Ready, Set, ... Ready Sermon
Isaiah 40:1-5 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
THEN the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
“Ready,… Set,… Ready?” Sermon for 11-17-19 at Harbor Church
Preparation: Getting Ready for the Holidays
Are we ready? Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Advent isn’t not far behind it! A season of special activities. A period of expectation and preparation; of getting ready for a busy time of year, for anticipating the celebration of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. How do you feel about this time of year? Excited? Nervous? Blue? Indifferent? In the past I’ve personally often struggled and had a difficult time from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Separation from children and other loved ones, as well as the commercialization have contributed to this. But this year I’m actually excited and looking forward to the holidays and all the great potential they hold. Regardless of what this holiday time mean for each one of us, it’s an important period in the annual ebb and flow of our lives. So I’d like to think out loud with you for a few moments about how we can prepare for the holidays before they get here…
Holidays generally require a fair amount of Planning. Think about some of the things we do to get ready.
- Shopping for gifts. A new Christmas tree. Presents for family and friends. (shopping already all done? No Way!! )
- Calendar Planning. Where will I spend the holidays and who will I spend them with? What parties will I go to? What special events will I attend? (comedian Jim Gaffigan-“thanks but not thanks”)
- Menus for special meals. Am I hosting? Who’s coming? What will I cook?
Or We can approach this season uninspired. Just like ‘another day, another dollar’ workday grind. Ho-hum, ba-humbug (like a Scrooge or a Grinch). Another year is ending, another beginning- so what. The sad result of this mindset is that we may very well miss an opportunity to experience something new, wonderful and novel in the old and familiar rituals and occasions. So let’s begin by asking God to do something fresh and good in our lives before this year ends. Lets expect Him to shower us with unexpected blessings, and/OR lets look for ways to be a blessing to those around us, individually and as a church.
If we are prepared to take this bold step of faith, then we have to…, well…, prepare!
Clearing a Space. Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” (chain saw with a dull blade, know just what he’s talking about)
In our readings John the Baptist says ‘ prepare the way’. He is quoting the prophet Isaiah who said: make a clearing, create a level space. Stone Walls & Farmlands. When I look around the island at all the beautiful stone walls, which are such an integraal part of our landscape, I think about how they got there; I’m reminded of the farmers who cleared the land rock by rock. Of all the work that was done before the first seeds were sown, and long before the first fruits were harvested. This is the same type of effort we can exert to prepare for a meaningful holiday experience. And We will largely get out of it what we put into it. Isaiah ALSO said that after the rough ways are made smooth, after we have cleared room in our lives for God, then the glory of the Lord will be revealed to us. What we do to get ready before the holidays arrive will determine the richness of our experience. So what can we do to prepare? Let’s start thinking now about what we might want to be a part of:
The Community Christmas Tree build. (describe the process- the effort and the frustration). The efforts of just a few result in the celebration by many. We can bring gladness of heart to others through our initiatives.
Holiday Clouds and Storms. But its not all bright lights and tinsel for some of us; not all festivities and celebration; the holidays can be extremely challenging for many. They may be approaching this time of year with trepidation because a child or a spouse or a parent won’t be around to share it with them. Or some other loss or difficulty looms on the horizon, like storm clouds gathering before the deluge.
But you know “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” (Howard Ruff)
A humorous illustration from the movie, Evan Almighty,- a modern day allegory for this story- everyone thought that he was absolutely nuts, crazy. But he kept on doggedly building a boat, with determination and resolve, so that when the dam in town failed, all the people where kept safe from the flood waters because of what he did. His preparation provided for others.
Quote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. Its about learning to dance in the rain.” Friends, we can teach others this dance, even when they can’t hear the music.
Blue Christmas. Look to those around you who are struggling? What can you do in advance to support them and help them through? Harbor Church will schedule another Blue Christmas service this year, to minister to these people. But it won’t just happen spontaneously, music, and reading and prayers will be planned in advance to make this a meaningful and worthwhile experience for all who attend.
The Christmas Pageant. He is another opportunity to be a blessing to our community. It’s heartwarming to see friends from the island at this celebration who aren’t usually inside Harbor Church’s sanctuary at other times of the year. This takes many hands to prepare for as well. The sanctuary will be decorated, rehearsals will be held, and invitations will go out to the everyone in town. What part might you have in all of this?
I’m reminded of the saying: ‘Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, your probably right.” We will personally reap what we sow through our preparation for and participation in the holiday season. Perhaps Even more important, those around us can have their lives enriched in meaningful ways through what we to as a church to be a blessing to them at this special time of year.
So Ready, set go? Nope, not yet. It’s more like, “Ready, Set, … Ready?” Are we ready for the abundance this coming season can bring? Are we preparing for it, individually and as a church, to make it as rewarding and memorable a holiday observance as we possibly can? This is my prayer for us in the days ahead, amen.