Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Captivity of Not Enoughs

Advent 1, 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5
O Come O Come Immanuel
Chatfield UMC
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

Advent! Can you believe it?
Between the weather and the events of this past year, it is hard to believe that we are in the last few weeks of 2016. But I really need Advent this year. I need a time to wait for the coming of the Christ. To anticipate some good news. To be reminded that Good News is on the horizon. That restoration is just over the next hill.

Because that is what Advent does for us: it reminds us that we serve and are loved by a God who is coming to restore the earth.
So many people talk about God as a god who is coming to destroy the earth. To punish us for our wickedness. To wipe out all of life. They are waiting for something called the Rapture. In a Rapture scenario all the chosen of God are removed from the earth and the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves, while people possessed by evil intentions destroy the earth.
But Advent reminds us that we are not waiting for a Rapture, scripture teaches us that we are waiting for the Reconciliation. When all of the things that are captive to sin and evil will be free and ransomed.

This time of waiting for the coming of Jesus isn’t about when Jesus will come to destroy the earth but when Jesus comes to restore and reconcile the earth.

This is the coming of Jesus that I look forward to. I look forward to it most days.
I remember once being asked when I expected Jesus to return. I said with all seriousness and with total conviction of my beliefs that I expect Jesus to walk around the corner every moment of every day.

I really do. Not in great lightening bolts of glory or even with a star shining in the sky to point the way. But in the ways we are the hands and feet of Jesus, Jesus returns. Each and every day.
I want to show you a little video clip that always warms my heart and reminds me that Jesus comes back even when the culture may not recognize Jesus as Jesus.

In the clip the question is asked, “What does he get from his acts of kindness and sacrifice?”
Will he get rich? Famous? Respected? That is what our society tells us it the goal and ultimate reward for a life well lived.
But what does he get?
In the translation from the Thai language what he gets are emotions.
Emotions. I like that. He gets feelings.
When Jesus comes, Jesus doesn’t come promising us wealth and fame.
Jesus comes promising us feelings.

Of self worth, community connections, friendships, the betterment of others.

Seeing this clip reminds me of all the work we do as a church throughout the world promoting children’s education. The employment of women. The care of the earth.
Through UMC missions, through Operation Classroom, through UMW. It is through these ministries and the ministries we do right here, right now we are proclaiming and living as if Jesus has come back already.
Just by making uniforms we are proclaiming together Jesus has come right here right now.

In the hymn text we are looking at today, the writer is longing for the coming of Immanuel to break the chains of captivity, to give us wisdom, and to remind us that we are all a part of the reconciling work of God.

O Come O Come Immanuel. And ransom captive Israel.

Did you notice in the video clip that there were bystanders looking on, watching the young man and shaking their heads? Why should he do such things? How does he think what he does will make any difference?

These cynical on lookers are captive to the idea that one little act is so foolish.
That nothing so small will make a difference. They are captive to the idea that wealth and fame are the indicators of a well lived life. They are captive to cynicism.

This is the cynicism that makes us captive, too. We have been taught that small acts of kindness are just that; small acts of kindness with no redeeming value. That we aren’t important enough to make a difference. That we have too much baggage in our lives to make a difference. That we don’t love well enough, don’t forgive deep enough, don’t have enough faith, enough joy, enough courage...enough. We simply don’t have enough. And these words put chains on our lives. We become captured.
O come O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel. O Come Jesus and free us from the captivity of our not enoughs.

Jesus, the savior for whom we wait and who we expect to come to us each day of our lives,
Jesus told us, we are the light that shines in the darkness. And we would be foolish to put that light under a barrel.
Foolish to believe that our little light will make no difference in the world.

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things, far and nigh:
To us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go.

Cause us in wisdom’s ways to go...What if that was our path for these weeks of Advent. That we would take the path of Wisdom rather than cynicism. What if we would chose to believe that Christ does come to us each and every day and we will see if through the wisdom of the little acts of goodness and kindness that we experience each day.

Was it wise for Joseph to accept the angel’s message that he should take a pregnant Mary as his wife and care for the baby she bore as his own son?
Was it wise for Mary to say to the angel, be it done to me as you will?
Was it wise for Mary and Joseph to set off to Bethlehem in the weeks before Mary was to give birth?
Was it wise, for Jesus to be born to this earth?
Was it wise for Jesus to love us, to die for us?
Was it wise for Jesus to become our Savior?

Our track record as a human race was not stellar at the time he came.
Isaiah says the signs of a wise and godly human race is that we would pound our swords and implements of war into farming tools. That our focus would be on nurturing the earth to feed the world.
But instead, we keep making weapons of mass destruction and find new ways to destroy the earth at every turn.

Yet, Jesus saw that the wise thing to do was to bring his Light into the world. Believing that any darkness that was here would not put it out. That his Light would shine into the darkest corners and reveal the grace and love of God.

And then he had the wisdom or foolishness, depending on how you look at it, to insist that anyone who followed him would also bear the same light.

So as you light your trees and your candles, add sparkles to the candies and cookies, turn on the outside lights in this season of darkness; remember that you are participating in the way of wisdom. The way of the holy family. The way of Christ.
Lighting the way out of the darkness into the advent of the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world.
One small act of Love at a time.

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