The storm rages, where are you? Wave after wave crashing against us. The air is full of howling and screaming and struggle. My eyes and flesh burn with a thousand salty stings. I am blind. In the oppressive and unending darkness only the ghost of death approaches.
Your voice breaks through, “Do not be afraid.” It is you Jesus. Life not death. You are always present no matter how terrifying the circumstance, no matter how desperate the situation.
You step into our fearful and fragile boat. All is calm. A profound peace. A matchless silence. We wonder and worship, in awe at another glimpse of your glory.
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Holy Spirit, Holy One
Holy Spirit, Descending Dove
Alight on me that I may know your presence
Anoint me that I may know your call
Fill me that I may know your power
Guide me that I may know your path
Name me that I may know, that I know, that I know who I am
*********** Click Here for Be Still, Remember, an original hymn text for the renewal of baptismal vows
It was a Roman custom that the birth of a Roman emperor was announced by great poets and orators with declarations of joy, peace, and prosperity. The announcement of the birth of the Savior of of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was announced by heaven itself. First a herald angel, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Then a multitude of the heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
It is a Cross-shaped announcement. First out – great joy for all people, a Savior, the Messiah. Then up- the Lord. Then up- glory to God in the highest heaven. Then out- and on earth peace.
The angels don’t visit Mary and Joseph that night. They’ve already had their angel visits and are busy with the birth. They don’t visit the high priest, King Herod, Quirinius, or Emperor Augustus. The powerful already think they are favored.
The angels proclaim the birth of the Savior of the world to shepherds, a group who is definitely not thought of as favored. It’s one of the worst jobs of the ancient world. Shepherds are stereotyped as lazy and dishonest because they often live off land belonging to others and care for flocks belonging to others. They were known as smelly, poor, homeless, uneducated, powerless.
Folks laughed at the idea of a “good shepherd,” an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp. Yet David of Bethlehem was one long before he was king and long before he was promised his throne would never end and long before he was promised the Messiah would be his ancestor.
The babe in the manger will be one, too. Our Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will lay down his life for the sheep.
We’re the sheep. We’re the rag tag shepherds. The message is for them and for us.
“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord….Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
This Good News is for us and all people.
This Good News is to bring us great joy, lasting joy, joy beyond circumstance.
This Good News is that we we have a Savior, so we can stop trying to save ourselves and stop thinking we can’t possibly be saved.
This Good News is that we have a leader and Lord who is trust-worthy and thus worthy to be followed.
This Good News is that God gives us peace in Christ Jesus.
Wait. What? Peace?
The time of Jesus’ birth was a time of occupation and oppression, not peace. Bethlehem was overflowing with Roman military carrying out a mandated migration and registration.
Our age is not a time of peace. School shootings, mass incarceration, cyber attacks, human trafficking, misuse of power, economic insecurity and uncertainty, terrorism, war. Our world is more and more angry, corrupt, and violent. This is the age of Aleppo.
We think of peace
1. as the absence of worry- good health, financially secure, all is well with those I love.
2. as the absence of conflict, injustice, and war
Jesus, the night of the last supper, the night before he gave himself up for us said,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. —John 14.27
Sounds like the Angels’ song. Do not be afraid. You’ve been given a Son, a Savior, The Lord God in the flesh. You’ve been given peace.
Peace isn’t about absence. It’s about presence. We are given the Son, the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. God is with us.
Peace in Hebrew is Shalom. Shalom means fullness; having everything you need to be whole, to be yourself. The Angels’ song is that peace is not the absence of war. Peace is not health, wealth, all is well with those I love. Even if we somehow find it, it doesn’t last, it doesn’t save us, doesn’t make us whole.
Peace not the absence of struggle and suffering, but the presence of God who is Love. God’s presence in us brings fullness and wholeness, the literal meaning of salvation. God’s presence brings the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love, joy, and peace – the three themes of the Angels’ song. The presence of Jesus is the present of peace.
Peace I Give You by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Imagine Jesus saying this to you…
I give you the quiet peace of this present moment: without hurry, fear or need to be elsewhere, but right here, right now, as you are, at rest.
I give you the strong peace of yourself: the peace of forgiveness and my delight in who you are, with no need to prove yourself or do better.
I give you the vibrant peace of oneness with all living things, the peace of deep belonging, and reconciliation with all people
I give you the life-giving peace of my own spirit, my love, trust and courage beating in your heart, my presence in your soul.
I give you the joyous peace of trust— trust in your life and its goodness, trust in the Beloved and your belovedness
I give you the renewing peace of healing, of blessing hidden even in struggle and pain, of trust that even in suffering all shall be well.
I give not as the world gives, from the outside, but from within, by your being created, and it cannot be taken away. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Prayer from Prepare the Way by Pamela C. Hawkins
I want to be at peace, O God,
protector of the frightened,
refuge for the wandering.
I want to speak for peace, O Christ,
hope whispered to the bruised,
welcome sung to the embattled.
I want to live in peace, O Spirit,
forgiveness in my heart,
kindness in my hands;
I want to be at peace, O God
This is my Advent prayer. Amen.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.