Category Archives: Advent

On the Way to the Holy Night: A Thrill of Hope

(a sermon for December 1, 2019, the 1st Sunday of Advent; first in a series, based on Isaiah 9:2-9 and Romans 13:11-14)

At a time of the year that is so traditionally bathed in all manner of light I’ve always found it interesting, and quite telling, that the season of Advent (and the celebration of Christmas that it anticipates) begins in darkness.

Not that that our modern world leaves a whole lot of room for darkness: being a lover of all things Christmas related, I’ve also taken notice that whereas most people used to wait until at least the day after Thanksgiving to light up their outdoor Christmas displays these days it’s not unusual to see Santa and his reindeer all lit up and “ready to glow” mid-way through November! In fact, when I was in Maine a few weeks back just after Halloween, I was driving down this back country road at just around dusk, came around this corner and by golly (!) there was this house with its yard filled to overflowing with inflatables and twinkling lights!  Too early?  Yes, probably… and too much?  Well, all I’ll say is “to each their own.”  Mostly, though, I feel about this the way I do about playing Christmas music “early;” like it’s such a short season to enjoy Christmas lights, so why not?  And besides, in these times in which we live who wouldn’t agree with the sentiment expressed in that song of the season, “we need a little Christmas, right this very minute… we may be rushing things but deck the halls again now!”  So I say, have at it… and Merry Christmas!

I will have to say, however, that over the years I’ve come to appreciate the notion that where Christmas lights are concerned, less is sometimes more and in the process makes, if you will, an “enlightening” statement of faith.  Years ago, back in my student pastor days, I spent more than a few December nights driving back from seminary classes, quite often along those back roads, and it’s funny what things you always remember: there was this farmhouse up toward Grindstone, Maine, set back from the road at the end of a long stretch of woods; where the people who lived there had taken an “understated approach” to their holiday decorating.  By that I mean they’d simply strung some colored lights around a waist-high evergreen tree and let it glow in the midst of the winter darkness.  Nothing unusual, I know; except that this little Christmas tree stood a long way apart from the house and barn, out in the pasture; at least a couple hundred yards away, if not more.  And that, of course, ignited my curiosity:  why had they done that?  Why wasn’t this Christmas tree standing closer to the farmhouse or out by the barn? Had they actually gone to all the trouble of stringing an extension cord that far out?  Was this a Christmas tree intended for this farmer’s herd of dairy cows or had it been set there for the pleasure of passing white tailed deer? I tell you, the possibilities of it staggered the imagination (!), and I was sorely tempted to pull in to this farmhouse, knock on their front door and ask the people who lived there to tell me all about it!

But as I thought further about it, it began to make perfect sense that they’d put their Christmas tree way out there in the middle of a darkened pasture; because this would most certainly be a spot where the brilliance of those lights could shine most prominently, piercing through the winter darkness and unalloyed by any and all distractions of the world surrounding it. Or, maybe the family in that house just wanted to be able to look out their living room window and simply bask in the beauty and wonder of a Christmas tree!  All I know is that this little tree immediately became an advent parable for me, the affirmation of a divine promise fulfilled and a reminder that no matter how dark it may have seemed to be, “the people who walked in darkness [had] seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light [had] shined.”

A thrill of hope, and a cause of rejoicing in a dark and weary world.

It’s important, I think, to take note of the fact that the season of Advent which begins this morning is not to be thought of as merely as a “Countdown to Christmas.”  This isn’t to say that these four weeks aren’t about waiting and watching for something to happen – after all, our very word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming” – but there’s more to these four weeks of the Christian year than simply getting ready for December 25 to come.  Moreover, even though Advent is certainly about a symbolic waiting for the coming of the Christ child in the manger of Bethlehem, making room in our hearts for this wondrous gift of God given 2,000 years ago, it’s about even more than that.  The season of advent is also about a gift that is yet to come: our waiting for Christ’s return in glory and that moment when God’s amazing vision for his creation comes to full fruition; for that time when all that we have yearned for in faith and hope finally becomes a reality in the world and in our lives.  As we regularly proclaim in our times of communion, this is about the “mystery and wonder of our Christian faith” manifest in the sure and certain promise that “Christ will come again.”

