the one where we begin again...
November 30, 2015, 8:58 AM

Sermon from November 29, 2015

Text: Luke 21: 25-36

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer – amen!

So, we make it to one of my most favorite times of the year. I truly, truly, truly love the season of Advent. It is a season that I impatiently wait for every year. I love the hymns. I love the scriptures that we get to read each Sunday, and I love the excitement that builds as we journey to the day of celebration of our Lord’s birth.

It really is a great time of year.

It is a new beginning. A new year in the church. The slate has been wiped clean. We again embark in this faith journey of hearing about the hope to come – the in-breaking of God’s presence into the world in the form of the Son – our Lord, Jesus who is the Christ.

What makes this first Sunday of Advent even more full is the fact that we get to witness and celebrate baptism. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR baptisms! Not only that, but all those being baptized today are in the same family as Kristin and Charity and Connor and Maggie get to celebrate this wonderful day together.

The day that as the church begins anew in a fresh year, that the four of them begin anew in their life of faith.

But, there is this uneasy element to not only Advent, but to living in the faith that is poured into us at our baptism. The uneasiness of being new. Being different than before. Being set-apart in some fashion. Perhaps even being outside the norm of others.

Because, let’s face it. As much as we want to say that Advent is that time of expectant hope – that time ‘looking forward. Many around the world – many of us – don’t need any reminder that Christmas is coming. Most of us have already been thinking about Christmas for quite some time. As soon as the countdown towards December 25 reached double digits, stores and more have been sounding the ‘alarm’ that Christmas is coming so you better take advantage of this sale and this discount and this opportunity to get all the stuff you need or Christmas won’t be good this year for you and yours!

The commercialized Christmas season machinations that surrounds us which can also be very ‘suffocating’ towards us; have been intent and diligent as they try to invoke the right sense of familiar feelings and lull us back into familiar concerns. Where the images of tranquil peace, the idyllic setting of fresh fallen snow, a warm fire, the laughter of family and friends, the sense that everything is alright just like it used to be.

But, here walks in Jesus and messes that pretty scene all up. Jesus’ words this morning as we begin this journey of Advent towards the upheaval of God’s in-breaking into the world are not peaceful at all. They are concerned with signs that do not point towards the sentimental and lovely. The in-breaking of God is something that changes the world around us. It throws the world and our lives in disorder because it is so new, so different from the world around us.

In this season of Advent as we see the Polar Bears of Coke commercials frolicking in the snow – being all cute with their bottles of sugary goodness – or yet another car commercial where someone gave their spouse an extravagant gift of a car with a giant bow on top – Wait, you know what… after my car accident this week that might not be a bad thing… I’ll have to tell Erin about that. As we see these commercials, ads, and hear music and musings of the ‘perfect’ holiday here comes Jesus that grabs ahold of the camera – ahold of our lives - and points us to see the reality of life and where we can be a part of the ways to help those in need. Where we are called to proclaim God's grace and mercy to a world which  at times seems incapable of hearing and practicing love and grace.

Where in Advent – in this time of expectant hope of the one who comes to save us from our sin – who comes to live among us as an outsider where we are directed to find ways to care for those who wish to live among us as they run from the dangers of their lives. How does the in-breaking of God direct us to care for those?

Where we look forward to the angels trumpeting to the shepherds of the arrival of hope and joy as God is made flesh in the world, we are directed to trumpet and shout for the hope to come to those who are ostracized, who are oppressed, who are in need to hear that news and for others to look towards them and their suffering so that they too might experience the joy and hope of the Advent to come. Where they too are a part of this celebration as well. How does God's in-breaking into our lives point us to proclaim?

Where in Advent we wait with bated breath of the story of those who made space for a traveling soon-to-be family of three, where we too are invited to make space for God within our life, our homes, our hearts, and our minds.

In the baptismal promises that those before us make today and that we remember that have been made for us, we are reminded that we have a roll in this. That Advent – that baptism – challenges us on so many levels. It challenges all those things in our life that are comfortable and complacent. It challenges us to be with those around us in service, love, and relationship.

That is the reality of baptism. It is a complete shift into a life that is in many ways in stark contrast to the world around us. Where the world shouts that we must only be concerned with solely ourselves and those closest to us. Those on the outside – those who the world deems ‘different’? Don’t think about them, look at this wonderful and sentimental Christmas commercial again. Just ignore all that other stuff. The baptismal life is counter to that thought. Where we make promises to care for others and work towards and for justice and peace.

In our baptisms, God reaches down to us and reminds us that we are not ignored – that God is present with us – walking with us and guiding us to serve those in need because God is there. That as we are no longer ‘unknown’ that those around us are to be known as well. For God knows that the promises we make and remember today are not easy – they are difficult – sometimes far more difficult to live into than anything else in the world. But, we are reminded in our baptisms that God knows us and that God is present with us throughout this life – no matter what. That God guides and directs us and opens us up to the opportunities to live out this life of faith.

One of the greatest things that my grandfather has taught me about life is to speak and know people’s names. To make them feel known. The other day as I was getting food from a local restaurant, as I was handed my items by the cashier I said, “Thanks so much Amy!” I always make it a habit to speak the names of those in work around me.

She was taken a bit back by that, but immediately a huge smile erupted on her face. The thank-you she gave me spoke more than just those few words to me. As she said, ‘thank-you’ I heard someone who felt that they were known and connected with. No longer just a faceless individual doing a service to those too busy to take notice of people around them. She was known – by name – by someone else.

I like to think that baptism is a lot like that. Especially as we celebrate baptisms of those who are not just precious and beautiful little babies, but those who are precious and beautiful children of God who are just a little more seasoned in age and life.

That as those waters are washed and splashed over them, that their names are known. Not just by those in attendance with them today, but by our God. As all of their names are called – Kristin, Charity, Connor, and Maggie – that in those waters God is saying – you are known. I know you. I love you. I’m with you. We’re going to do this life of faith together.

As we begin our Advent journey this day, Jesus reminds us that it isn’t always going to be easy and peaceful. But, the end result is redemption. Baptism reminds us that the struggles of life are not removed when those waters wash over us. But, God – the one who knows and calls us by name – is present with us. Walking with us as we live into those promises that we make and remember.

Advent is a time about waiting in expectant hope for God’s in-breaking into the world. A time of looking forward to the change and the new that Jesus’ birth ushers into the world and into our lives. Baptism is a journey – much like Advent – towards the change and the new that God makes in us and is present in us as we live that change and new out into the world. Amen

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