Sunday, December 27, 2015


The Life and Light in Jesus
The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
Christmass I +C +  2015                    

27, December

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147
Galatians 3:23-25
John 1:1-18


 After the High Mass of Christmass Eve, this day seems anti-climatic in some ways.  The Tradition calls it Low Sunday.  But there are no low Sundays with Jesus. This is also the Third day of Christmass, but sorry, no French hens here in the pulpit.   From the star, the heavenly hosts and the babe in the manger, John takes us back to the "beginning". Where have we heard that before?  We heard it in the first words of our Bibles:  "in the beginning God…". In the birth of this infant in an almost unknown town, to an unknown Jewish virgin, comes a wonder spoken of in the hymn: the hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.     

 I want to suggest to you that our faith, the faith of God in Christ, is not some random fatalistic accident, but is God's story..or as the secular historians accidentally call it: "His-story". It is the story of God's unending love for a rebellious creation.   Why? The story is to all world religions, too good to be true. But they don't know the Name, the Name above all names: Jesus.  Of whom the Hymn writer in "Crown him with many Crowns"  wrote: "Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above, Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love."

"The wondrous Name of Love" Love: the first of all basic human needs.  "God so loved the world."  Even the Jews were questioning of God's Love.  The Moslems do not seem to know quite how to ascribe "love" to God.  To teach us all, like Hallmark, God cared enough to send the very best, "Jesus".  A heinous blasphemy this is to some.  The gospel proclaims that God so loved us that in Jesus, he became one of us!  The Jews proclaim that Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."  Islam declares, "God has no son".  Christianity with unbridled joy declares: "God so loved that he sent his one and only Son."

What is it about love?  There are innumerable songs, poems, movies and plays written about it.  In the throes of love's passion we behave ever more and more strangely, and still we pursue it.  God pursued it in Jesus.  We are indeed made in God's character, God's image, God's likeness. The likeness of perfect love.  With no disrespect to Frosty, Rudolph, the Christmas elves from the North Pole, or innumerable Christmas trees, Christmas is the feast of God's Love for you and me. 

In the Collect for this first Sunday after Christmas we pray: Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, en-kindled in  our hearts, may shine forth in our lives." Christmas is about the transformation of the human heart....

Christmas is about light coming out of darkness.  It is about God entering into the dark places of this creation and revealing himself as well as revealing the darkness for what it is a fearful facade.

Todays gospel is very different from the story enacted by our children here on Christmass Eve.  It is not so much a story about what God has done in Jesus Christ, but rather who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ. The beginning of the gospel uses the word Logos translated Word.   But this Word is the Eternal Word.  It is Gods rationality and purpose in God=s creative intention.  Let me be as serious as a heart attack.  God loves you, just as you are and not as you ever could or should be.  Those are words you can bank on…forever.  

This second reiteration of those profound moving words of Genesis chapter one and verse one.  In the beginning, or perhaps as in the renewed Testament, is this, in the renewed beginning was the Word. A In the beginning@ John writes, was the Word.  Notice that John is making a bold declaration that the person about whom he is writing existed before time, creation and this world. We are taken out of our own very human experience somewhat as in the Star Wars trilogy and the scene opens with the words: Along ago in a galaxy, far, far away....@ But note this, it is speaking of the One who would become Jesus, for the gospel is exactly about the person of Jesus who united earth to heaven and heaven to earth as the Christmas blessing states..

Jesus was the liberator.  Darkness represents ignorance.  Those who are without knowledge are in a bondage all of their own.  They cannot see. Indeed, rulers over the centuries have known that to keep a people under control, it is a great tool to keep them illiterate! But God, the Word, became flesh, humanBGod enfleshed.  The Athanasian Creed notes: AOne, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;@ and as we say in the Nicene Creed each week: A
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,  the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,  begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He informed us about who God isBhow God thinksBhow God reasonsBGod=s plan for the human race.  God did not lower himself to us, he raised us to Himself.   Where John says that God the Word lived among us, the actual words mean God the Word tabernacled among us.    A tabernacle is a movable place of worship. And indeed in God the Word, Jesus Christ, he tabernacles among us still.   But there are a couple of darker points in these readingsBthey say: A The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.@
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, mystic and writer said this: A"Into this world, this demented  inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world." Yet it is only our invitation that Christ comes to dwell in our hearts.  So the God of grace, power and glory comes gently to disarm us.  Herod thought to prevent his growing to be a man thinking that Jesus would conquer him with arms and might.  But even as a man, Jesus never raised a hand to strike a soul.  His weapon is love.  His instrument, the body we gave him through the blessed Virgin Mary.
 Before, the people of God obeyed the Law that they might feel good about themselves and avoid God=s wrath, but they misunderstood. The Law was a defining element of God=s people.  It taught them how to live rightly related to God and other human beings.  It also taught them the limits of their abilities to keep it!  So they begin to redefine it in terms that would enable them to keep rules and regulations so that they could call them selves right law keepers.  Righteous.   
But Christians don=t do good works to show God and the world that they are different, rather they do good works because they are different and they love God and the people for whom Jesus died.    For this reason we could look to the very metaphorical language of Isaiah in the first reading, as an image of the child adopted and made new by Almighty God.  A I will greatly rejoice in the LORD my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.@    These readings meld together.  They tell us what God is likeBwhat he has done for us and why we should indeed rejoice!  praise God=s Name!    And why every year we remember the most humble and unthreatening way that it all began.  As the hymn writer wrote: ALet every heart prepare a room where such a mighty guest may come. A We are lighthouses of the one true light and we tabernacle wherever we go.  Let your light shine and do not let the darkness overcome you. Amen