Ultimately, you see, it’s this “coming” for which you and I are waiting and watching and preparing.  Author and New Testament scholar J.R. Daniel Kirk actually refers to this as seeing “the coming of Christ in double-exposure: looking forward to the second coming Christ in the future even as we look forward to celebrating the first going of Christ that lies in the past.”  But just as our “Way to the Holy Night” of Christmas Eve and Day begins not with shepherds, wise men or a heavenly chorus but rather with Isaiah’s promise of great light in a darkened world, so you and I who are dwelling in the midst of our own darkness also await, as the song says, “the breaking of a new and glorious morn.”

But make no mistake… that day is coming soon, and very soon.  In the words of our text for this morning, “the night is far gone, the day is near.”

In truth of fact, this relatively brief passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans amounts to what the Rev. Susan Eastman of Duke Divinity School refers to as an affirmation that “as Christians we are all ‘morning people.’”  Yes, it’s dark now, but “the time is just before dawn, the sky is brightening, the alarm is ringing, day is at hand.  It is time to rouse our minds from slumber, to be alert to what God is doing in the world, and to live in accordance with God’s coming salvation.”  “You know what time it is,” writes Paul, “how it is the moment for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.”  In other words, we know what God has already done in Jesus Christ; we know how the people who walked in darkness saw a great light, and we know that it will be so for us as well and that this light is very, very near to us indeed!  We are not people of the night; we are the people on whom light has shined, the ones for whom a child was born, the one who is named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  We are the ones who have been given salvation and the true light of life through the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are ones who, soon and very soon, will know the full and brilliant light of his glory; so, says Paul, as we await that moment in its fullness “let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices… for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Now, what’s interesting here about Paul’s advent promise of light is that it immediately connects it to, shall we say, a more ethical and moral stance in life.  “Let us live honorably as in the day,” says Paul, or as The Message bluntly translates it, “we can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight.” (One thing can be said for certain, friends: no matter what the translation of scripture happens to be, friends, nobody can ever accuse Paul of sugar-coating its truth!)  The point here is that if we are truly people of the light, then we need to live unto the fullness of God’s promises in the here and now so that our hearts might be truly ready for the day of wonder that is coming soon.  And the time for this is now; for you see, the darkness is passing into daylight and a new age is dawning.  So it behooves us, as believers and as true “advent people,” quoting The Message once again, that we need to “get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute.  Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!”

Seems to me that’s not only a pretty good way to start out on our way to the Holy Night of Bethlehem, but also a clear directive as to living out our Christian faith in this twilight time between the darkness of these days and the “not yet but soon to come” great light of a new day.

There’s so much I love about this sacred season and most especially in the traditions of worship that we share together in this place, beginning with lighting the advent candles of hope, peace, joy, love.  I love how from week to week as we light those candles “advent-ually” (!) we have this full circle of light that, with the addition of the light of the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve, becomes the light that gets passed from person to person in thanks and praise for God’s light coming into this world in the guise of a child.  It’s one of the most beautiful and powerful times we share as a worshipping congregation, and I have to say that not only is it one of my favorite parts of Christmas, pastorally speaking it’s probably my favorite moment of the entire year, singing “Silent Night” and watching this sanctuary go from relative darkness to one filled with the glow of candlelight.  I love it because it’s the culmination of this advent journey we’ve taken to the manger of Bethlehem and the gift that’s been given us there; but I also love it because in the larger sense, it represents the great and holy light that has shone into the deep darkness of life and living, as well as a potent reminder that though even now that darkness can seem overwhelming to us to the point of seeming rather hopeless at times, nonetheless “the night is far gone, the day is near,” and in the advent of Christ there is a thrill of hope as the weary world rejoices… and in the process the pathway toward a new and better and blessed life opens up before us.

This light of HOPE and the thrill it brings is ours, yours and mine, beloved; and so, as our advent journey “on the way to the Holy Night” begins… so “let us [truly] lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

And as we do, may our thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN.

© 2019  Rev. Michael W. Lowry


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The Angels’ Song: Peace That Passes Understanding

(a sermon for December 23, 2018, the 4th Sunday of Advent; third in a series, based on Luke 2:8-15)

“Gloria in Excelsis Deo!”  from the Latin, which means “Glory to God in the Highest… and on earth, peace!”

A wonderful, beautiful and utterly joyous proclamation of the heavenly host:  but there’s a question that springs to mind every year as I hear those words and revisit this wonderful story of Christ’s nativity: what does “a multitude of the heavenly host” even sound like?

