Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
It almost seems strange to take four weeks of Advent to prepare for Jesus’ birth. After all, we all know the majestic and awesome story that will be told on Christmas Eve: Jesus is born in a manger to poor peasants, and the shepherds come to visit and bring gifts. Holding worshippers in suspense seems almost silly since we all know what the outcome will be. In fact, we seem to go backwards. Last week, Jesus was preaching and teaching. This week, John the Baptist is declaring that Jesus is about to come and begin his public ministry. In a few weeks, Jesus will be born.
Advent is not just about the baby Jesus. We also celebrate the fact that Christ has promised to return, the Second Advent¬—what will happen now that Christ has been crucified and is resurrected. During these four weeks, we learn almost in reverse about how this miraculous resurrection took place as we rewind to where it all began, in that manger with a baby. This week, we are reminded of how God works in reverse of what we often expect.
God works in reverse which means we often miss God at Work in our lives. I sometimes wonder if people do not realize that Jesus was not into big flashy miracles. He was into small miracles that may mean a lot to just one person. God’s biggest miracle was a tiny baby. This week of Advent will help us realize that God’s actions are often the reverse of what we expect but are also very small and often disappear quickly when we look back on our lives.
The stage is set in Malachi, when we hear the introductory faint whisperings about what is coming... “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.” This is still ambiguous, and we are left with questions. How will the Lord come to us? Who will be the messenger? And when?
Scene one opens as we fast forward to the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod, Philip, and Lysanias ruled in other regions. In other words, the earthly rulers are in place—mighty, powerful, and formidable. The first hearers of this text would have trembled at the names of these frightening men. These are the ones in charge—whoever dares to cross them usually doesn’t live to see their next meal!
During that time of mighty and powerful rulers, the word of God came…to John. Not the mighty Caesar or a governor or ruler, but to John, a real person, son of Zechariah the priest, a man who in the gospel of Matthew is said to wear clothing of camel’s hair and eat locusts and wild honey. God once again picks an ordinary, everyday person to carry this great message.
We know very little about John, only that he is God’s messenger and takes this call very seriously. He knows the importance of this word that came to him in a real time and a real place. He goes through the entire area of Jordan telling the story of something new, divine, and wonderful. He retells and interprets the prophecy from Isaiah. It is the voice in the wilderness, proclaiming something new. It is a voice that asks the receiver to prepare the way of the Messiah. There should be straight paths for the Lord: something profound is going to happen when the Lord comes. Even nature will be profoundly transformed. Winding ways will be straightened! Rough roads will be made smooth! All flesh will see that God has come.
Scene two: Philippians. Remembering our Advent themes of not just preparing for the baby Jesus to come, but also preparing for the second coming of Christ, we are presented with Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In verse 6 he says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” We are reminded this week that we don’t just look backwards to the babe in the manger; we also look around at where we are and forward at what is to come! For we already know the resurrection story, that the Holy Spirit has called together the church, and that we are the body of the living Christ. God has already begun a great work in all of us!
How can we better help our congregations to celebrate God among us? How can we help our congregations in taking honest look at ourselves during this Advent and Christmas season? Do we and everyone else put more faith and hope in Santa Claus than in Jesus Christ? This is a time in which we can look at the work God has begun in us and think prayerfully about how we can nurture God’s efforts in our congregations.
How can we enable our listeners to hear the voice of the messenger in the wilderness? The big questions to frame for our congregations are “How are we preparing for Christ’s presence, and will we recognize Christ when he comes?”
The simple view of this sermon is seeing the small miracles that happen to us again and again. Today is all about celebrating the small miracles of our lives.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
My mother in law who is like my mother who just turned 86 is recovering well from major cancer surgery which for her family is a true miracle but she keeps missing the miracle of her recovery and that has caused a few setbacks. Even when the doctors and her family say she is getting better she does not see that. When the doctors all told her she was cancer free, she did not believe them. She again and again asked me when she is suddenly going to get a miracle, I tell her again and again she has had a bunch of miracles. I just can’t wait to the day till she gets the fact that everything in the last few months day by day has been a miracle. The only problem with small miracles is that they are not flashy.
On Sunday morning, my pastor began his sermon by reminiscing a bit about a friend he once worked with. The man was kind and loved Jesus, but would overuse, in my pastor’s opinion, the phrase “Would you look at God!”
Pastor preached that most people used the saying to glorify Him after something significant or unexpected happened in their lives, like a good report from the doctor or an out-of-the-blue financial blessing.
