Homily: December 13, 2015

Advent 3, YEAR C; Rev. Phil Boelter, Vicar Today is the third Sunday in Advent,

the Sunday of the Joy Candle.

one pink or rose colored candle surrounded by three purple or blue ones.

 

This third Sunday often serves as a seventh inning stretch

between Black Friday and Christmas Eve….

A small sign of happiness, contentment, hope and rest

in the middle of a season marked by hurried preparation.

 

Especially now,

Joy is an elusive, intangible,

but often sought after feeling.

 

Anglican writer and theologian CS Lewis got it exactly right when he shared the following insight in his biography,

Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life.

 

“All Joy reminds,

he wrote.

It is never a possession,

always a desire for something longer ago

or further away or still 'about to be'.”

 

It was the same, no doubt, for the apostle Paul,

as he lay imprisoned in chains

in a dark stone chamber

in the Roman provincial town of Philippi.

 

“Rejoice,” the Apostle cries out to his friends  in our second reading

“…and again I say rejoice!”

 

Strange words from a prisoner,

so he goes on to explain himself.

 

“Don't worry,” Paul says.

“Pray about everything,” he says.

 

And the peace that passes all understanding

will be yours.

 

Could it really be that simple?

Maybe so.

But often it doesn’t feel that way.

 

We face internal doubts,

External conflicts,

depression, anger frustration cloud our judgment,

especially at this holiday season.

 

Paul reminds us elsewhere in this letter to the Philippians

that he's been through it all.

 

Riches and poverty.

Freedom and imprisonment.

Popularity and persecution.

 

He had every reason in the world to complain.

 

Yet, in all these things

Paul was able to maintain his joy.

 

How was that?

 

For Paul,

Jesus was more than just an example or an influence

Or the leader of a formal institution known as “the Church.”

 

Christ was far more for the apostle Paul.

 

Christ was a living presence,

a close friend,

a personal savior in his own life.

 

The pink candle of Paul's Joy

was lit and kept aflame

by that deeply personal relationship with Christ.

 

It's something intangible, as C S Lewis pointed out.

 

But it's also unmistakable.

 

This power source was what gave Paul

the energizer bunny like capacity to go on and on and on

through every circumstance.

 

Paul possessed through his relationship with Christ

the inner resources he needed to cope with life.

 

In fact at one point in the book of Philippians

He says

“For me to live Is Christ.”

 

It was the give and take of that personal relationship with Christ

That gave meaning to his life.

 

Unfortunately, especially these days,

certain religious groups

sometimes labeled “Evangelical”

think that they have cornered the market

on this kind of personal relationship with Christ.

 

I myself grew up in the South

Where,

If you had a doorbell,

you were likely to get confronted

with this question at least once every couple of months,

“have you received Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

 

Some of us here today

come out of religious traditions like this.

 

Some have spent a lot of time and energy

running away from,

Or arguing with people who claimed to have

Jesus as their “personal savior.”

 

Don’t get me wrong-

I’m not here to criticize these folk at all-

In fact, I embrace them….

I welcome them with that generous orthodoxy and limitless hospitality

That IS Gethsemane Church,

And is the best of the Anglican Way.

 

There are even some people around us in America

who label themselves Christians,

But practice hate.

 

I am sickened by the ongoing stream of hate and discrimination

Which we see in the mainstream media.

In the flames of burning mosques,

In the dying gasps of young shooting victims.

 

During this advent I want us to reclaim that territory.

We can plant the flag of joy in our hearts.

 

Believing in Jesus,

and knowing him to be your friend and Savior,

doesn't mean that you need

to join a certain political party,

or only fall in love with people of the opposite sex,

or hate others who are different.

 

Having that relationship with Christ means simply this:

you know Christ,

you trust Christ

and you try your best to live as Christ did,

in love and harmony.

 

Its not easy.

 

Like any good relationship,

In that living there will be give and take

Negotiation,

Sometimes conflict,

But always respect, care and hopefully

Love.

 

This relationship was the source of Paul’s strength

And his eternal joy.

 

May it be ours as well.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

SermonGethsemane Webmaster