways the creative power of hope. Help us live into your hope so we may be your light shining in the dark places of our world. We pray this in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem and whose return we await.  Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

What Is Advent?

10389133_423507684465031_9016953425129766019_nI would like to take this opportunity to share with all of you the meaning of advent. Too many times everyone seems to be so busy with the shopping, baking, presents, parties etc. we simply do not take the time to slow down for the season of Advent, What is advent it is a time four weeks before Christmas that we take the opportunity to invite God into the season before we get to Christmas Day.                                                               The season of Advent, which comes comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit,” begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. [Liturgical — from liturgy, which means the forms and functions of public worship.]
During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was. So where did the season of Advent come from? Here is an attempt at a partial response — going back to the sacred Scriptures and to the early centuries of the church.

First, recall that the building blocks of Advent — its images, stories, memories, promises, songs, and hopes — are already present in the Bible. The rich images of the prophets Isaiah and Amos are there. The stories of John, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, and John the Baptist are found in the Scriptures. There are Israel’s memories of exile and the hope for a day when God would restore hope, justice, and rulers in the line of David. There you find the songs: Mary‘s song, Zechariah’s song, and the psalms of lament, anguish, and hope. The vision of a new heaven and a new earth is there. Jesus’ call to be alert because we don’t know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will come is there. Paul’s and Peter’s words to believers awaiting the return of the risen Lord (the second coming) are there. All of this was there by the end of the first century. It was only a matter of time until the churches in various places began to find ways to weave these elements into their worship and into the ways they kept time together’s promised by his first coming.

What Is the Advent Wreath?
The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, four or five candles are typically arranged. During the season of Advent, one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services.

Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
The lighting of an Advent wreath is a custom that began in 16th-century Germany among Lutherans and Catholics. In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.
Symbolism of the Advent Wreath Candles
Set on the branches of the Advent wreath are four candles: three purple candles and one pink candle. A more modern tradition is to place a white candle in the center of the wreath. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.
Each week of Advent on Sunday, a particular Advent candle is lit. Catholic tradition states that the four candles, representing the four weeks of Advent, each stand for one thousand years, to total the 4,000 years from the time of Adam and Eve until the birth of the Savior.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NIV). So each week from now through the Sunday before Christmas I will share with you what each candle means and what color that Christians light on that day. You can also purchase your own advent wreath or even make one for yourself. So friends lets not rush this beautiful season of Advent let us journey together to find out what is all the fuse is about during this season, and why God had to send his one and only son Jesus into this world to be able to save his people from their sins.

 

Grace and Peace to You My Friends