As part of my CPE involvement, I’m leading the service on Sunday this week. It’s billed as “Protestant,” which basically means it is neither a Jewish Sabbath service, nor Roman Catholic. Yes. That leaves a LOT of room for diversity and breadth of theological positions. And yes. I’m finding it a bit daunting. I’d like to not suck.
Usually there are around 8 people present. 10 is unusual. And 12 or more? That’s just crazy. So it’s not like this will be a grand televised crusade. Wait. I forgot. It is being televised on the in-house channel. OK so potentially there could be a dozen watching if you count the virtual ones. It doesn’t really matter how many. For each one, this is the only service they will attend all week. For many, there are difficult health decisions to be made in the days and weeks ahead. For some, they will be stuck in the hospital through the holidays. The needs weighing on these my parishioners this weekend weighs heavily on my mind.
The people who come to the service on Sunday are those who can’t go home. They are too sick, or too close to a transplant. They live a very different life. In fact, most of them do not take a single day for granted.
So with these folks on my heart, I’m preparing the sermon for Advent 3B…
The texts for this week are familiar. Because of time limitations, I am opting not to utilize the Psalm nor the Annunciation of Mary. Not because I don’t like those texts. It was a matter of time and limiting my focus. So this week’s texts are:
I’m pondering how the people in the time of John the Baptist received the message that the Promised One had come. They probably didn’t see a radical change in their outward circumstances. The people were still desperately poor. The Romans were still in charge. The religious elite were running the temple like a trading post. Yet John calls God’s people to prepare. “He is coming!”
Then it hit me… The same is true for us today – it’s time! Get ready! Get your JOY on! When God makes good on his promises, there’s a celebration. Despite the prayers which are not answered. In spite of arguments, quarrels, foreclosures and bankruptcies. Even though there is illness, and pain, and sadness, and death, and suffering. The Light has come. The promises are true! God will rebuild the things which are ruined. God will restore the places which are deserted, ignored, forgotten. And God will bring renewal.
The Spirit of the LORD God has taken control of me!
The LORD has chosen and sent me
to tell the oppressed the good news,
to heal the brokenhearted,
and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives.
(Isaiah 61:1 Common English Bible)
The changes we see at first may seem like a slow winter’s thaw. The days will brighten a few minutes at a time. But just like Narnia, the end of winter-without-Christmas has come. And like Edmund, we can sense that deep-bubbling joy, welling up within us.
Tonight as I write my sermon, we are under our first “winter weather advisory” for the season. We may get a couple of inches, or nothing. But no matter. In a few months, the seasons will change. The darker days will gradually turn to longer ones. And I know that my Savior has come.