But my pastor’s friend used it to celebrate “little things” like discovering a great parking space in a crowded lot or finding an item he wanted on sale. His friend said repeatedly in these times, “Would you look at God!”
Pastor’s response in those moments was that God didn’t care about such minor things. I had to agree. It seemed silly to say “Would you look at God!” because of a good parking space!
“But in hindsight,” Pastor said, “maybe He does care.”
Later that Sunday, my 7-year-old daughter, Marin, and I went to BJ’s Wholesale Club. The chain is known for two things: never having bags to pack up your purchases and not letting you leave without an employee verifying your receipt. As a result, you can’t just tuck the receipt in your bag or pocket.
We had our receipt punched at the door. Marin held it while I balanced our items in my arms. I asked her to hand the receipt to me, so we didn’t lose it, just in case I needed to return something. I’d purchased a pajama set for Marin and her doll she just had to have, but wasn’t sure if it’d fit.
Just as Marin was about to hand me the receipt, a huge gust of wind blew it out of her hand and across the enormous parking lot into a cluster of debris. It was gone. “Ugh!”
I took a moment to rearrange our items, and we walked to the car. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the wind shifted. Like a small, gentle breath of air. One rectangle piece of paper escaped the cluster of debris, blew in our direction and landed at our feet. I reached down and checked it. I couldn’t believe it–our receipt! What were the chances?
I smiled at my little one and couldn’t help myself as I said to her, “Would you look at God!”
When was the last time you said, “Would you look at God!” Share your story below! (https://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/miracles/gods-grace/look-for-daily-miracles)
When your child is undergoing the struggle of dealing with pediatric cancer you are always looking for the big miracle. But sometimes it is the Small Miracles that get you through and let you know that someone really cares.
Providing transportation to get to the doctors, food on the table, or help with the electric bill are just some of the Small Miracles this Foundation is based upon. We believe in the process of people helping people.
We believe that helping families maintain dignity is not such a Small Miracle after all. (http://www.smallmiraclesfoundation.org/)
Small Miracles occur all the time. For instance, most of us don’t save enough. When governments try to encourage saving, they usually enact big policies to increase the incentives. But, in Kenya, people were given a lockable metal box — a simple place to put their money. After one year, the people with metal boxes increased savings by so much that they had 66 percent more money available to pay for health emergencies. It would have taken a giant tax reform to produce a shift in behavior that large.
The policies informed by behavioral economics are delicious because they show how cheap changes can produce big effects. Policy makers in this mode focus on discrete opportunities to exploit, not vast problems to solve. (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/12/opinion/david-brooks-in-praise-of-small-miracles.html)
Our theme for the Retreat was “Small Miracles” and we began with the photograph taken by Bill Van Loo at the St. Clement’s Berkeley parsonage fire. Clearly on the expanse of the charred wall is a white heart! We discussed this and how much it meant to the St.Clement’s family, as well as all of us. We found that Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of a miracle is “divine intervention in human affairs.” We then talked about miracles of nature and looked at photographs of a fat caterpillar; an actual empty chrysalis in a jar and pictures of the beautiful butterfly it became. In the afternoon we looked at ways we could keep alert for miracles and also shared experiences of when we know that God has reached out to touch us in a special way.
I must add that we feel free to share our deepest thoughts and feelings because our rule is: “What we say at the Ranch, stays at the Ranch.”
The weather had been showery all day and we took umbrellas with us when we went to the Refectory for dinner. We were half way through when Sean came in and said, “Come and see.” We all went out on the patio and stood looking in wonder at a magnificent full rainbow with a fainter version beneath it. Was this our own “small miracle?” To me, it was. (https://www.gracecathedral.org/small-miracles/)
Albert Einstein once stated, and I paraphrase: ‘We must accept the premise that either nothing is a miracle, or everything is a miracle.’ Well, Mr. Einstein, I am one who, if that premise is true, believes that everything is a miracle. I have eyes, and I can clearly see this beautiful, immensely complex world. From your statement, I think you saw it, too. I certainly do believe that miracles happen, and that they probably happen more frequently than we realize. After 62 years of living and of observing life, I don’t see how I could ever believe otherwise. I also believe that miracles are where you find them, and that, to our dismay, sometimes we don’t even look for them. I don’t think that this means some miracles are ‘small’, in fact, I think that none of them are small. They are all big, especially when they happen to you.
