Dec 9 2018 2 Sun Advent Year C

Sun Dec 9, 2018 Children Sermon

For those of you who may not be familiar with a Chrismon, the decorations you see hung on our Christmas tree are called Chrismons.  It is a contraction of two words shoved together- the beginning part Chris, is short for Christ.  The second part “mon” is short for monogram.  Monogram is a long word for a symbol.  So what hangs on our Christmas tree are Christ-symbols, Christ-monograms, Chrismons.

A symbol can communicate a lot of stuff if you know its meaning.  But its only meaningful if you know what it stands for.  If I show you (golden arches) you’ve been trained by 100’s of commercials to associate this with McDonald’s golden arches.  You know, happy meals, fries, milkshakes.  Just by seeing a picture, a symbol, you get a message. 

So that’s why I wanted to take a moment to give some meaning to these symbols on our Christmas tree.  How about this one we talked about last Sunday?  The cross represents Christ’s love, the circle/globe represents the world.  Christ’s cross over top of the world means God’s love rules, God’s love reigns over the world.  That’s a message in a picture that says, “It’s okay! God’s got this.  He’s got the whole world in his hand.“  Isn’t that a powerful message of care and love during this Christmas season that can be filled with such chaos and conflict?  Now, back up a little and look at all these symbols waiting to tell you a message of Christmas that can warm your heart, center your soul, calm your spirit, and restore your joy this Christmas.

If a Chrismon gives us a glimpse of Christ this Christmas that’s more than many people get.  If a Chrismon grants us a moment to contemplate Christ love that’s more than many take at Christmas.  If a vision of a Chrismon’s lingers throughout our day maybe it can change the entire way we look at that day.  Who knows what a Chrismon can do for you this season? Whether it’s a glimpse of Christ, a moment with Christ’s love or a vision of Christ’s rule… its truly a gift and that’s Christmas decorations at their best.  What’s this symbol mean?  McDonalds.  What’s this symbol mean?  God’s love rules.  Remember that, celebrate that, have a great Christmas.  Amen. Thanks for coming up.

Sun December 9, 2018 2nd Sun of Advent Year C

As I read the lessons assigned for this Sunday’s worship I thought of how bold and brash John the Baptist was, doing what Malachi prophesied, a voice crying in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord.  And then I was reminded by our second lesson that Paul wasn’t far behind John in his brazen proclamation of Christ.  His proclamation we have today comes from his letter to the Philippians, a letter he wrote while in prison for proclaiming Christ.  He wouldn’t even let a prison cell and chains deter his promoting Christ.

We need bold speakers in the Church. Especially in Advent, a season often passed over as simply reflective and contemplative, we need people who will boldly proclaim the work that Jesus is doing. As I write this sermon I was bombarded with the news coverage of terror attack In San Bernardino. Watching this alongside the terror attacks in the city of Paris, ongoing war in Syria, and continued racial tensions in universities in the United States is burdensome worrisome stuff. These events are of course on top of the standard hum of violence and oppression that we have become accustomed to as 21st century Americans. What better time is there for a bold voice to speak hope? Hope of a savior. Hope of a new life. Hope of a promise being fulfilled in the birth of a child.

Paul writes to the Philippians from the chains of his prison cell. In spite of these chains he continues to rejoice and in fact grows in his boldness for the Gospel because he can see that his very imprisonment has encouraged others to keep the faith and proclaim the faith.

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 requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your 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 that he had only the vaguest idea would ever exist?  I suggest you cut this scripture reading out, take it home and paste it someplace important like a mirror or computer screen or read it as a prayer before meals.  In some way use it to remind yourself and instill in your spirit so it might seep into your schedule and mix with your mood. And change you from burdened and worried into someone who is brimming with Christ and bold to proclaim him.

Paul lays out the keys of what it takes in a weary worrisome world of burdens and cares what it takes to be brimming with Christ and bold in proclaiming him.  Rejoice, Pray, Thanks.  (repeat) But he doesn’t just say do this he gives the reason: Because The Lord is Near.  The Lord is near, as Christian prepare for Christmas we do so differently than the usual “Homies” prepare for the holidays.  Our celebrations look very similar; lights, decorations, baked goods, and boxed gifts.  But if that’s all it is that’s sad.

We celebrate the Lord coming near to us.  We remember the day that God stopped begin far off, aloof, intangible, untouchable and proved his love for us by being one of us.  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 12 inch space 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, and in general we do way too much worry “weight lifting” when it comes to living life.  We try to do it alone, right?  Ladies how many times has your husband done in his back because he had to do it himself?  Hubbys how many times have you received 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?  We’re so busy, so worried we’re too busy and worried to take the time to seek out help, that would just get in the way of getting things done.

Paul tells us to ask for help- go to God in prayer.  God’s not often going to shove himself in the way of our business.  Oh, sometimes God will, hmmm I think they need to slow down, how about I send them a hint? And we end up with a boot on our foot, a back that’s out or a bout of the flu.  Go to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving Paul says.  I like his 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?  I’m so irritated by…Lord I’d rather you do…Constant whining isn’t going to relieve my worries but if I vent WITH Thanksgiving my whining winds down while my willingness to see and find God’s grace and love around me opens up.  Some pastors say don’t whine at all, and that’s not right.  Don’t dam it all up and pretend all is fine, Paul admitted he was in jail, and he didn’t pretend that was fun.  Yet, when we whine with the discipline of also saying a word of thanks we create that winning combination…finding God’s strength in the midst of our weakness.

Scripture tells us that “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 “It’s 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, despite being “so down.”  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 nets 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.

That is the last part of this advent advice from Paul- 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 they create 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 hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  That is something that Paul proclaims boldly in the midst of a prison cell and the persecution of his beloved church family.  Paul finds God’s strength in the midst of his weakness and worrisome situations. We can do the same if we rejoice, pray and thank.  It can make us bold rather than burdened.

We should grow in our boldness for the Gospel. Too often we have left bold proclamation to someone else. We leave it to another denomination. We leave it to the pastors. We leave it to street corner preachers. And then in times of darkness our message of hope is co-opted by those who proclaim fear and vengeance.

This Advent season, let us rejoice, pray and thanks so we may each in our time step out in faith to boldly proclaim what Christ has done for us. Perhaps we have not been imprisoned for defending the name of Jesus, but each one of us have been put to death and raised to new life in Christ. Each one of us has a hope to share. And by boldly proclaiming this hope, may Christ be exalted.

Let us pray…All-powerful God, throughout scripture we hear that you do not always choose the bold to speak for you, but you always make those who speak bold. Grant us this same boldness that we might proclaim your love throughout this Advent season. Even if other voices would try to shout us down, may the light of your Son continually shine for the world to see. For it is in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, that we rejoice, thanks, and pray. Amen