I mean, the songs and carols of this season do offer up plenty of descriptions: “Hark! the herald angels sing,” “Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,” or, as we’ll sing in just a little bit, “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains,” all of which suggests joyous singing in perfect four-part (or maybe even eight-part!) harmony!  But would these heavenly songs have sounded like something akin to Handel’s Messiah, or else a Gregorian chant or more likely, given the time and its people, the reprise of an ancient song of God’s people Israel?  And was there an instrumental accompaniment courtesy of “angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold,” or were there an infinite line of trumpets, “the timbrel and pipe… [and] the clash of cymbals,” (Psalm 150:4-5) piercing the silence of that holy night so to boldly proclaim the holy birth? Or maybe it’s like movie music, starting small and then growing in a crescendo to a triumphant finish!  But then again, as some biblical scholars have suggested, this particular song might have been less sung than spoken, however giving glory to God in a tone that was most assuredly “joyful and triumphant;” though I must confess this description doesn’t do much for my imagination!

Or maybe this angels’ song was something more than mere earthly music; something ethereal and unlike anything ever heard before since before the time of creation.

I remember once many, many years ago as a young man spending a cold and silent morning late in November deep in the northern Maine woods, miles away from anywhere, sitting along on a log and furtively waiting and watching for a white-tailed deer to happen by (which of course, rarely if ever did happen, but which ended up providing me an extended time for prayer and reflection, the perfect training for a beginning pastor!).  As often is the case in that part of the world, there was already a fair amount of snow on the ground and as I recall, more was beginning to fall; moreover, a breeze had started to blow – gently, at first, but then more intently – and already there was ice and snow coming loose from tree branches above and all around me; and that was just the beginning!

Even now what I remember is how quickly and fully everything all around me changed:  one moment it’s dead quiet in the woods, the next I’m surrounded by a literal symphony of nature’s sound.  Suddenly I’m hearing the wind roar from off the ridge to the south; from every direction twigs are snapping as piles of snow come crashing to the ground; off in the distance I hear squirrels, field mice and the occasional crow making noise like crazy and even within myself, there’s the sound of a beating heart that’s been totally startled out of complacency!  What a moment; my senses were wholly awakened to everything that was happening around me, and though thinking back on it, it probably only lasted for a moment or two before that gust of wind had died down, to me it felt like this time of utter revelation would go on forever.  I can tell you without fear of exaggeration that it was for me a spiritual experience; and in fact, even now the best way I can describe it to you is in the words of another hymn:  “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all natures sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”

The music of the spheres!  If you ask me, friends, however else we might imagine it, that’s what the song of the Angels must have sounded like to those shepherds “keeping watch over their flock” on that first Christmas night.

One thing we need to remember about this “first song of Christmas” is that it began neither softly nor gently but in fact burst forth into that silent night as brightly as the star that shone overhead. This song that the shepherds heard that night was no mere background music, friends, no “soundtrack” of Christmas; this was a song as bold and as disruptive as God’s love crashing into the reality of our world with all of its hopes and fears. It is a song of unending HOPE, made real in the birth of a child of PEACE who is the very embodiment of divine LOVE so that all creation might sing with JOY; and so it’s no wonder that it took a heavenly host to do it justice!  Actually, you know, the Greek that’s used here for “host” is stratia, a word that can actually be translated as “an army or company of soldiers,” so what we have here is a literal army of angels breaking forth into song and making an unprecedented announcement about the fulfillment of prophecy and of God’s presence with us in the guise of a child “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger;” a child who by his very birth brings forth peace on earth and goodwill amongst all those whom God favors!  And let me tell you, friends; however that song was sung, whatever the melody and harmony, no matter the rhythm, rhyme or instrumentation, it was… magnificent!

And the best part of all?  The best part is that ones who got to hear it, the ones who had the experience of this “symphony of the spheres,” were the ones who needed to hear it the most.

For remember now, the angels’ song – at least as initially sung – was not sung for the church; that is, for those who were the “righteous uprights” in the temple waiting for a Messiah to come with military might.  Nor was it shared with the rich and the privileged, neither with emperors or governments or those otherwise ensconced in places of power, political and otherwise.  When the heavenly host burst forth with their chorus of “Glory to God in the highest,” their audience was simply that small and rather motley assortment of shepherds living in the fields, a group who, in the words of John Philip Newell, could be best described as “unlettered, unwashed herders of livestock existing at the margins, far from the power-centers of respectability and prestige.”

