Isaiah 12: 9b-13
Selected Verses from Ephesians
MARK 13: 24-27

November 29, 2020 – FIRST SUNDAY in ADVENT

You are my servant I chose you and didn’t reject you!” Exclaims God … Jehovah … the Creator of the Universe to God’s people, which clearly includes you and me. 

Well,  friends we have made it through Thanksgiving in a year of firsts … a year of confusion … a year of division … a year of global pandemic that impacted each corner of God’s world … a year of fears both totally self serving at times and very real at other times … and after a day of thanking the Lord for all that God has provided it is time to realize we are ready … really ready to be successful for and in our walk with God! The tools and guidebook are easy to access … it’s now us and only us between that walk or choosing to be on the detour away from the holy.

Truthfully, it takes healing to move forward and I am sure that this year perhaps more than ever before we have all needed to experience healing in our relationship with God and in our relationship with the neighbors God has provided to us. Neighbors we are called to love no matter what … neighbors we are expected to love regardless of what the great dividers of the world encourage us to do … because we are the servants of the Most High!  God has chosen us … even with all of our hesitations, our failings, and our abandonment of the Holy … God has not rejected us and here we are on the first Sunday of Advent in anticipation of the possibilities that we have through our faith in Jesus Christ.

In fact, as the prophet Jeremiah reminds us, not only has God not rejected us but the “Lord has declared, ‘I know the plans I have in mind for you.  They are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.  When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me with all your heart, you will find me.  I will be present for you,’ declares the Lord.”

Advent and the season of Christmas perhaps are the time of the year when I most want to join Paul’s exclamation … BLESS the GOD and the FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST!  I easily sing JOY TO THE WORLD … THANK YOU GOD … for JESUS and for allowing this season to be one where we can regain our focus on what matters because all too many of us have lost too many friends and too many neighbors to the global pandemic and to the season of the year 2020.

In that classic song of Christmas the drummer boy proclaims that he has no gift to give for a King … he is poor so he says “Shall I play for you … pa rum pum pum pum … on my drum.”  And, the song writers continue to tell us that Mary nodded and the baby Jesus smiled at the suggestion that the boy play his drum.  “Come they told him” share what you have … worship as the person you are! Jesus is not looking for riches He is hoping for all of us to come with what we have and with who we are.  The Lord God Almighty proclaimed, “When you search for me with all your heart, you will find me.”

In September, I started this journey with you to remind all of us what we need to do to be successful for our walk with God … a needed traveling partner because without God; without Jesus; and without the Holy Spirit’s guidance we are susceptible to the appeal of the world’s leaders whose power is based in countering God’s requirements.   So, today are you searching for God with all of your heart … do you love the Creator of the universe with all of your mind and with your very soul?

God is not accepting half hearted efforts … that narrow gate is not opening up for the casual and those who bow to false gods for their inspiration but God is ready and God is waiting for our call … for our hearts … for our devotion and yes, for our worship.  As we light the candles of Advent and move in anticipation to celebrate Jesus’ birth. are you ready to experience the healing of your soul, your mind, and your heart that we need to go through in order to truly be in touch with God? … Are you ready to be successful for a walk with God from this day forward until the day you enter paradise?  A day when you will be face-to-face with our Savior and in that moment you can again decide whether to bow down or to dance for your Savior but right now today … you and I … as we can still sense our day of Thanksgiving and perhaps even have some leftovers to enjoy,  we need to pay homage to God! To understand that we need to worship and praise God’s Holy name not just today but in the days, weeks, months, and years to come … to be healed friends and then to put on the armor of God for that journey!

So, I asked you to look into the mirror of faith to see who reflected back at you; a place where you must be honest with yourself when no one else  is around … just you and God … to determine what needs fixing and I can guarantee that all of us need some fixing when we gaze at our faith images.  Did you already make adjustments in your faith diet?  Are you reading the Gospels daily?  Have you increased your conversations with God … have you actually fasted to invest that time of eating into worship instead?

And, as you have considered the armor of God have you dressed yourself with care … as if you were going out to an expensive dinner where looks matter?  Because when you put on the armor of God you are doing it out of love and respect and worship of the Creator of the universe who through God’s grace gave us Jesus Christ.  It is through this change that you and I will be “strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength.” In “putting on God’s armor we can make a stand against the tricks of the devil.”

We live in a era where people have begun to accept lie after lie after lie until we are so numbed that we believe lies are the truth and that’s what those who share them hope for but as followers of Jesus Christ we are tossing aside the world’s lies to put on the belt of truth wrapping our very being in God’s directives, which are the ultimate truth.  Our breastplates protecting our hearts will link us with The Lord’s expectation that we “do justice.”  When you start to love as the Good Samaritan loved … when you start to identify and stand against the world’s injustices because of your faith in Jesus Christ you will start to sense the Holy Spirit right by your side even as the world tosses its dirt at you.  And, yes, God’s breastplate will protect you.

The shoes we are putting on friends carry us into the world to share the Good News of Jesus Christ … and they will bring you and I peace that the world cannot understand; a world that tries to create fears to diminish opportunities … cannot understand the peace that comes from God’s love that dispels the world’s fears … because we walk with Christ … we move forward on God’s side of the equation.  We are called to go into every corner of the world to make disciples for Him because we love God and God returns it tenfol.

Our shield of faith … oh that shield that protects us … extinguishing evil because evil struggles to understand how people like you and me live lives “conducting ourselves with humility, gentleness, and patience while accepting each other no matter who with love.  We are one body and one spirit called by God in hope!”

And finally we have spent time again considering God’s Holy Spirit’s role … the power of our salvation in Jesus Christ … and the sword, which is God’s Word.

If we reject God’s Word … how can we understand that when the sun is dark … when the stars fall from the sky ,,, when all seems lost that Jesus Christ our Savior will be there for us.  That Jesus will gather His people together … people who love God; love our neighbors; feed and clothe the poor and hungry; welcome the stranger; care for the sick and visit the prisoner.  People who have figured out how to be successful for a walk with God in this life so that we will be ready and prepared and actually headed towards the celebration of eternity with God.

And, so I ask us to consider the words of John Lennon from his song Happy Christmas.  “So this is Christmas and what have you done?  Another year over, a new one just begun.  A very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fears. “

Consider friends where your journey of anticipation in the lights of the Christmas season will take you … are you ready to make this a good Christmas without any fears … A Christmas season where we are focused on our faith walk with God knowing we each have adjustments to make?  Are you willing to allow God to heal you of the stuff the world has put into you so that you can be out in the world doing God’s mission?

Hear the Word of God just for a few more moments … the portions we read earlier today .. let these words sink in and hit home … “I am the Lord your God, who grasps your strong hand, and who says to you, DO NOT FEAR for I will help you.”

We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things.  God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. Christ is our peace!  Be compassionate and forgiving to one another, the same way that God forgave you in Christ.”

He will send the angels and gather together His chosen people from the four corners of the earth, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven.”

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.  Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil.”

Your choice … my choice … be healed and then get out there because God’s ready to hold your hand and His Spirit will be by your side and mine. AMEN

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