Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sermon for Year B Advent 3


Today is the third Sunday of Advent.

This Sunday we light the pink candle in our Advent wreath.
The color change lets us know there is a shift.
This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday.

Gaudete comes from a Latin word
which basically translates as “rejoice.”
We have turned the corner of Advent
and are heading straight into the joy of Christmas.
Soon we will be immersed in true joy—joy to the world!

A friend of mine—now in his 70;’s-- recently told me that he grew up
being told that gaudete means SHOUT OUT!
That this pink candle Sunday in Advent is SHOUT OUT SUNDAY.
I love that!
It says it so much better than just REJOICE!

We can think of SHOUT OUT in two ways.
First, in the more traditional way,
we want to SHOUT OUT because Jesus is coming.
That is the Advent story.
We’re happy
We’re excited.
We want to tell everyone.

We can also use SHOUT OUT in a more contemporary form,
Where what it means is a public expression
of gratitude or acknowledgement—
For example, I want to give a SHOUT OUT to Carol O’Neal
for the fine job she does on our worship bulletin every week.
Or I want to give a SHOUT OUT to the choir
for their fine music.

In the Advent domain,
we might give a SHOUT OUT to John the Baptizer
for preparing the way.

John is a wise man.
He knows who he is and who he is not.
He knows what he can do and what he cannot do.

It is interesting that in the Gospel of Mark
we know him as John the Baptizer.
In Luke’s gospel he is John the son of Zechariah.
In Matthew, he is named John the Baptist.
But in John’s gospel
he is just plain John,

The only really plain things about John
Are his dress and his diet.
Because John is noisy and loud.
He is not intimidated by the authorities--
but he is well aware of the game they are playing.

The authorities have come to question John.
What he has been saying
has caught their attention.
There are too many paying attention to John and John’s words
and that is making the priests and the Levites uncomfortable.

Who are you?
It is not a casual question.
Indeed, it is a question that a few years later
will be asked of Jesus.
Who are you?

John makes a point of saying , “I am not the Messiah.”
Priest and author Herbert O’ Driscoll,
writing in his book THE WORD AMONG US,
tells us that John knew
that those who came to question him were afraid.

They were fearful of what John was stirring up
And the way people were responding to his words.

He made the authorities even more nervous
when he told them that the person
he was referring to was already among them:
Among you stands one whom you do not know…
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

And John’s message was—and you’re not worthy either!
That message did not sit well with the people in power.

This week I received an email from a young woman
whose family has been friends with our family for a long time.
Our daughter used to babysit this young woman—
who is now 26 years old.
Molly is a gifted artist. Truly gifted.
She makes exquisite jewelry and is very sought after for her work.
She wrote:

I thought you all might be interested in knowing that I am taking a sabbatical, of sorts, and going to Africa for 3 months! I know, its crazy. I bought my ticket yesterday: I leave on February 9 and return on April 25. Total length of stay: 78 days. I will spend my 27th birthday on a different continent.

I will be working with an organization called the Rural Development Center which is located in Cameroon. I will be staying in a very small town called Belo, which is in the mountains. After speaking to a former volunteer and a current one, I really feel like this is right.

For the past year or so, I have felt like I needed to DO something; I just feel like I have more to offer the world than merely pretty jewelry.
It was that last line in her email
that stopped me short.
I just feel like I have more to offer the world than merely pretty jewelry.

From the outside looking in,
I think anyone would believe
that Molly’s jewelry offers the world a lot.

But if we are wise,
we do not live our lives from the outside.
We do not let other people dictate who we are.
We look deeply inside of ourselves and, with God’s help,
discover and celebrate the truth.

These are not easy times in the world.
Sometimes I wonder if there have ever been easy times in the world.

Just as Isaiah was challenged,
that challenge continues with us—
to bring good news to the oppressed,
to comfort those whose hearts are broken,
to walk WITH one another,
to hold hands
when someone—including ourselves—
needs a hand to hold.

Not all of us can—or would choose—to go to Africa like my friend Molly.
But we are are called on a journey to seek the something more
of whom we are.

The spirit of the God is upon each of us;
God has anointed each one of us—no exceptions.
And regardless of our age—
Whether 8 or 88—
the psalmist has it right:

The LORD has done great things for us…

We are not called to sit in darkness
but to witness to the light .

This pink candle day of Advent
is a day that calls us to celebrate, to rejoice--
to give a SHOUT OUT!

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