These days we tend to romanticize the shepherds and their part in the Christmas story, but the truth is that in Jesus’ time, shepherding was a profession at the very bottom of any kind of social ladder.  Basically, if you were a shepherd it was generally assumed you couldn’t find any other kind of decent work, you were almost always branded as some kind of liar, thief or worse, and as far as religion goes you were considered to be ritually unclean so you were pretty much always thought of as a sinner by virtue of your profession.  So understand that there were no shepherds of that time who would have considered themselves to be in way significant, much less worthy of a heavenly proclamation; and yet, it’s the shepherds who in the midst of their deep darkness who hear the angels’ mighty song of glory.

But then, God’s “message of hope [always] emerges among the least significant,” even shepherds… oh, and by the way, also even you and me!

Craig Satterlee, of Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, has written that there is more to God sending angels to shepherds than reaching out to outsiders.  “Spend enough time in the field,” he writes, “shunned by decent and religious folk, disappointed by God, or overwhelmed by grief, and we stop caring that we are outsiders.  We give up trying to get inside religion, or even on God, to get on with life.  But,” Satterlee goes on to say, “God does not give up on us.  God sends angels to people who have given up on God.”  And while we might react the way those shepherds did at first – that is, with abject fear, and likely startled with an inch of our very lives (!) – it soon becomes very clear that “God comes in a way that is far from frightening.  Jesus comes [to us] vulnerably, helplessly,” as a baby born in a manger; bringing peace that passes understanding as he dwells among the lowly, the poor, and those who have felt on the outside so long that they’ve given up on God… even you and me.

Right now there are those who are living out in the fields of their own lives, lost and wholly abandoned by the world that surrounds them: people who feeling overwhelmed by grief and sadness; people caught up in spirals of life’s struggle and hardship; people weighed down by illness or poverty or brokenness or the sting of someone else’s hatred; people who can’t begin to celebrate this season because they can’t begin to feel any sense of God’s presence and love; people who in the midst of deep darkness and utter silence have given up on God.  But the good news is that God has not given up on them, nor on any one of us: for even now God is sending angels out into the fields with good news of great joy to all the people, singing a glorious song of that peace that passes our human understanding and transcends the powers and principalities of the world as we know it!  Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is being born, and that changes everything!  And just as it was for those shepherds who first heard that heavenly song, it’s cause for our great rejoicing as well; ample reason to “run with haste” and see this incredible thing that the Lord has done, to know once and for all that God will not rest until each and all of us have been embraced and caught up in his tremendous and infinite love!  God will not give up; God is with us, now and forever, in Jesus our Emmanuel!

This past week I took a quick overnight trip up north to deliver gifts and visit with my mother; and of course, as always happens this time of year, we spent a fair amount of time reminiscing about Christmases past.  She actually reminded me of how on one snowy Christmas Eve, together with some of our family members on the Lowry side who were celebrating with us that night, we’d walked from our house down the street and around the corner to attend a Christmas Eve service at our church, where my father was already inside playing the organ prelude, including carols from the bell chimes that could be heard coming from the steeple.  It was a picture perfect, Norman Rockwell styled scene, but the best part was that the closer we drew to the church, the more clearly we could hear the plaintive notes of “Silent Night” and so many other sacred songs of the holiest of nights.  It was an incredible blessing, and all it took to receive it was simply to listen.

Well, it’s the day before “the night before” Christmas, and our advent time of waiting and watching is nearly complete.  Tomorrow night we’ll gather in this beautiful sanctuary to sing songs of joy and praise, to light the Christ Candle and to share that light with one another.  But maybe you’re not feeling it quite yet; perhaps the remaining “busy-ness” of the season has you distracted, or maybe it’s seemed like there has been just too much darkness in and around your life that it’s overwhelmed the light.  Maybe you’ve come here today, hoping to feel a bit of peace and love as Christmas draws near… or  perhaps to hear something like a song… an angels’ song.

If that’s the case for you this morning, beloved, then my hope and prayer for you today, tomorrow and truly, in all the days that are yet to come at Christmas and beyond, that you might stop in the midst of all the chaos, the confusion and even the pain… and listen.  Listen for the angels’ song; listen to the music of the spheres that even at this very moment is by God’s grace resonating all around you and deep within your heart!  Listen for God’s enduring gift of love and life in the person of the Jesus, our Emmanuel; and listen for the greatest music that has ever burst forth through creation, proclaimed by that army choir of angels singing:

“Gloria in excelsis Deo!”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!”

And thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry


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Zechariah’s Song: Even in the Silence

( a sermon for December 9, 2018, the Second Sunday of Advent; second in a series, based on Luke 1:5-25, 67-79)

If you’d have asked him about his life “before,” Zechariah would probably have answered that there was nothing even remotely remarkable about it; or about him, for that matter!

Zechariah, you see, was a temple priest, married to a Levite by the name of Elizabeth; and both, as scripture succinctly puts it, were “getting on in years.”  As Luke tells the story, Zechariah and Elizabeth had long prayed for a child, but this had never come to pass and now they were much too old; so Zechariah’s life pretty much revolved around serving God by taking care of the temple according to faith and tradition.  And there was great honor in that, to be sure; this was truly a sacred duty; and no more so than on this particular day, when he was given a literally once in a lifetime opportunity to enter the deepest part of the temple, which was named the “Holy of Holies,” to so make ready for the prayers of the people of God.  But even with this great honor before him, the truth was that after years and years, day in and day out, of doing this ritual even Zechariah might have confessed that there were times he was just going through the motions.

But then came the angel.

Right there in the midst of the sanctuary of the Lord: “…an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense;” and if that wasn’t unsettling enough, an angel who was calling him by name:  Zechariah!  And of course, Zechariah was terrified – because every temple priest understood that one could not expect to experience the glory of God in this fashion and live – and yet, this angel was not only bringing comfort in the midst of his fear, but also incredible news:  “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.”

It’s a divine gift, not only to this couple but also to the world: a child who will not only “be a joy and a delight” to his parents, but one for whom “many will rejoice at his birth;” one who will grow to be a prophet filled with the Holy Spirit; a messenger to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord.  His name, the angel says to Zechariah, will be John, which means, “God has given grace;” the one we’ve come to know as… John the Baptist.

And how does Zechariah respond to all this?

Well, how do you expect he’d respond?  I mean, not only has the angel of the Lord appeared to him; not only is he told that he’s to have a son when such a thing could never happen; but also that this son is going to have a name, and a purpose, and a link to God’s sure and certain promises to a world that’s desperately aching for the Messiah.  This is news of monumental, cosmic importance; the hope of the whole world has just been announced to him in the temple of the Lord.  So what does Zechariah say?

He says, “No way.”  Can’t be… get out of town… yeah, right!

Mind you, that’s not exactly the biblical translation – as we heard it this morning it’s, “How will I know that this is so” – but make no mistake, it’s an answer dripping with utter and unrestrained disbelief!  The Message translation actually cuts to the heart of it: “Do you [really] expect me to believe this?”  No matter that this is “Gabriel, sentinel of God” speaking; Zechariah is not buying it!   And, honestly, most of us can understand why!  I mean, old people having babies, little kids growing up to be messengers heralding the coming of the Messiah, God coming to the world?  For that kind of thing to happen, it would have to be… a miracle!  And miracles just don’t happen every day, not for Zechariah anyway; and certainly not for you or me.

You know what happened next; Gabriel finally says, well, it’s all true, Zechariah, but since you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word about it – or anything else, for that matter – until the day of your son’s birth. Maybe this will remind you “that every word I’ve spoken to you will come true in time – God’s time!”  So now Zechariah can’t even share this experience with anyone, much less announce it to those praying for a Messiah outside the temple walls; all he can do now – ironically, much like the people of Israel had already been doing for hundreds of years – is to wait… to wait in the silence for God to work!

And we know what that’s like, don’t we?  I dare say that most of us here have had times in our lives when we’ve known what it’s like to “dwell in the silence;” or maybe more to the point, to dwell in what we perceive as God’s silence.  Maybe what you were looking for was a resolution to some major conflict of your life; perhaps you were seeking healing for yourself or someone you love; praying fervently for an end to the financial hardship you’ve been under; or for that matter, it could be your were quite literally crying out for the stress and mental strain of it all simply to ease up a bit!  But for all the prayers and petitions, it wasn’t getting any better and nothing seemed to be happening to change that; in fact, you were beginning to feel like God wasn’t even listening!

If any of that rings true for us at all, we can understand why Zechariah would be skeptical, to say the least, about what the angel was promising.  But the good news for Zechariah – and for you and me as well – is that such doubt is not the end of the story; and that despite whatever appearances to the contrary, God is ever and always at work… even in the silence!

