The Rev. Linda Taupier – December 13, 2020
It might be difficult for us to imagine total darkness. The birth of Jesus is on our calendar close to the winter solstice-for us, the darkest time of the year. But we don’t ‘sit in darkness’. We have electricity so we could have light 24/7 if we chose to. Electric light is artificial; darkness can be very real. Darkness can feel like a shroud over us when illness strikes, when we don’t have money for food or rent, when we see political dysfunction, mental distress, racial division, violence, hopelessness.
We also feel it in times like now when it seems there is grief all around us with so many lost lives. While writing this sermon, I found out that a husband and wife in my building both died from covid, a week apart. A neighbor across the hall has been diagnosed with covid and is scared not only for herself, but her family. And I recently spent 12 days in quarantine because I spent time with someone who later tested positive. I love my solitude. Believe it or not I am an introvert. Yet, knowing I was confined for 12 days what is normally a blessing became a bit lonely. As much as I need solitude, I long to have meaningful, in person connections. Zoom just doesn’t do it.
Where we find ourselves now is in the midst of darkness, the world’s and perhaps our own and a pandemic and still here we are in Advent awaiting the light that can’t be extinguished. Advent is a season of waiting.
Isaiah was sent by God to “bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”. In our gospel, John the Baptist was also sent from God to testify to the coming of the light.
Gospel means Good News and that’s what John is talking about. He’s reminding us of those that came before and he’s telling us “Among you stands one whom you do not know” that the One we long for is already in our midst. The Messiah is in our midst.
John was one of those preachers who people turned out to hear. The only person I know that could get such crowds now-a-days is Michael Curry! His message seemed urgent and people wanted to know what he was all about and who he was. When the priests and Levites came to him, they asked “Who are you?” He told them he wasn’t the Messiah, wasn’t Elijah and not that prophet. Ok, so he’s not all those people so who is he? He’s a voice telling us to get our lives together. Make things right with and in the world. John’s message is one of repentance. He’s calling us to action. In order to repent we must first acknowledge our misdeeds and understand how we need to change to be God’s image. Part of our repentance is to look at our lives as Christians. Are we truly Christian or just in name only? Is Jesus a belief system or something you live? Yes, trick question because it’s both. It matters though what we do with that belief system in our lives. Advent is a good time to figure that out. There’s a difference in believing that a man named Jesus was born over 2000 years ago and living our lives as if he were standing next to us at all times. While we wait for the light, we can live into the moment we are in. I don’t know about you, but I spend too much time thinking about the past and looking toward the future and not enough time in the present. And all we have is the present.
German philosopher Meister Eckhart asks, ‘What good is it, that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago if he is not also born in me?’ We heard the Magnificat this morning. Just before those words from Mary she asked how can this be? Just how can Christ be born in us? The Holy Spirit was working in Mary and that same Spirit works in us. We might use Advent as a time to look at all God has given us, all the things we are thankful for-look for all the joy, even in the midst of darkness. Focus on the Light. Repentance is turning away from the darkness and looking toward the light. Share with others the Good News that is Christ in your life.
This is the 3rd Sunday in the season of Advent which is known as ‘Rejoice” Sunday, formally known as Gaudete Sunday which is the Latin word for rejoice. We heard Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians today. Paul can get very wordy, preachy, and confusing with run-on sentences yet today we hear very plainly: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. In all circumstances. Not so easy for us in the midst of a pandemic. Paul is reminding the people in Thessalonica to act is such ways that they are God-centered. Rejoice, pray, give thanks, discern, and test. They will be able to do these things because the Holy Spirit will guide them. We will as well if we follow the Holy Spirit.
The readings remind us that Jesus will come again to fulfill the promise of salvation just as with the Gospel we are reminded that our salvation is already among us. We are invited, like John to be God’s voice crying out in the wilderness. We are invited to be in the present moment and to accept Jesus’ invitation to know him and make him known. Amen