Monday, December 03, 2007

Dec. 2 Homily

We had the hanging of the greens service, and a communion service, so our homily was a little shorter than usual. Following is the call to worship during which we decorated our sanctuary for Advent, the scriptures, then the homily.

How shall we prepare this house for the coming of the King?
With branches of cedar, the tree of royalty.
Sing 211 “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” vs. 1 as cedars are placed.
How shall we prepare this house for the coming of the eternal Christ?
With garlands and a tree of fir and pine, whose leaves are ever living, ever green.
Sing 211, vs. 2 as garlands are placed
How shall we prepare this house for the coming of our Savior?
With wreaths of holly and ivy, telling of his passion, death, and resurrection.
Sing 211, vs. 5 as wreaths and holly are placed
How shall we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Son of God?
By hearing again the words of the scriptures, and focusing on the Word made flesh.
Sing 211, vs. 6 as Bible and nativity are lifted up.
For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
Glory to God in the highest!
Sing 211, vs. 7

There's an advent candle devotion, if you have an advent wreath at home, in the middle of your upper room devotional booklet, or at Upper Rooom

Isaiah 2: 1-5
Romans 13: 11-14
What time is it? Well, pastor: it’s Dec. 2, and with all this stuff we’ve done this morning, if you don’t know what time it is, and we still have communion to go after this, then I’d say we have a problem! You know that I sometimes forget my watch, and have to borrow one of the choir member’s so I can make sure everything is moving along smoothly here.
But what if I were to answer that question, “what time is it,” with something like: Well, the night is far gone, and the day is near! It looks fairly light out there, doesn’t it? Perhaps you’d think I was having a meltdown right here in the pulpit. Well—I’ll risk that and repeat Paul’s words of hope and focus to us: because even though he was writing this 2000 years ago, Paul knew what time it was then, and he would tell us the same thing this morning if we could put him in a time machine. He’d say: “You know what time it is! How it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep! For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.”
All of this pageantry this morning is to remind us of what time it is, because sometimes we go through this season like we are asleep. These green symbols of our faith, full of meaning and beauty, are to help us wake up to the presence of the Christ child who comes into our life sometimes as unexpectedly as he came into the world. So, we’d better be awake and ready to receive the gift. You probably remember you or your children waking up on Christmas morning just as the sun peeked over the horizon, ready to open all the new gifts under the tree. Paul wants us to live with that kind of enthusiasm in our daily existence. Why? Because it is sunrise. The son has Risen, and the gift of the resurrection awaits us.
How do we prepare ourselves for such a thing? I remember as a kid on Christmas morning, my parents always made us wait in the hallway while dad got the video camera ready to film us walking into the living room, and mom would make sure Santa hadn’t left anything undone or without a tag on it. Likewise, we Christians are in something of a “holding pattern.” We’re awaiting the coming of the kingdom, and Paul tells us to get ready by living like it is already here. Like it is already daytime. We should lay aside the darkness and put on the armor of light. We can approach life like we are already resurrected, because in a very real way we already are!
But as Bob Dylan sang in “Meet me in the Morning,” “They say the darkest hour, is right before the dawn.” Sometimes the “waiting is the hardest part.” (I could go on.) When the night is far gone, and the day is near, that is sometimes the hardest time to see clearly. This is why Paul recommends we put on the light of Christ now—so others can see the resurrection life and follow us to Mt. Zion.
Isaiah proclaims that all the nations will one day come streaming in by the multitudes like a parade of salvation coming to hear their instructions. Isaiah tells us what the Lord will do—He’ll beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. The world will be peaceful and harmonious. We can give testimony to this vision by living lives of peace in the here and now. This is what it means to learn God’s ways and walk in God’s path. That is what Paul is talking about: living honorably as in the day, not caving into the spiritual violence of drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling, and jealousy.
What time is it? The night is far gone, and the day is near! Salvation is closer to us now than the day we became believers. Let us put on Christ by taking in Christ. Let us turn our back to the darkness through repentance for our sin. Let us face the coming day, which we live for and celebrate in the elements of this table: the table of communion, the table of light!


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