Which brings us to another of “The First Songs of Christmas” found in Luke’s gospel, which is the song of Old Zechariah, also known as the “Benedictus,” from the Latin meaning “Blessed be the Lord God.”  And if it’s true that timing is everything, then it should be said that this particular song was sung at the perfect time!  It’s actually months after his encounter with the angel of the Lord (roughly nine months to be specific!), little John the Baptist has just been born, and immediately Zechariah’s “mouth [is] opened and his tongue freed, and he begins to speak!”  And now at last – finally (!) – the first and best thing that Zechariah can do is to sing… to sing in full throated, wholehearted praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord; truly, it was as if he was making up for lost time!

It’s an amazing song with every verse proclaiming God’s presence and power not only in that singular and miraculous moment of a child being born, but also in and through all of history!  “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.  He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David… he has shown the mercy promised by our ancestors.”  I love what Rolf Jacobson, an Old Testament scholar from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, says about this song: he says it’s more than simply a psalm and even more than a prophetic song; it is, in fact, a song of the Holy Spirit!  It’s a proclamation of a “spirit-event, a moment of God’s Holy Spirit breaking into the ordinary, mundane world.  And bringing with it God’s preferred and promised future.”  And that, concludes Jacobson, this “Spirit-breaking-in reality is what the entirety of the whole Jesus event was about.”

Zechariah could sing because he knew, once and for all, that God’s promises are true and, in God’s good time, the silences of our lives will be redeemed.  Something good for us to remember as well, especially in those dark and silent moments in our lives when it feels like God has all but abandoned us: that “by the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” and then “showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.” [The Message]. God is at work, beloved, even in the silence; that is for certain, just it is sure and certain that in God’s time, we will be redeemed.

It’s fitting that we think about all this on this second Sunday of Advent; a time, to quote theologian Elizabeth Webb, in which in our waiting and watching we do indeed “see the faint light on the horizon, [even as we] await the full, dazzling light of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ.”  In this season, we do affirm and rejoice that Christ has been born into the world and into our hearts; but we also know that in due season Christ will come again! But in the larger sense, Webb goes on to say, as Christians “that moment of already and not-yet is where we find ourselves all the time. To live the life of a disciple of Christ is to live always in Advent time, knowing that the light has come and awaiting the light that has yet to shine in its fullest measure. Advent time is anticipatory time, and yet it [can also be] frustrating, sometimes discouraging. [But the] dawning of the light must sustain us as we continue on, in our waiting and in our living, [even if] sometimes the wait for the rays of Jesus’ light upon our faces seems awfully long.”

Friends, it’s crucial in these Advent days and most especially in the times of uncertainty and doubt in which we live, that we step back even amidst our at times overwhelming feelings of fear and hopelessness, so that we might behold just for a moment the grander view of how God is working in our world, in our lives, in our very hearts.  Because, beloved, when we do so we discover that God is still speaking and that all things are moving by God’s intent toward the ultimate good.  The only question is what we’ll be doing about it in the meantime.

May our response to that promise be the same as that of the little baby who grew up to be John the Baptist, the fiery preacher who was “clothed with camel’s hair” (Mark 1:3) and had a curious appetite for locusts and wild honey (!), but who was ever and always about preparing the way of our hearts for God’s work to be done and embracing the true miracle to come in a Savior who is Christ the Lord!  When we do that, when we prepare the way of the Lord; then to quote Walter Wangerin, “[Our] joy, [our] present beauty, [our] complete sense of assurance and belonging – these shall be signs of the Lord’s trustworthiness and of our trust, signs of his love until he comes in glory.”

This year for Thanksgiving, Lisa and I opted to rise very early in the morning to make our way from New Hampshire to northern Maine, and so it was still dark when we started our journey.  You’ll remember that it had snowed the night before, and so we were noticing lots of heavy white snow on the ground and clinging to branches as we drove “over the river and through the wood;” but the truth is that it wasn’t until the sun rose that we got a sense of just how beautiful it all was.  It was amazing; at one point, we went through this little grove of evergreens growing on either side of the highway, and the sunlight shone a brilliant gold across the sparkling snow.  And all we could do is just take it all in, grateful that we had that opportunity to experience the wonder of God’s creation in such a glorious fashion.  But, you see, we weren’t able to see all of that at first; it only happened when the light of day finally and most certainly shone forth.

Beloved, the good news God is at work in the world, the advent of his Son Jesus is nigh, and light is most certainly coming into the world; so even now let us live expectantly unto his tender mercies until that blessed dawn shines forth, with lives of of faith and joy and walking on the paths of peace.

Thanks be to God!


c. 2018 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on December 9, 2018 in Advent, Faith, Sermon, Sermon Series


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