Reflection: December 16 – ADVENT 3

Published on Dec 18th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         I’m going to leave John the Baptist preaching out in the desert at the River Jordan this morning. It’s not that I don’t like John, but I want to focus on Paul’s reminder to rejoice, to be patient and to experience the deep peace of God.

         I did an Advent/Christmas service at Jubilee, Mountain Lake and Lakeview Village last week.  Of the three Scriptures that I used while lighting Advent candles, 3 were from Paul and one from Isaiah.  The 3 from Paul included the one from this morning about rejoicing, one to the Corinthian Church about love, and one to the Roman Church about all creation being in birth pangs for the new creation God has promised.  And the one passage from Isaiah was the Peaceable KinDom passage in which prey and predator are together and a little child leads us all.

         Paul gives such good advice in this passage to the Philippian Church.  Rejoice!  Paul says it again, Rejoice!  Paul highlights a forbearing spirit.  Using a thesaurus for forbearance, we get patience, self-control, restraint, moderation—you get the picture.  Push away anxiety, Paul admonishes—perhaps easier said than done—but a goal nonetheless. And instead of living with frustration or impatience, we can, through quiet prayer, meditation, through voicing our needs in prayer, give thanks for all that we experience.  And then that deep peace, which passes beyond our understanding, will be ours and will keep us rooted in Christ Jesus!  Beautiful words.  A beautiful  challenge.  And so very possible!

         Words that are being lived out as we speak with Selam and her family coming to Canada.  The whole process of family reunification between Selam and her children has been a real expression of Advent.  We often speak about working through systems as a process of “hurry up and wait.”  The process with trying to get Selam’s children here from Ethiopia has been “wait and then hurry-up.”

We waited while we submitted the application for reunification and then we waited.  To make a long story short, we submitted our application 3 years ago and waited only to be told that the application was incomplete some 6 months later.  Then we had to hurry up only to wait again.  The application was approved in October, 4 months after that.  We hurried up again in preparation and then we waited, and waited, and waited; paper-work was lost, addresses incomplete, no communication, bureaucratic mix-ups until finally, last week, we had a flight itinerary and an eta.  I announced it in church.  And then the Ethiopian government had a glitch and after packing out to the airport, the children were told they had no exit visa; the printer was down.  More waiting. Before Christmas?  After Christams.  They are, as we speak, in the air somewhere over Manitoba, I would guess or the Nunavut, and they are due to land at noon!  I’m heading down after church to help drive them to their new home.

What a time of prolonged Advent it has been.  Advent is about people on the move. We have Mary and Joseph travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem: pregnant, bandits on the road, people traveling to be registered, Roman soldiers, up and down mountain passes, a donkey, and then no place to stay in Bethlehem—not a romantic picture, which is often the depiction.  Wait and then hurry up, that’s what it’s about.  But like Jake and Elmo said in the movie The Blues Brothers, Mary and Joseph were on a mission from God.

I’ve been impressed by Selam’s children’s patience in waiting while on their protracted journey to be reunited with their mother… a journey of love.  They have waited graciously, and they, too, have been on a mission from God.

Did Mary and Joseph on their trek wait graciously both to arrive and to give birth?  And what about Paul?  He wrote from prison… a letter about rejoicing and patience, forbearance and hope, of all things.  He wrote about peace passing all understanding.  And maybe that’s the key for us.  What we think of as God’s peace is far too mild.  God’s peace goes beyond what we can imagine or think about. Isaiah thought so with his peaceable KinDom prophecy.  Goats and lions, leopards, fatlings and cattle, and a child and an asp?  That’s way beyond what we could imagine as possible!

This vision takes us into the realm of a new creation, into something radically different, into an entirely new Eden. But, it does shock us into thinking about what peace could mean; maybe we’ll think, “well, if we can’t make God’s vision happen, what can we do to at least make the prophecy to turn implements of war into implements of agriculture happen? How can we take even baby steps to find peace?

Gratitude and rejoicing go a long way down that road to peace.  We do a lot of other waiting in our culture from waiting for surgery to waiting for someone to answer the phone to waiting for families to be together to all kinds of waiting scenarios.  Paul’s counsel to us is important: wait with patience; wait with calmness.  Wait with the Spirit to intercede with us when we don’t know what to do with sighs too deep for words.  We can choose to wait differently than being frustrated and impatient.  And then gratitude and joy can take us deeply into the reality of living—they take us deep into our heart.

Joy isn’t at all the same as happiness.  Joy is that disposition of courage and undefeatability; we are not defeated by life’s challenges… we are defined by them perhaps and we discover the deep resources to endure, to thrive even.  We find courage to live from our heart, and in that courage discover the peace to go on: to make hard decisions; to change our behavior; to put our lives on the line for others; to give something up in our lives for the health of the planet.  That’s the peace that goes beyond our understanding!

That’s joy.  And that is our calling in the Advent journey of our lives.  We each carry the Christ child in a very real way, and in that, we are opened up, our hearts renewed, and we find peace.  Amen.

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