St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-09-2018

St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-09-2018

Hold On, I’m Coming!

Second Sunday in Advent: Peace

Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6

This message was not delivered to the congregation. Being unhappy with its quality, even after extensive effort to salvage it I elected, at the very last minute, to set it aside and speak off-the-cuff. The same basic message was delivered, just not from this script.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I am baffled, sometimes, by the choosing of the lectionary scripture readings. Sometimes, but not often, I can find a way to connect all three to a theme. One time in my career I can remember finding a thread that wove through not only all three readings but a connection was found in the psalm as well! But that was one time.

And today, well…

It’s a bit of a stretch but the Old Testament reading from Malachi is fine for our current Advent season I guess as it speaks of God sending his messenger to prepare the way. And it does tie nicely to the reading from Luke with the story of John the Baptist. The only trouble is that that part of Luke’s message comes well after the Nativity story, something around 30 years later in fact, as Jesus is not about to be born but about to begin his ministry.

And then, there’s the reading from Philippians where Paul is looking even further ahead to “the day of Jesus Christ”, a reference to Christ’s second coming in the day of judgment; an event even farther into the future, actually somewhere in the future beyond today.

And, just to make it all a little more complicated for this Sunday’s theme of “peace”, not only does the word peace not appear in any of the readings, but contrasting thoughts of disruption do with the words: “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?’ and “…so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless…” and “’Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”


So, how do we pull these readings, that seem so disconnected from the Advent Sunday of peace, into a message appropriate for this season?

Well, as I thought about that for quite some time I realized that I’ve been in this predicament before, many times in fact. And I realized that all of you have been also, every year of your lives. We’ve all experienced the expectation, excitement, and anticipation of the pre-Christmas season as if it was something totally new, even though we know the story of Christ from beginning to end. We know of Christ’s life and ministry, we know the world-changing message he brought to us, and we know the story of history that follows in which the world failed to be changed by that message; at least the part about peace on earth.

We might even be left to wonder if peace was really a part of the message at all. Jesus didn’t live in peaceful times, not at any part of his life and especially not at the end of his earthly life. Early Christianity didn’t know peace on earth; the first Christians were persecuted and every generation since has been either persecuted or the persecuting. And today peace on earth is no easier to find, within Christianity or without; whether we’re looking worldwide, nationally, in our communities, our homes, even (all too often) within ourselves.

This, of course, is not the failure of God and Christ; it is the failure of humanity and, more specifically, the failure of the Church of Jesus Christ.

And there is the thread that weaves through all three of today’s readings.

Malachi is delivering the message that the long awaited day of God’s coming is near. But in the context of the story the coming of God required the people to repent; to turn around; to turn from having their backs toward God to having their faces toward God. John calls for the same action; repentance, turning around, walking toward God rather than continuing the journey away from God. And Paul, again, calls for the people of the Church “…to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ [they] may be pure and blameless”; they are called to keep their face toward God.

I see now, and I hope you do too, that in each case it required something of us to bring the goodness of God, the peace of God, into the world; something more than patiently awaiting God’s arrival. It required us to turn around and move toward God.

And there is the beauty of the Advent season.


In Advent we are reminded that, not only is God coming to us in the Christ child, but also that we can come to God; not as some imagined, ethereal being in an unknown place that we can only envision in our minds, but as a touchable, visible being like ourselves living among us; one we can turn to, move toward with certainty of our direction.

It is my wish for you (and for me) that in this season you will not be found waiting for Christ to come to you, but that you will turn your attention from the cares and troubles of this world and that, with the shepherds, you will rise up, and go, “and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” and there may you find the peace you seek!

May peace be with-in you and flow from you.



Malachi 3:1-4
3:1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
3:2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap;
3:3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.
3:4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.


Philippians 1:3-11
1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you,
1:4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,
1:5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
1:6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
1:7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
1:8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
1:9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight
1:10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,
1:11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Luke 3:1-6
3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene,
3:2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
3:3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
3:4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
3:5 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;
3:6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”