I’m writing about this today because of something that happened to my grandson, Devon, just last Sunday evening. It was about 10 p.m., and that thoughtful grandson of mine had just driven to the Walmart in Manchester, NH, where he and his family live. He had gone to the store because his girlfriend was having a craving for oranges, and he wanted to buy her some. What a nice guy, right? Somehow, during that late-night run to the store, Devon’s wallet had slipped out his pocket, in the huge parking lot. Now, it’s never good to lose your wallet, but much worse when that wallet contains your license, your debit card, your social security card, and, (this part gives me a sick feeling in my stomach) $400 in cash from the paycheck you had just received. Ouch! It also didn’t help that the wallet was lost in that large city, at a very busy shopping center.
We, as a family, believe in the power of prayer. So do our children, and, also, their children. Our daughter, Cathy, (Devon’s mom) and her distraught son obviously prayed that night, and so did my wife and I, and others, when we heard about what had happened. Yes, you need to understand, this was a joint effort. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. Holy Bible.
Okay, so now let me tell you about the miracle. (Pay attention, as there will be a quiz.) As I’m sure you have already guessed, the wallet was found, which, to me, was miracle enough. A young lady about Devon’s age contacted him on Facebook, told him she had found his wallet, and asked if they could meet so that she could give it back to him. They arranged that, and Devon went to meet her. To Devon’s surprise, and obvious relief, his wallet still contained his license, his debit card, his social security card, AND the $400 from his hard-earned paycheck. Wow! My grandson thankfully offered to give that young lady a reward for what she had done, or to at least buy dinner for her, but she wouldn’t let him. Devon told her that it was a huge blessing for him, and she replied that people have done many good things to help her before, and she wanted to help him. Now…here’s the quiz. Did you understand the miracle, or did you miss it?
It was surely a ‘God thing’ that Devon got his wallet back, with his identification, his license, and even his money…every penny of it. To my grandson, I’m sure this was no small miracle. Still, to my mind, the miracle really happened in the heart of a young stranger, who found someone’s wallet in a parking lot that night, could have kept the cash, thrown the wallet away, and never given a thought to finding its owner. No one would have ever known. Really, no one would have. Instead, this young lady chose to remember what others have done for her, and to ‘pay it forward’ with no thought of self, and without ANY reward, even when it was offered.
In this strange year of terrorism, fear, and an nasty presidential election which seems to shout uncertainty, distress, and danger for the future of our nation, there are still people of integrity, and still young people of surprisingly sterling morals. This, to me, is no small miracle. (https://www.vt-world.com/no-small-miracles.html)
If you have ever lost your voice, you will understand the plight of John the Baptist in the wilderness. He cries but the people don’t listen. He is offering an astonishing hope, the transformation of all that is into something better, and still people wonder why they should have to give up the secure present for this bold future. We are getting the first hints of Messiah. We are getting a glimpse of the new and nearly impossible, stated as quite possible and close, by one who is not altogether trustworthy.
What the truth of this promise is for the voiceless is quite profound. For women who talk and talk to their husbands but don’t think they are listening, there is a promise of comfort. For men who think their bosses don’t listen to their good ideas, there is a similar promise of being raised up while the mighty are brought low. All flesh are going to experience this new time together. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. Nor will it matter that you can’t quite hear the promise. Instead, you will be transformed with all of nature.
This promise is here for all. You may not be able to completely hear it just as John was not completely able to say it. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. Your faith may be more a stretch, a leaning, a push forward than a reality. Laryngitis and deafness don’t get in the way of the transformation of God in Jesus.
We know now that John was talking about the Messiah. The people who heard these first prophecies only knew that they came from the ancient prophets. Surely they recognized the Isaiah echo as something that came from their deep past, that of their own childhood and that of their people. The echo probably allowed them to keep paying attention to this strange wilderness man. Like us, they probably did not think the Messiah would take such risks as the likes of John with the promise of the ages.
Thus the echo was very important: it gave a sense of tradition to the excitement. When faced with such excitement, we are often hushed into another kind of voicelessness. Not just that of John who cried and few heard. Indeed the coming of the Messiah confronts us with another kind of silence. It is a surprised silence. Imagine this. What words could possibly comprehend this good news. When we say we are voiceless, like John, it is not because we are not trying to speak. We are. We are trying to find words sufficient to the marvelous mystery in front of us. It is a mystery wrapped in the echo of tradition. But still it is a mystery. And we are stunned into a new kind of speechlessness. We have an “aha” experience. Words, which of course we try to form, don’t really capture it.
