December 10, 2017

2017 Dec10

 

Advent 2 - Year B

A Sermon Preached The Rev Ian M. Delinger

 

Today, we are missing two of our readings and the Psalm. Ah…but are we? Two of today’s anthems draw from the text of what would have been the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah. Our Processional Hymn and Recessional Hymn also cover the main theme expressed in Isaiah, 2 Peter and in today’s Gospel Reading.

 

The theme is obvious: Preparing for the Coming of Christ through repentance.

Being prepared for Christmas,


the Incarnation, or for the
Coming of Christ, is more than
just making sure that the
Christmas cards are written, the
good China and silver are ready
for Christmas Dinner, and
ensuring that there are more
lights on the house than anyone
else in the neighborhood. We are
to prepare ourselves spiritually
for the Coming of Christ.

 

Our Collect summarizes our spiritual practice for Advent: God sent messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: so we ask for the grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

 

Preparing for Christmas in the way in which we are called by Isaiah and John the Baptist is not easy, as you well know. Preparing for Christmas requires the characteristics we spoke about during the “Moments” workshop that Skip Parks led at my house on Wednesday: Courage, commitment, surrender, and openness. These are all qualities that are needed in order to deepen our spirituality and strengthen our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

 

There was a time when the focus of spiritual deepening or preparation focused on repentance. The reading from 2 Peter asserts that the Lord is not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. In 1C Judaism, repentance meant something very different than we think of it today. Now, we think of repentance as confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness. That is certainly an important element of spiritual growth. What John the Baptist is demanding of the people is to turn back to God. Repentance is not just turning away from sin; the more important turning is to turn back toward God.

 

The nature of sin is that which separates us from God. It’s not doing or saying or thinking bad things; it’s not simply sins of commission and omission. Sin is that which separates us from God. So, repentance is turning back toward God; like in the missing Psalm, repentance is turning our hearts to Him.

 

I have never been heavy-handed
on sin. I believe sin to be different
for each individual.

 

Of course there are bad deeds that are categorically sinful and acts which separate one from God. For example, the sexual harassment and molestation that we are hearing in the news being perpetrated by high profile individuals is inherently sinful. Furthermore, such sexual harassment and molestation is sinful whether committed by a high-profile person or your average man or woman. Abuse of power and exploitations of another’s body and dignity are always bad things. But in our daily lives, those things we do or don’t do that separate us from God really depend on your situation.  

 

If repentance were just about saying “Sorry”, our preparation for Christmas would be as easy as putting up the Christmas tree. You could line up during the last week of Advent, and I could hear your confessions, say the words of absolution, anoint you, and send you on your way. But preparation and true repentance are much more challenging, because our relationship with God is more than just nice decorations on the mantle.

 

This remainder of Advent, let us engage in the courage, commitment, surrender, and openness to God that is necessary to turn toward God and to deepen our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. To draw once more from the missing reading from 2 Peter:


while we are waiting and
preparing for The Christ at
Christmas, let us strive – with
courage, commitment,
surrender, and openness – to be
found by Him at peace.

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