Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sermon: Advent II (Dec. 6)

A hike after Thanksgiving...
  • Jared, Aidan, Rowan & I were with Uncle Alden (Ellen’s brother) on his 200 acres of land.
  • on one of the hills was a tree stand used by hunters – now dilapidated – below the stand was a simple cross, with a plaque on it.
  • the plaque was in memory of a son – the previous owner of the land had lost a son and since they loved to hunt together, it was a fitting memorial.
It now stands quietly in the forest, nearly forgotten, and yet it is a symbol of hope, a symbol of remembrance. On that grey afternoon, that memorial reminded me how this celebratory season between Thanksgiving & Christmas is often a time when we all remember our loved ones. Whether its remembering a parent who died, like me who remembers his father, or those who remember a spouse, or a child who his died, this time of year we remember them and our years together and all those holidays.

For many, this time of year is more dark than light and as the darkness grows this time of year, so does those moments of sadness and sorrow, of longing for those loved ones lost. And in that darkness is also mystery for in the midst of such darkness Christ is born, in such darkness lies our hope, in the dark we find light.

For we live in hope, like that cross on the mountain, we hope for the sunshine, we hope for the light, we hope to see those loved ones again. And we do at times struggle to find our way in the darkness, groping around, trying not to stumble.

For the Israelites in exile, those away from Jerusalem and their homeland, I suspect many wondered about their days ahead, they longed for the past when life was good in the land of Israel. Now they lived in strange lands with strange peoples – their days seem dark and they groped for a way forward.
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Baruch writing to the exiled Israelites ends his short book of the bible with a psalm of hope.
For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory…
Baruch’s psalm is a call to hope in the midst of their sorrows, to see that God was leading them forward into a brighter future, even when they could not see it for themselves. When the land of Israel would be theirs again to inhabit. When we are in the midst of such darkness, it is hard to find the light, to be lead by the light…

But that theme of being lead to be a better place is throughout scripture, of being led from slavery to freed, from sin to life, from death to resurrection. There are many passages of such hope. And it is Baruch and the Gospel of Luke that we heard this morning that both look to the Prophet Isaiah for such hope in darkness…
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
That is hope that all shall see the salvation of God, all will see their loved ones again, all will know that this present darkness is not all there is, there is light.

And as we sit in this season of Advent and the darkness washes over us and we sit and wait for Christ’s coming, maybe it isn’t that the light breaks upon us all at once. Maybe gradually, maybe its splintered light, God’s glory breaks through and we catch glimpses of it, and we can feel God with us and know our hope is right.

Let me end with a poem that looks at such hope in the midst of darkness, from A Slender Grace: Poems by Rod Jellema

I have to look in cracks and crevices.
Don’t tell me how God’s mercy is as wide as the ocean, as deep as the sea.
I already believe it;
but that infinite prospect gets farther away the more we mouth it.
I thank you for lamenting his absences— from marriages going mad,
from the deaths of your son and mine, from the inescapable terrors of mankind: Treblinka. Viet Nam. September Eleven.

It’s hard to celebrate his invisible Presence in the sacrament
while seeing his visible absence from the world.

This must be why mystic and poets record
the slender incursions of splintered light,
echoes, fragments, odd words and phrases
like flashes through darkened hallways.
These stabs remind me that the proud and
portly old church is really only
that cut green slip grafted into a tiny nick
that merciful God himself slit into the stem of his chosen Judah.
The thin and tenuous thread we hang by,
so astonishing, is the metaphor I need at the shoreline
of all those immeasurable oceans of love.
In such slender incursions of splintered light, Hold on to those symbols of hope, symbols of remembrance, for as the Prophets are reminding us today… we will see the glory of God. Amen.

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