Sermon 11.27.22

LAKEWOOD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

2601 54th Avenue South  St. Petersburg, FL  33712

On land originally inhabited by the Tocabaga

727-867-7961

lakewooducc.org

lakewooducc@gmail.com

Date: November 27, 2022 First Sunday of Advent

Scripture Lessons:  Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:36-44

Sermon: Seeking Christ

Pastor:  Rev. Kim P. Wells

Thanksgiving is over.  Our annual orgy of eating has ended.  And now we are geared up for the even bigger extravaganza — the Christmas season.  We are primed for more food, parties, baking, shopping, cards, concerts, and decorating.

We engage in a month of festivity and frivolity and it’s mostly fun.  Stressful — fitting everything in — but FUN!

And all of this preparation and the events and the activities — are a much needed distraction from all the bad news that seems to inundate us. 

The week before Thanksgiving there were seven mass shootings in the US with twenty-two people killed and forty-four wounded.  Is it even news any more?  The UN Climate Conference COP27 was held in Egypt.  It resulted in treating some of the symptoms of climate change but not the causes.  Presidential ambitions were announced by a former president.  We hear of the continued ravages of the war between Russia and Ukraine.  The dust is setting after the midterm elections.  There has been a Twitter storm in the news.  And a snow storm.  Lots of bad news.

For most of us, the holidays are a fabulous diversion from business as usual — all the bad news that the media and social media choose to spread.  

This time of year, we’re too busy to tune in to all the bad news.  We’re decking the halls, and roasting the chestnuts, and making holly and jolly.  Yes, we need a little Christmas.  But our faith tradition offers us SO MUCH MORE than a little Christmas.  Our faith offers us a monumental Christmas. 

This morning we listened to that glorious vision of the prophet Isaiah.  There is mountain of God; the highest mountain, the most important, the highest good for all, and all nations stream to that mountain.  Everyone, no matter the color, creed, or culture, finds their highest good in the presence of Divine Love.  It is a way that is attractive and compelling to all people.  Because everyone is wanted and welcomed, all come.  Everyone seeks the way of love, justice, and joy.  And the result is peace.  All energies go into nurturing life — life for all people and for the planet.  There is no death-dealing.  At all.  Whatsoever.  And for us, Jesus is the Christ because he lights our way on this path.  He shows us where to go.  He marks the route for us.  And he brings us back when we wander off.  He takes us to that mountain Isaiah speaks of.  He is our trail guide. 

For Christians, Christmas is about more than a Jewish baby born in first century Palestine.  It’s also about the embodiment of Divine Love, God, in human form.  It’s about the fullest human expression of Love.  It’s about the best and brightest manifestation of the image of God in a person.  Christmas is about the coming of a Messiah — one who embodies the saving power of Love. 

Jesus is the Christ because he shows us what we are capable of.  He shows us our potential.  He leads us to our highest good.  In him we see the transforming power of love at work in the world; the greatest power there is.  And he teaches us how to use that power for the good of all Creation because Divine Love can only work for the good of all Creation, all of life.  Divine Love can’t be good for this person at the expense of that person.  It can’t be good for one country and create suffering for another.  Divine Love can’t foster oppression.  We celebrate Christmas because we see Jesus as the Christ, the full expression of Divine Love, of God.  And we trust his teachings to bless the world, the whole world, and everyone and every life in it. 

As an aside, a word about the word ‘Christ.’  Theologians joke that people think it is Jesus’ last name.  Actually, it is a title, like Doctor So and So or Professor So and So, or Attorney So and So.  Jesus the Christ.  Christ Jesus.  Our tradition tells us that this denotes Jesus as an agent of the saving love of God.  He is not just a baby born in a backwater town in rural Palestine. 

So, many years ago on a trip to Mexico City, as we were walking along and an armored truck parked at a bank to transfer a shipment of cash.  There were armed guards positioned beside the delivery people on the sidewalk.  They had large rifles.  We stopped to watch this carefully choreographed maneuver.  It took at least five minutes.  We stood across the street on the edge of the sidewalk.  Others passed by on the busy sidewalk ignoring this spectacle that so captivated us. 

After the drama at the bank we walked another few blocks to the subway station.  We went to get on the train.  I reached in my front pants pocket for my wallet.  It was gone. 

Evidently, while we were watching the cash transfer at the bank, I had been part of another cash transfer:  Out of the pocket of my pants, under my shirt, and beneath my long jacket that was zipped shut.  No guns involved!  How did that happen?  While I was watching one thing, I missed something more important that was actually happening under my nose — or under my clothes. . .

So, at Christmas, we can be distracted – all the presents and parties, the movies and music, the shopping and shipping.  Yes, it can distract us from the ‘bad’ news around us.  But it can also distract us from the Good News, from the deeper meaning of Christmas – from the powerful message of love and peace breaking into the world, shattering our prejudices, our greed, our addiction to violence, our indifference to injustice, our preoccupation with our personal problems while the world falls apart around us, our ignorance about the experiences of others, our captivation with consumerism, our alienation and separation.

Christmas is about the mountain top — ALL people living together in peace.  Swords transformed into plows.  Death to life.  Harm to healing.  Christmas is about more than Jesus born in a manger.  It is about Christ, the eternal spirit of Love, present in humanity, illuminating a path of salvation for the whole world.  Don’t be distracted!  Make sure Christ is on your list this Christmas.  And don’t settle for anything less.  Amen. 

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

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