St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-24-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-24-2018

Christmas Eve

Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy; This is Where it ALL Comes Together!

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

For our physical human life to exist there are 4 essential elements required; Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. With these four we have everything needed to sustain our bodies from birth to death; without any one, there is no life at all.

At the Advent Wreath: Similarly, there are 4 essential elements for our spiritual life; Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy! Every Sunday through Advent we’ve been building on these concepts; lighting one of the four candles each week. But have we paused to consider just how essential they are, or to think if our spiritual life could exist without any one?

Hope: In the common usage of the word “hope” today, we could equate it to wishful thinking, or the desiring for something to be or to take place; we could relate it to anticipation or expectation. But is that all God offers us in the hope delivered through Christ?

In terms of faith, hope is better understood if equated to “trust”; bringing up thoughts of confidence, reliance, and dependence.

Having the hope found in God is not about wishful thinking; it’s about trusting; trusting that, no matter what’s going on in our lives, we can have confidence in God; that we can rely on God, depend on God to walk with us, defend us, and lift us up if we fall!

Peace: We commonly think of peace as the absence of war and conflict. Even when considering personal peace, like peace-of-mind, we’re still contrasting it to inner conflict, turmoil, and chaos.

To some extent this is true within our faith; there are many references in the Old Testament where peace is used to indicate the absence of conflict. But if we look at the life of Christ we see a lot of chaos and conflict. In Matthew’s Gospel, that we’re using tonight, we hear of Herod’s desire and effort to kill Christ shortly after his birth. And in all the Gospels we see the conflict between Christ and the various authorities of his day. And, of course, the ending of his earthly life was by no means indicative of peace.

In our faith, however, we have two important concepts of the meaning of peace. One, as I’m sure most of you know is the security to be found, not in the absence of external conflict, but in spite of such conflict. And the other is the sense of wholeness; completeness; that comes with living in a right relationship with God and neighbor.

Having peace in God, then, fosters thoughts of the absence of conflict as well as feeling that everything is right in the world.

Love: Now there’s a word that really gets messed up in our modern English Language. First, we have only one word for love whereas the original languages in the bible had several indicating different kinds of love: the romantic / erotic, brotherly love, family love, and self love are the most common.

And, beyond the translation issues, there’s our misuse, or overuse, of the word in our modern time. Do you really “love” chocolate cake?

And we really mess things up when we think of love as a noun only; a feeling that we have for someone or some thing. But love is also a verb; an action; something we do.

In our faith the two, noun and verb, are inseparable; love is a feeling that requires action. “In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode”. (Exodus 15:13) “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” (Psalm 40:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (John 3:16)

Joy: Now “joy” is fairly plain and simple even in our language; except that it is underused. Within matters of faith we have a tendency to suppress our thoughts and feelings of joy (as I mentioned in my message Sunday). And, in some denominations, there is a tendency to use faith in a way that takes joy out of life. But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of joy is how it is sensed by the divine.

We readily take in the stories and verses that speak of our joy in life with God; “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy…” (Luke2:10); “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:14) But we too seldom consider God’s joy in us. I have a coffee mug, my favorite mug, that has the words “God danced the day you were born” written on it! Those words, that thought, so warmed my soul at a time when I so needed to be warmed! It’s not a bible quote but it has bible backing. “I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people…”. (Isaiah 65:19a) “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…”. (Luke 15:7) “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete”. (John 15:11)

Always remember that God finds joy with you just as you find joy with God!

Back to the wreath: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy; the essential elements of our spiritual life! And at the center; The Christ! It is Christ that brings all this to us; it is in Christ that these all come together; it is Christ who brings the essentials, causes us to grow in spiritual health, and keeps us always in full supply. It is in Christ that we find our confidence and our contentment! It is in Christ that we know our love of God; God’s love of us; and how to love one another! It is in Christ that we find joy and our knowledge that God finds joy in us! It is in Christ that hope, peace, love, and joy come to us and go out from us!

May these essentials be yours always!

 

Prayer: O wonderful God, words fail us in this beautiful night as we try to offer you thanks and praise for the greatest gift ever given; your son, our savior, whose birth we celebrate tonight! May the smiles on our faces, the warmth in our hearts and the tears in our eyes convey what our minds and our tongues cannot express! Amen