A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin
December 17, 2017
Lections: Isaiah 61:1-4; 8-end; Psalm 126:3; John 1:6-8
“God of all Being, Speak to us once more
your Word of truth, that our lives may be filled with your joy,
this day, and forever. Amen.”
The gospel reading this week continues Advent’s focus on the relationship between Jesus and his cousin, John the Baptist; last week, our readings described John’s preparation for the world to receive the gift and gift-giver who was the promised Deliverer of humanity from its bondage to wrong-doing. This week the emphasis is on the character of the Deliverer, that is, Light, and the special requirements necessary to receive the gift of Light in the World. As the turn of repentance gives our lives new meaning, we move from the desert and its harsh solitude to the towns where we make our home with others. We are like the watercourses in Israel’s Negev, its Desert of the south; our steps forge new relationship with others. We come to embody Love, moved by the same Spirit revealed in the appearance of the Trinity at the Baptism of Jesus.
The light that breaks through the windows of our return home is the same light that breaks into the world in the relationship between the Begotten and the Unbegotten. As we catch sight of its splintering brightness, we “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks and sing” (UMH 160). We come home, and we heal. Our schooling in the realms of bondage to darkness and death has come to its finish, and in the new depth of feeling we discover joy that swells the womb of our being; we express Joy with new delight, and as Isaiah had, we giddily proclaim, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God” (Isaiah 61:10, NRSV).
This is the first half of what we celebrate today: the healing, or newness, of what we watch and wait for to complete our persons. The second half, however, is the claim this healing has on us: we arrive home; then each day, we go out from home. We go back into the realm of darkness, praying for “courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice, and to suffer for the cause of right.” Love keeps its promises, and each of us is called, daily, to fulfill these promises.
We recall the lyrics to the song we sing – the plea we make – this season. “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” and in a later stanza, we sing this also:
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thy justice here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
The hymnist says, “Cheer our spirits by thy justice here, for our faithfulness is of such great good cheer that we delight in justice here and now, and we guard justice, as we once we guarded water in the wilderness. Jesus did not teach us to “hide all the Truth,” as the country singer John Conlee hid, with his rose-colored glasses. Hope and belief are places where heaven meets earth, the meeting place where light shines in the darkness and our voices join with the Psalmist, who exclaims:
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are overjoyed. … Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts” (Psalm 126:3, 5 CEB).
God has given each of us a vocation, to safeguard the Gospel, which we receive along with all the other Divine gifts: we are to be witnesses and ministers and stewards of the light that has come into the World. When we arrive home and when we leave home, we have a vocation to watch and wait, and following the example of John the Baptist, to prepare the way for Truth by speaking Truth. “Joy to the World” is an ode to truth and grace and righteousness, without which we would have no wonder and nothing to celebrate.
In the past 2,000 years, much of the World’s landscape has changed; towns have become cities, and people have sprawled in all directions. Still, the Spirit leads us to the desert – and keeps us there awhile – before we are led home. Light guides us on the path that we – with God’s willing help – prepared.
And all the people said, Amen.