December 11, 2011
The 3rd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
It’s all about me.
How many times have we felt that? Or said that? It’s all about me. The day, the world, all others out there revolve around me, myself and I.
Pretty selfish thought, isn’t it? But it’s a thought we’ve probably all had. I don’t want to point fingers at society, but we live in a culture that promotes ‘self.’ We can get the best cars, homes, Christmas decorations, clothing, smart phones. Whatever you need to put you on top, you can get it. And if you have a smartphone…you don’t even need to leave your house, you can place an order from the bookstore to the grocery store….and have it all delivered to your door.
In this society we may even tend to want people and places to meet our expectations. This is my community….and this is how things are done. This is my church….and this is how we do things.
When things revolve around us, we expect them to meet our expectations, we expect them to fit into the molds that we have created for them…we expect everything to meet our needs, our desires, our expectations.
It’s all about me.
Maybe that’s why the message of John the Baptist is calling out to us, or shouting out to us in the midst of this Advent season. John is saying…Hey! It’s not about you!
Okay, that may be reading into it just a little bit. But our gospel passage today is about John, but not about John. He was sent from God to testify, to witness....those words come up many times in our lesson today, he was sent to point to Christ, to turn people towards Christ, to help people prepare for the coming Messiah.
When the priests ask who John is…he is clear about who he is not.
I am NOT the Messiah.
I am NOT Elijah.
I am NOT the prophet.
He is the voice….the one who cries out “Make straight the way of the Lord!”
John is not the one who will save us.
John is not the savior, the redeemer, the one who will turn the world upside down.
John is clear here, that it’s not about him. It’s not all about John. Even though he is a fellow who draws our attention because of his looks and his diet, as soon as he catches our eye…he redirects us. He turns us away from himself.
He turns us away from ourselves.
He points and he turns us toward the coming Messiah.
John’s message of repentance and preparation calls us to turn away from ourselves, our needs, our self-focus…and towards Christ in our midst here and now.
Where is Christ here and now in our midst?
Nope, not a trick question….where is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, here and now?
Let’s hear some examples….
I’m sure we could go on and on and go all around the sanctuary and here about different examples of the presence of Christ in our lives, in our community and in our world right now. And the reason we could go on and on and on is because God is at work in our world, right now. God is on a mission to love and save the world. And that mission has been happening and continues to happen. The mission doesn’t stop to see if we’re ready to hop on….we just answer the call to serve and jump right in.
The trick is first, to spot what’s happening, you need to be on the lookout for God’s activity in the world…for Christ’s presence here and now in our midst.
Then you have to tell others about it. Tell your friends about where God is with us here and now. Just like we shared those examples with one another. But it’s more than just telling the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s more than just seeing it around you and telling others about it.
It’s about responding to the covenant, that promise that God made with each of you in baptism. It’s about responding to God’s love for you. It’s about responding to God’s grace. It’s about being an active part in the mission that is already going on around you.
Because when you see all that is going on in the world…all the places that God is at work in the world, blessing people, loving people and saving people….it’s pretty amazing.
And that good news, that love and that grace is unending…it’s not going to run out. It’s not going to stop….it’s like the energizer bunny…it keeps going and going and going….
When we see that abundance, it’s easy to give.
When we are worried about not having enough, or living in scarcity, then it’s hard.
But we live in abundance.
We have enough and more….
One of my favorite stories from a former parishioner is this.
As soon as this couple was married…they decided they would tithe to the church. They didn’t make much money, but they decided they would give 10 percent to the church first, then live off the rest. They weren’t rich, by any means, but they got by. They went through some tough times, but they kept up the commitment they made to the church. Eventually the husband got a better job, the money flowed in much faster and in greater amounts then it had before.
Their giving of 10 percent remained….all of the sudden they looked at their statement and were shocked as to how much they were giving to the church. But the giving continued….
To this day, (as a retired couple) they commit to give 10 percent to the church, which doesn’t included baked goods for different events, donations to youth trips, donating supplies to the food pantry or buying gifts for needy youth at Christmastime.
I know that, especially at this time of year, there is worry about having enough…and as soon as we do, we are forgetting that God is a God of abundance and generosity. John helps us remember that it is not about us…and our needs…but it is about pointing others to Christ in our midst here and now.
We have an abundance of gifts within this congregation. Just look around you…all the ministries and activities that happen in this place are because we are alive and active in our response to God’s grace and love in our own lives.
Think about how your time, talents and treasure help Trinity to point to Christ in our community.
How will that commitment continue in the coming year?
And how will that commitment increase?
The wealth surrounds us…
The grace and love and gifts that God blesses us with continues to flow in abundance….
The light of Christ…that shines from this candle, is not extinguished as the light is shared…but the light gets brighter. The light grows as it is shared.
How will you let Christ’s light shine?
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, amen.