Our Standing Announcements:
1st Sunday - Potluck Lunch following Mass
2nd Tuesday - Episcopal Church Women
3rd Monday - Vestry Meeting - 5:30 pm
Next Sunday: The Third Sunday In Advent - Rose Sunday
9:30 am Older Children’s and Adult Sunday School; Choir Practice
10:30 am Holy Eucharist & Younger Children’s Sunday School - Coffee Hour
Mon. Office closed
Wed 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist and Healing Service - supper and study to follow
Sunday: The Fourth Sunday In Advent
9:30 am Older Children’s and Adult Sunday School; Choir Practice
10:30 am Holy Eucharist & Younger Children’s Sunday School - Hanging of Greens & Coffee Hour
December 24th Christmas Eve Mass 10:30 pm
From this week's Sermon:
I always enjoy the scripture readings from the Prophets during the season of Advent. Some of the best and most inspiring words of Scripture are found here. Last week, we read from Isaiah about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. A wonderful, hopeful vision.
Today, we read from Isaiah chapter 11: The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. This is a scene that makes it into many of our Christmas cards. It is a scene of peace.
Did you see the news report this week about a a tiger is raising a group of piglets at a zoo near Bangkok. The piglets were nursing from their adopted mother who seemed perfectly content with the whole thing. The piglets actually wore little tiger-stripe costumes. It’s not something you see every day, but it’s a picture of living together in peace.
This morning we lit the second Advent candle, the candle of Joy. This is a season for thinking and reflecting on what brings Joy into our lives. And one of those things that brings Joy into my life is the message of the angels “Peace on earth, good will to all people.”
But while we may talk and sing of Joy and Peace, there is an elephant in the room. Or to be more accurate, there is a locust-eating, camel skin-wearing, fire and brimstone preaching Prophet in the room named John.
Sometimes you have to wonder about our Lectionary. We have this Old Testament reading and beside it the Gospel reading of this crazed wild-eyed prophet, calling the religious leaders a “brood of vipers.” These two scenes seem to be worlds apart. A picture of peace on the one hand and an angry guy in the wilderness pointing out sin and calling for repentance on the other. How do we reconcile these Scriptures? We are left to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off putting John somewhere else, anywhere else but on the Sunday we light the candle of Joy?
Well, there is a tension, to be sure. My first instinct was to just not deal with John today. There is plenty in Isaiah’s prophecy to occupy us fruitfully without having to wade into John’s diatribes. But after thinking about it, it struck me that such tension is where we live a lot of our lives, and perhaps considering both of these Scriptures together would be profitable.
Let’s be honest: facing tension and turmoil is as much a part of the holidays as fruitcake and the barking dog version of Jingle Bells. This is a time of Joy, a time for family and friends, a time for celebration, but it is also a difficult time and a time of competing feelings.
This is a time for joyful celebrations, but it is also a time when losses are deeply felt. For those who have lost loved ones, the Christmas Season may not be so joyful. There are those for whom this will be the first Christmas without a loved one, and it will be a very different Christmas. Joy will be rather muted. And for some, it will be all they can do just to get through Christmas.
This is a time when we send cards with sentiments like “Joy to the World,” but we make these proclamations in the midst of a very violent world. We may speak of “peace on earth” when we don’t really feel it in our hearts. We speak of Joy while we deal with anger and conflict - Peace while we live with anxiety and tension.
Some of us will join with family at Christmas. But sometimes, these family get-togethers are not exactly all Joy. Some of us will find ourselves walking on eggshells - some of us will have to bite our tongues at times - or will be left feeling a lot of stress just getting ready for such events. It seems to be part of the deal.
And of course conflict is never far away. Yesterday the Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, California - with 173 lay and clergy convention delegates voting in favor, and 22 against - removed itself from the Episcopal Church and became a Diocese in the Province of the Southern Cone. Undoubtedly this will be followed by punitive actions ecclesiastical and civil against them.
And then there are the feelings of conflict within us too: we feel joy and sadness, excitement and loss, hope and despair, seemingly all at the same time.
So maybe it is appropriate that this morning we have John on the one hand and Isaiah on the other. Isaiah holds out the Peaceable Kingdom where Joy and Peace may be found while John reminds us that maybe the problem isn’t ‘out there’ but ‘in here’ after all. Maybe, in order to get to the peaceable kingdom, we need to repent.
John was quite a sight: he ate honey and locusts, dressed in camel hair, and called people to turn their lives around. He preached out in the wilderness and people flocked to him for baptism. But when some of the religious and political leaders came to him, he let them have it. “You brood of vipers!” he said. Not exactly joyful, peaceful words. And he told them, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” Or in other words: “just saying the right words won’t cut it - show by your lives the change in your heart.”
Maybe this is actually what we do need to hear - because if true Joy and Peace is to be found, then other contrary things will have to be moved out of the way. We will have to prepare the way of the Lord because there is a mess to clean up. And since we are all a part of the mess, since we all have those things in our lives that need to be cleaned up - those ugly things that we all need to let go of - then John’s words are necessary for us to get to Isaiah’s vision. Maybe we need to do some repenting in order to help bring about God’s Peace that we may experience His Joy.
In closing, before we all start looking for a place of escape - let me remind us all that God’s Peace and Joy are not to be found in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. God’s Peace and Joy are to be found in the midst of all those things - but because of Jesus within us, we still have calm in our hearts. Conflict and turmoil are a part of life - they are both around us and within us. And yet – and yet even in the midst of the storm, God is still there for even in the darkest night, God’s light comes when we least expect it, a Child is born, bringing us the opportunity of Peace and Joy.