The   Festival of Love 

Christmas   + C + 2015                                        The Reverend Robert RM Bagwell

Isaiah 9:2-7                                                                                                                      Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14                                                                                                      Luke 2:1-14(15-20)

 

When I was a boy, in Greenville, South Carolina, one of the city's highlights for Christmas was the singing Christmas tree.  Their signature tune, on every TV commercial was: Christmass was meant for Children'  The Lyrics go as follows:

Christmas was meant for children, children like you and me
With mistletoe and holly, And toys upon the tree
The stockings by the chimney, And hearts so full of joy
Old Santa's riding through the snow, For every girl and boy

So ring out the bells from the steeple, For the world in its mantle of white
Let the star in the East that lead us,, Shine on your tree tonight
Always remember the infant, Away in a manger to see
For Christmas was made in heaven, For children like you and me



Tonight we come to the feast of feasts! It is so far removed from tinsel and lights and trees as to be contrasting one realm of existence to another, that the two cannot be compared, yet every year, the popular culture attempts to equate the two.  All that comes after: miracles, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension could not be if this feast were not first to occur. Tonight we celebrate, the '"Incarnation" of Jesus the Messiah.  As it literally means: "the enfleshing of God." Although the remaking of humanity began to occur in the Resurrection, this remaking of human-kind began in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea. Some modern theologian has termed it "Christo-genesis" humanity began to be reborn in that manger when God became  both man and God in the body of a newborn child. Christmas was meant for Children.  Remember the words of Jesus: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:13)

Although God gave Adam a microcosm of what was to come in Genesis when God said to the serpent: " And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."  God had from the first moment, devised a plan to save humanity.

While other faiths sport founders with less exuberant circumstances, the Christian faith is born as is said the "whole world being at peace" to the lowest cast of society n their day, shepherds, in the most humble of circumstances, in a stable or barn to a family left helpless to the elements because of a taxation of the known world in its day. and no vacancy at the local motel.

Real people, real circumstances, a real baby born in a couldn't  be more real manger!   And the scandal of it all!  God clearly needed a new stage manager!  But what to our wondering eyes should appear? but a  legion of angels announcing "He's here"!"  Cecil B DeMills has nothing on God in announcing the birth of his son!  Yet there is every year an appropriation of this Holy Night for commercial purposes.  Somehow the kindly Bishop from Myra in Turkey has become bigger than the Christ he preached!  Commercialism does not move the heart in sacrificial circumstances. Love does!  Love came down at Christmas and "God so loved the world love," keeps it message alive and forever TRUE.

Some of these small things  and larger profound things, caused the Church Ad Project to come out with a Christmas card with Santa on one half of the front and Jesus on the other with the caption,AWho=s birthday is it anyway?@ While the story of the birth of Jesus may be a familiar one, those tidings of comfort and joy are not necessarily at the heart of what the majority of people who call themselves Christians celebrate as Christmas.   The birthday bash has become so big, we've largely forgotten whose birth it is that we are celebrating. According to a recent survey, fewer that half of Americans who identify themselves as Christians say the most important part of Charismas is the birth of Jesus. While 88 percent of the 1,006 people surveyed identified themselves as Christians, only 37 percent of them said Jesus= birthday is the most important aspect of Christmas. AFamily time@ was the most popular answer, with 44 percent of responses saying  it is what makes Christmas important to them. 

No doubt that family time is what Christmass is.  The profound reality is that Christmass was the first step in God=s plan to make human beings become a part of the Family of God, the Trinity.  The story is a familiar one and certainly nothing is ordinary about it, yet the words of the angels, Agood tidings of great joy I bring to you and to all the people@ don=t quite get across to us, especially after we've been fighting for that last gift at the mall, battling our ways in and out of parking and seen anything but good will leveled at us all for a Aholy-day@ beginning with the name of Christ and bearing little semblance to its namesake which Satan is fighting with ferocity to stamp out. .They think happy holidays is an avoidance except:  holiday is from "Holy Day"…oops! 