With John, we too become voices crying in the wilderness, preparing a way for the Lord.
One of the most frightening children’s stories is Han Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid.” Not the Disney version in which a false happy ending is manufactured, but the original story. A young mermaid chooses to give up her voice to a witch who promises to grant her wish to become human so she can be with the man she thinks she loves, though she has never spoken with him. She discovers quickly that without her voice, she cannot communicate her love adequately nor explain her situation. Her beloved chooses another to marry, and she is doomed to an ethereal existence without a soul. How many people in this world are coerced into giving up their voices only to discover they lose what they had hoped to gain?
The theme of speaking on behalf of the voiceless is delightfully played out in the summer-hit comedy Legally Blond 2. Reese Witherspoon plays Ellie, the seemingly ditsy blond whose superficial manner and over-interest in clothes and good grooming masks her keen intelligence. While planning her wedding, she discovers that the mother of her pet dog has fallen into the hands of the lab of a large cosmetic firm. The technicians in the lab experiment upon the animals with potential new products to see if the cosmetics have any harmful effects. Horrified that the mother of her little canine companion is about to be subjected to such torture, Ellie tries to get the creature released, but fails. She decides to mount a public campaign to get Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the use of animals for such experiments, even though this costs her her job at the prestigious law firm she has just joined. (Did we mention that Ellie just graduated from Harvard Law School, the subject of the first Legally Blond movie?) When she goes to Washington to mount her campaign, she tells the members of Congress that she is speaking on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. She finds that Washington is much like the desert in which John the Baptist first preached, but she persists in her campaign, even as he did. We are glad to report that, unlike John, she kept her head.
Erin Brockovich, in the film of the same name, is a “voice crying in the wilderness” at first. Like John the Baptist, she dresses bizarrely—not in animal skins, but in revealing miniskirts and tight blouses. Thus, unlike him, she is anything but ascetic. But when she goes to work for a lawyer and discovers that a huge utility company is trying to cover up its responsibility for the death and illness of a large number of blue-collar people, she becomes just as much a passionate proclaimer of justice and compassion. Because of her clothing choice no one takes her seriously at first, especially her boss and fellow office employees. They figure she is best suited for filing briefs and papers. However, Erin discovers that she has the gifts of a good investigator. Add that to her native compassion, enhanced by her being a mother, and we have a modern prophet whose voice in the wilderness demands to be heard. When she brings in the results of her painstaking research of the utility company and the chemical analysis of the effulgents from its plant, as well as the desperate medical situations of the people living next to the plant, Erin’s boss agrees to pursue a class action suit against the industrial giant.
Our voices may play an increasingly larger role in our lives in the years ahead. A report on the BBC earlier this year suggested that in the near future people will use their voices to log-on to their computers, rather than using typed passwords. Similarly they believe that instead of inserting keys into locks at their homes, people will be able to unlock their doors by voice command. Nuance is one of the world’s leading companies in the manufacture of voice recognition systems. The identification system has become so sophisticated that it is able to recognize your voice even if you change languages in the middle of a sentence. One of the current challenges, however, is how to recognize your voice when you’re suffering from a cold or some kind of hoarseness. But researchers expect that obstacle will soon be solved. In the years ahead, a person’s voice could very well replace the other forms of identification that have become so common over the years, such as one’s social security number, PIN number, mother’s maiden name, and birth date.
John’s desire is that all people will hear his voice, understand, and take action. A mental health hospital in Portland, Oregon, was concerned that it was not able to understand and take action on behalf of some of the patients who came for treatment. In particular, the facility was concerned about being able to properly communicate with people who spoke languages other than English. As a result, during the past year they assembled a list of translators they could contact when they found that communication was not possible in English. Among the languages they sought a translator for was Klingon, the language spoken by that race of aliens on Star Trek. Although the language was simply manufactured by the writers of that show, the hospital reports that each year they deal with at least several patients who refuse to talk in any language but Klingon.
