Christmas came into my mother’s dull room in a New York City nursing home last week. It is my prayer that the newborn Christ comes just as surely, and with that same heavenly light and joy that shines, that always shines, in darkness, wherever and whenever that darkness exists.
ECS is already making a meaningful and positive impact across the diocese through its education and advocacy work and through the grants it is making to address vital human needs in this part of God’s dominion. The convergence of ECS Sunday with the Second Sunday of Advent is appropriate and powerful.
Gracious and generous God, giver of all we have and hold as stewards; grant the people of this church a deep and abiding awareness that all that we have-our health, our incomes, our jobs, our talents – are gifts received from your hand. Send your Holy Spirit to help us as we swim against the rising tides of materialism and greed in our culture. Send your Holy Spirit to teach us that we make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give! Send your Holy Spirit to remind us that when we give generously and joyfully, we grow in grace and our spiritual lives are transformed as our stewardship becomes a witness to the love of Jesus Christ in our lives. We pray with grateful, thankful hearts, in the name of Jesus, the Christ…AMEN!
How often we create obstacles for one another. How often we create obstacles to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Checking in on our own behaviors is important. Today’s reading from the Letter of James offers some guidance here—“confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). It points us to humility with one another. Too often, today, humility seems in short supply.
When we welcome and serve the marginalized: children, the oppressed, welcome and serve those without power—we might think of Afghan refugees or immigrants at our borders, for example—when we welcome those who are broken through abuse and addiction, when we welcome and serve those who know they need Christ and his love or welcome and serve those who haven’t discovered that need yet….When we welcome all in his name and love we are welcoming Christ himself. When we welcome Christ, we are welcoming God.
Some asked on that day twenty years ago, and some continue to ask, “Where was God?” My response is always, right there; right there in the selfless sacrifice of all those people who did not think of their own safety, but acted for the sake of others at great risk, and in far too many instances, at the highest cost. Greater love hath no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, Scripture says (John 15:13). On September 11, 2001, that greater love was shown over and over and over again and that’s where God was. That’s where God always is. That is my conviction. That is our conviction as believers in Jesus Christ.
I love this story. It’s one of my favorites in the New Testament. It invites rich reflection. To begin with, I think it portrays an “aha” moment for Jesus, a moment when he grew in wisdom and understanding. This makes some people uncomfortable. But consider.
As Episcopalians, it’s our teaching and conviction that Jesus is both “fully human” and “fully divine.” There are times in our reading of the Gospels when the full “divinity” of Jesus is on clear display, as when he casts out the legion of demons from that suffering Gerasene man (Mk. 5:1 ff.), or when he feeds 5,000 (Mk 6:30 ff.), or when he walks on water (Mk 6:45 ff.). So, too, there are times when we catch clear glimpses of Jesus being fully human. Consider his aching cry in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mk. 14:36).
We’re human – fractured, fallen, sinful, finite human beings in need of God’s redemption and God’s love, which, thankfully, God offers us, abundantly, all the time. It’s this that allows us to stand on our feet, invites us to keep at it. Practice what you preach.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have something worth preaching and practicing. We are a people called to offer some good to the world and society in which we live. We have what James refers to in our appointed reading for today as “the perfect law of liberty” (1:25).
Each and every day, faced by myriads and myriads of choices, we have to decide: Will we be lured by false choices and false gods? Or have we found our answer, and in this answer found our happiness and our souls? Have we found the one, Jesus, whose words and way offer us happiness, offer us oneness with one another and with God, offer us eternal life?
We are called to witness to the power of love in a world that is too often inclined to hate. We are called to witness to peace in a world that prefers violence and warfare. We are called to a respect for the creation as a gift of God entrusted to us and our care in a world that is hellbent on the world’s destruction. We are called to be a people of faith, forgiveness and grace in a world whose primary mood and mode is often fear, judgement and anger.