Sunday, 14 December 2008

A Sermon on the Third Sunday of Advent: Who Are We and the Advent Challenge

I’m going to begin with the gospel this morning. Look at John 1.19: “Who are you?” the religious authorities of the day asked John the Baptizer.

And John knew exactly who he was and who he was not. V20 he was not the Christ, v21 nor Elijah, nor a prophet. V23 “I am,” he said, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” v26 “I baptize with water, but among you stands one, you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

The one who is coming and who is exceedingly, wonderfully, beyond what you can conceive is Jesus: the one in whom all the promises of God find their yes (2 Cor 1.20), the founder and perfector of our faith (Heb 12.2), the first and the last, who died and came to life. (Rev 2.8), him who has the two-edged sword (Rev 2.11), and eyes like a flame of fire (Rev 2.18), the holy one the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens (Rev 3.7), the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation (Rev 3.14), king of kings, Lord of lords, (Rev 19.16), the bright morning star (Rev 22.16).

This is the one John knew he was not, but whose way into people’s hearts he was preparing. V7 “He came as a witness, bear witness about the light (Jesus), that all might believe through him. He was not the light (Jesus), but came to bear witness about the light (Jesus).

In other words, John knew it wasn’t all about him, it was about Jesus.

Neither is it all about us, or this building, or this parish, or the vestry, or the ACW, or the Altar Guild. It’s about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. And  about preparing ways for Jesus to connect more deeply with us and through us with those who have not yet believed in Him.

On the First Sunday of Advent (which is all about Jesus and preparing for His return), the day the bishop was here, the leaflet included the Advent Challenge: Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. In today’s Collect we prayed: “remove those things which hinder love of you, that when he (that’s Jesus) comes he may find us waiting in awe and wonder.”

What things in our lives hinder love God? Allowing our lives to be all about us. All about me. That’s the main hindrance.

What hinders our worship? Do we let language or a book or a style of music or noisy children or anything else get in the way of offering worth to our God? Are we exchanging the glory of God for ANYTHING? Are we allowing anything to keep us away from worship?

Is anything hindering our spending less? Are we afraid of what people will think? Afraid we’ll fall behind the Joneses? Or is it just plain greed?

What are we allowing to get in the way of giving more? Over spending?

What hinders our love for others? Have we allowed our relationships to become all about us?

I would add to that Advent list, pray more. “Without ceasing,” says Paul in our Epistle. I don’t see how we can expect to stand with confidence, in awe and wonder, before Jesus in all his glory and majesty without making an honest effort to maintain and develop our relationship with him in prayer. Prayer is the love language God gave us through which we maintain and grow a rich, lively relationship with Him. Are you allowing anything to hinder prayer? Not enough time? Find some. We can all find time to do the things we really want to do even if for a few moments. Don’t know how? Learn. Find out how. We Anglicans have rich resources for prayer in our prayer books. Just find morning or evening or night or family prayer and follow the instructions. If you have questions, call me. Your bulletin also has a useful list of people and situations for whom and which to pray.

The results. Healing, transformation, revival. Consider some recorded benefits when revival has happened.
  • teen-age pregnancies drop dramatically...there are statistics to prove it. 

  • In a revival in Saskatoon in the 70’s bad-debts in the business community virtually disappeared. 

  • In the Welsh revival someone interviewed a Police sergeant about what the police were doing...crime and crowd control...no crime….crowds were at church. His 17 member detachment formed 3 quartets and booked themselves out for church gatherings. 
How do we overcome any hindrance? By acknowledging that life is not about us, it’s about Jesus and bearing witness to that fact. Jesus is the ultimate, really the only, hindrance overcomer. Anything or anyone else is temporary and ultimately idolatrous.

“One day,” as we heard from Peter last Sunday, “the day of the Lord will come and the heavens will pass away with a roar, the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Will we be waiting in awe and wonder? For some, that day will be an absolute terror. But it needn’t be for you. You know what to do.