An old Jewish tale tells of a fellow who entered a village in the dead of winter and found an old man shivering in the cold sitting outside of the synagogue. The fellow asked the old man, “What are you doing here?” He replied, “I’m waiting for the Messiah.” The traveler said, “That must be an important job. The town must pay you a lot of money to do that.” “No,” the elderly gentleman answered, “They just have me sit here on this bench, and once in a while someone brings me something to eat.” The traveler said, “That must be difficult. But if they don’t pay you, I assume they must highly honor you for the work you perform.” “No,” the old man said, “Not at all. In fact, many people here in town think I’m crazy for what I do.” The traveler said, “Then I don’t understand. If they don’t pay you, and if they don’t respect you for what you do, why do you sit out here in the cold, shivering and hungry? What kind of job is this?” The old man responded, “At least it’s steady work!”
Maybe it was somewhat of a political gimmick, but former Cleveland mayor and current presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has floated the idea of adding another cabinet post—a Secretary of Peace. He introduced the idea while speaking to a gathering of students at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut this past summer. Although political analysts in the media did not rally in support of the idea, the prospect of a Department of Peace is a potentially intriguing idea from a Christian perspective. As John the Baptist summons us to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming, what better way would there be to prepare than to focus our efforts on the establishment of peace?
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, certainly used his voice to call out to people on God’s behalf. Historians estimate that during the 52 years of his ministry, Wesley preached approximately 54,450 sermons. On an average day he preached two times, and very often he would preach four or five times in one day.
The first verses of chapter 3, detailing who all the government authorities were at the time, are often ignored by readers of the Bible and preachers alike. But the inclusion of that background information is probably meant to contrast the kind of world that those officials stood for and the kind of world that God intended. Hermann Goering, Hitler’s Reichsmarshall and head of the Luftwaffe, made the following observation about the sway that government leaders have over their people: “Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” Goering made those comments while he sat in his cell as the Nuremberg trials took place. Amid the militarized culture of his day, John the Baptist sought to offer the people an alternate vision for the future—the future that God intends.
Guyana is concerned about a decrease in tourism. Government officials are worried that bad manners may be the source of the problem. Therefore, this past summer, Guyana launched an anti-rudeness campaign. The six-month effort was designed to promote courteous behavior especially among those citizens who have the most direct contact with tourists, people like police officers, airline clerks, and hotel workers. Apparently bad behavior has become widespread in the former British colony. Fans in the stands at soccer games regularly get into fist fights, and they protest rulings on the field by running out and confronting the officials. At beauty pageants and fashion shows, spectators often respond to judges’ decisions by shouting profanity and booing. A team of 25 people from the University of Guyana will serve as the “manners police,” counseling workers on how to hold their tempers and act graciously toward guests. The program is a response to the fact that tourism fell 30% from 2001 to the following year. Like John the Baptist, the people of Guyana recognize that proper preparation is necessary in anticipation of an important arrival.
How much warning is it necessary to give people? A man was hit by lightning at a Cincinnati amusement park a couple years ago. Afterwards he filed suit against the company that operates the park for not adequately warning him about the danger of lightning. In particular, he is trying to hold the park responsible for not telling him not to go to his car in the middle of a severe storm, where he was struck.
The White House has made it more difficult to have your voice heard. Earlier this year government officials effectively brought an end to the simple e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. In the past, that was the rather simple and direct way that citizens were able to communicate their thoughts to the chief executive. Now people have to send their opinions via the White House’s web site, which requires navigating through as many as nine different pages in order to send their message. Government spokespeople said the change was made to more efficiently manage the communications that the White House receives. Experts in web page design, however, suggest that the true motivation behind the change was to make it more difficult for people to send e-mails to the White House, thus leading more people to give up in frustration and keep their thoughts to themselves.
In contrast to the powerful leaders named in the opening verses of the chapter, John stands before the public with no official claim to authority. Yet John’s subversive message in the end is shown to be far more powerful than all those leaders combined.
When Ceausescu ruled with totalitarian power in Romania, he would often assemble huge crowds in a stadium and parade his military might before the people as a way of awing them. One day, though, as Ceausescu’s troops strutted their way into the stadium, the Romanian peasants began to laugh. They laughed out loud at the soldiers and at the dictator who commanded them. Many believe that it was that act of public laughter that effectively brought Ceausescu’s reign to an end. The people came to realize that there was an alternative to his rule.
If you have ever been to London and have been on the subway, you know there are signs posted throughout the stations that state: “Mind the Gap.” The warning is meant to alert passengers to the fact that there is a several inch gap between the station platform and the subway car floor. Many tourists even purchase t-shirts with that warning emblazoned on it. In essence, John the Baptist was urging the people of his day to mind the gap, the gap between the way the world is and the way that God intends for it to be.
