Dec 17 2017 3rd Sun of Advent

Dec 17, 2017 3rd Sun of Advent Year C

          Rejoice and again I say Rejoice…The Lord is near…Do not worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

          How could Paul know nearly 2,000 years ago what we would need to hear as we prepare for a Holy Day celebration that he had only the vaguest idea would ever exist?

          I suggest you take this bulletin home, cut out page 3 with this scripture reading and paste it to your computer screen or mirror or read it as a prayer before your meals.  Someway to remind yourself and instill in your spirit so it might seep into your schedule and mix with your mood.

          Rejoice, pray, thanks, Why?  Because the Lord is near.  As Christians prepare for Christmas we do so differently than the usual “homies” prepare for the holidays.  Our celebrations look similar: lights, decorations, baked goods, and boxed gifts.  But if that’s all it is that’s sad.  All those things can be joyful, but the reality is they’re also stressful.

Did you know psychologists have come up with a stress scale you can go through a list of items and each item is assigned so many points.  If you have over 300 points in sight the study shows you have an 80% chance of a major health issues within the next 6 months.  It starts with big things like death of a spouse 100 points, divorce 73 and losing your job 57 points. But, get this! Does this sound like anyone you know? A significant increase in spending 38 points, minor illness/cold/flu 22 points. Even good things bring some stress like change in number of social activities 18 points, change in number of family gatherings 15 points, change in number of church activities 15 points, change in eating habits 15 points, Vacation 13 points, Christmas has its own category with 12 points.  Even doing stress relieving activities like Taiichi, or Yoga have a point value of 10!!

I think it goes without saying that there are a lot of folks out there and several in here during this time of year are carrying quite a stress load.  The good news is, it’s a less stressful to go through celebrations and life itself with a savior than it is to go through celebrations and life without a savior.  If as Christians our celebrations look similar: lights, decorations, baked goods, and boxed gifts.  But if that’s all it is that’s sad. 

          We, Christians, celebrate so much more than that.  We celebrate the Lord coming near to us.  We remember the day that God stopped being a far off, aloof, intangible, untouchable God and proved his tangible love for us by being one of us.  Paul who is in prison when he writes this message and has a lot of stress tells us how he manages his stress and how we as Christians can manage our stress.

          Rejoice for God’s love is real.  Rejoice because we have more than lights to brighten our day, we have the real love of God to lighten our loads.  Rejoice because we have more than decorations, we have the real love of God dedicated to adorning us with salvation.  Rejoice because we have more than baked goods, we have the very bread of life in the love of God through Christ Jesus.  Rejoice for we have more than boxed gifts we have received the body and blood of Christ given in death for the remission of all our sins.  Rejoice, the Lord is near!

          But it doesn’t end there we may mentally have this idea in our heads, but it is so hard for the message to travel that foot to our hearts.  Paul continues “Don’t worry about anything but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

          How much worry are you under?  Worry is like wearing a weight.  We do way too much weight lifting when it come s to living life.  We try to do it alone.  Ladies, how many times has your husband done in his back because he had to do it himself?  Guys, how many times have you received a weighty talking to because you left your woman to do everything herself?  Now guys and girls, how many times did you stop and ask for help?  So busy to ask for help might just get in the way, right?!

Paul tells us, ask for help, go to God in prayer.  God’s not often going to shove himself in the way of your business.  Oh, sometimes God will, “Hmmm I think they need to slow down, how about I send them a hint?”  Go to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I like that little caveat “with thanksgiving.”  That means don’t be so full of yourself, your problems, your little world that you can’t be filled with God, by God.

I find myself praying, “God, why did you do this?... Why didn’t you do that?!...How come, Lord!?  Lord, I’d rather you …”  I’m not praying I’m complaining, and that’s not exactly the same thing.  Yes, it’s good to get it out, to vent but constant whining isn’t going to relive my worries (our worries).  However, Paul says if we vent WITH thanksgiving things will change. 

If you pray (vent) with thanksgiving you now have a winning combination; your weakness and God’s strength.  Before if you only praying about your worries you’re not allowing yourself to see God’s answers.  Scripture tells us a humble and contrite heart O God you will not despise.  A sign in my office says, “It’s hard to stumble when you are on your knees,” I think the corollary would be something like this “its very easy to fall when you are on your high horse.”

Sometimes we are so down on ourselves so down on our relatives, so down on the world that we are actually on our high horse of judgement.  WE feel justified in blaming, righteous in our unwarranted suffering, and sanctimonious in our sorrowing.  “Nobody’s seen the trouble I’ve seen.” 

Paul admonishes us not to wallow in our worries or get caught up in the nest of nastiness of life but rather cast those burdens upon the Lord, don’t clasp them to your chest where they wear out your heart and soul but carry them to the Lord in prayer, cast your burdens upon him and let God carry the weight of the world, and you know what God can.

In NYC in the heart of one of the most largest most bustling collection of humans on the planet there is a statue outside the GE building that portrays that great hero Atlas bent over struggling to carry the world on his shoulders.  Directly across the street is St. Patrick’s cathedral and up by its altar is a statue of a Jesus as a toddler joyfully holding a globe in the palm of his tiny hand.  Point being let God carry the weight of the world.

But how?  That, is the last part of this advent advice, when we “Rejoice for God is near” when we can take everything in prayer and supplication… with thanksgiving the weight of the world is on God’s shoulder’s not ours and that creates something very unexpected.  The peace of God which passes understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The craziness of Christmas can be transformed into the peace of Christ in our lives.  Your season can be transformed by rejoicing praying, and thanking God.  Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say Rejoice and may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and minds in Christ Jesus Amen.