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.
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,
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?
But often it doesn’t feel that way.
We face internal doubts,
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?
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
“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
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
But always respect, care and hopefully
This relationship was the source of Paul’s strength
And his eternal joy.
May it be ours as well.