Certainly one of the ways to prepare the world for the coming of the Savior would be to establish peace in the land. Leaders of many churches, including the pope and six Orthodox patriarchs, have issued a plea for a truce during the 2004 Olympic games, which will be held in Athens. The religious leaders are asking that combatants throughout the world set down their arms during the four-week period of the games, scheduled to take place this coming summer.
John warns the people to prepare themselves for what is to come. In this world that we live in today, though, it’s not necessarily easy to know how to do that. New York City recently issued a booklet telling citizens how to be prepared in the event of a future disaster. But the advice that the booklet offered reveals how it’s virtually impossible to know how to get ready for what might come. One section of the guide suggests: “If you are in a building collapse or explosion, get out as quickly and calmly as possibly. If you can’t get out of the building, get under a sturdy table or desk.” Are New Yorkers really supposed to believe that having a sturdy oak desk is going to make them prepared for a skyscraper to crash down all around them? But perhaps the most amusing bit of advice the booklet offers is the instruction for people to include plastic bags in their survival kits, so that they’ll be able to clean up after their pets during the disaster.
John’s desire is that all people would hear and understand his message. A new version of the Bible was recently issued to help Australians to better comprehend God’s Word. The Bible is written using Australian phrases. The wise men become translated as “three eggheads from out east.” When they find Herod, they say, “We saw his star out east, and we’ve come to say ‘G’day Your Majesty.’” In the parable about those who build their houses on sand, the version has Jesus calling those people “boofheads,” an Australian version of the English slang “bufflehead,” meaning someone who is confused. The hope is that the translation will better enable the average person to understand the gist of the biblical message.
“It is true that the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder; but before reaching the heart it is as weak as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation.” (Ignatius of Loyola)
“The voice of God is a friendly voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it.” (A. W. Tozer)
“The voice of the subconscious argues with you, tries to convince you; but the inner voice of God does not argue, does not try to convince you. It just speaks and it is self-authenticating.” (E. Stanley Jones)
“The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ.” (William Barclay)
“He who loves the coming of the Lord is not he who affirms it is far off, nor is it he who says it is near. It is he who, whether it be far or near, awaits it with sincere faith, steadfast hope, and fervent love.” (Augustine)
“We are not a post-war generation; but a pre-peace generation. Jesus is coming.” (Corrie ten Boom)
“The primitive church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death or about heaven. The early Christians were looking not for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory. They were watching not for the undertaker but for the uppertaker.” (Alexander Maclaren)
What are we more likely to pay attention to this holiday season: our presents, or Christ’s presence?
What voices do we hear throughout our day? We may hear voices on the television, the radio, the Internet. We have our cell phones, e-mails, pagers, all of which are supposed to help us communicate better and more quickly with those around us. Sometimes our technology works against us, however, and we get out of the habit of listening for any voice except for the one that is loud and demands our attention. Jesus doesn’t page, e-mail, or fax us. We have to learn to set those things aside, and listen for the voice in the wilderness, commanding us to prepare, for someone wonderful is coming who will change our lives forever!
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: The time for silence is over! The time has come for us to lift up our voices!
People: Like John the Baptist, let us proclaim to all the world that our Lord is coming!
Leader: Open Your mouths and declare the good news to all creation!
People: Let us announce to all the people that our King is near!
Leader: The time for silence is over! The time has come for us to lift up our voices!
People: Like John the Baptist, let us proclaim to all the world that our Lord is coming!
Leader: Open Your mouths and declare the good news to all creation!
People: Let us announce to all the people that our King is near!
Gracious Lord receive our gifts and bless them. Work through them to give voice to those who have been silenced in our world and use our offerings to bring hope to an often hopeless world. In the name of our coming Lord we pray. Amen.
Almighty God, we live in a world where there are so many powers and authorities that attempt to rule over us. We find ourselves subject to mayors and magistrates, to council members and Congressmen, to police officers and political leaders. Our lives often seem burdened with the rules and regulations, the procedures and policies, the laws and the legislation that seek to control so much of our lives. Yet amid all the voices in this world that attempt to shape us, empower us to hear finally only Your voice.
Instead of allowing ourselves to be pushed into silent submission, grant us the ability to speak the truth. Enable us to shun silence, so that we might boldly give voice to the good news that this world needs to hear. For You are a God who is with us in our valleys, especially in the valley of the shadow of death. So be with us throughout this Advent season as we look forward in hope to that day when all Your promises will be fulfilled. Amen.