Here, lying in the manger, is God's unconditional love for you, His will to save, His desire for you to be His own. Before you knew to ask for a Savior, God sent One. Before you knew to ask for a Christ, He gave you One. Before you knew to ask for a Lord, He came and made Himself your Lord, a Child conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

Here, wrapped in swaddling clothes, is God's gift to you. It is a gift that will outlast all the others. This little Child in the manger will give to you when you need most to be given to: when you are oppressed with guilt, when you are pressed down by your past, when you are at a loss for who you are and why you exist, when you fear for your life, in the hour of your death. Imagine a gift, lying under the tree, with a tag that reads simply, "To you." No name on it, just "to you."

Anyone who saw it, and bent down, and picked it up could say, "This one's for me." Anyone could unwrap the gift and claim it as his own. That's what the tag on this bundle wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in Bethlehem's manger reads. It says, "To you, from God." "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Is it  difficult for you to be given to. We are so proud, so afraid of being humbled, so resistant to receiving as "self-make" Americans. When we get that unexpected gift from someone, our joy is mixed with other feelings. "Oh, you shouldn't have," we say and we mean it! Now I have to go out and get you something (we may think). 

We do the same with God. We don't want to be given to, we want to get for ourselves.  Grace is so...humiliating! But God came when no one asked for Him. He was born where there was no room for Him. Before He was invited, He came in the most humble of ways. Before we called on Him, He called on us. Before we let Him into our hearts, God took us into His own heart, and gave us His Child.

How can you fight this infant Son of God  Look on this child's face, and see the face of God come down to save you. This Child would grow up. He would open the eyes of the blind man, open the ears of the deaf;  still the storm and raise the dead;  preach the kingdom of God having come in Him. He would hang on a cross and die. See the lengths to which God will go to rescue us! He removes His royal robes, and exchanges them for diapers. He hides His majesty under the weakness of the infant in the manger AND the man on the cross.  Christmas and  Easter are one! 

We can't come to Bethlehem, and even if we could, we wouldn't find Christ there. But Bethlehem can, and does, come to us in the Church the place where He makes His dwelling in a world that has no place for Him. The Word is His manger. He wants to make your heart his . Tonight Jesus comes again, not as Lord and King but as a little baby reaching out to you to give his love and receive you.  Will you let him in.  This helpless appearing child holds heaven and earth in his hands, he reaches out in love to give and receive love. He says again, I ill love you to the end of time.  Receive him today.  He says but one thing come. Receive him into your heart as Lord, Savior, Brother and Friend.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Transformation of the Human Soul


Christmas   + C + 2015                                        The Reverend Robert RM Bagwell

Isaiah 9:2-7                                                                                                                      Psalm 96

Titus 2:11-14                                                                                                      Luke 2:1-14(15-20)

 

When I was a boy, in Greenville, South Carolina, one of the city's highlights for Christmas was the singing Christmas tree.  Their signature tune, on every TV commercial was: Christmass was meant for Children'  The Lyrics go as follows:

Christmas was meant for children, children like you and me
With mistletoe and holly, And toys upon the tree
The stockings by the chimney, And hearts so full of joy
Old Santa's riding through the snow, For every girl and boy

So ring out the bells from the steeple, For the world in its mantle of white
Let the star in the East that lead us,, Shine on your tree tonight
Always remember the infant, Away in a manger to see
For Christmas was made in heaven, For children like you and me



Tonight we come to the feast of feasts! It is so far removed from tinsel and lights and trees as to be contrasting one realm of existence to another, that the two cannot be compared, yet every year, the popular culture attempts to equate the two.  All that comes after: miracles, baptism, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension could not be if this feast were not first to occur. Tonight we celebrate, the '"Incarnation" of Jesus the Messiah.  As it literally means: "the enfleshing of God." Although the remaking of humanity began to occur in the Resurrection, this remaking of human-kind began in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea. Some modern theologian has termed it "Christo-genesis" humanity began to be reborn in that manger when God became  both man and God in the body of a newborn child. Christmas was meant for Children.  Remember the words of Jesus: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:13)

Although God gave Adam a microcosm of what was to come in Genesis when God said to the serpent: " And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."  God had from the first moment, devised a plan to save humanity.

While other faiths sport founders with less exuberant circumstances, the Christian faith is born as is said the "whole world being at peace" to the lowest cast of society n their day, shepherds, in the most humble of circumstances, in a stable or barn to a family left helpless to the elements because of a taxation of the known world in its day. and no vacancy at the local motel.

Real people, real circumstances, a real baby born in a couldn't  be more real manger!   And the scandal of it all!  God clearly needed a new stage manager!  But what to our wondering eyes should appear? but a  legion of angels announcing "He's here"!"  Cecil B DeMills has nothing on God in announcing the birth of his son!  Yet there is every year an appropriation of this Holy Night for commercial purposes.  Somehow the kindly Bishop from Myra in Turkey has become bigger than the Christ he preached!  Commercialism does not move the heart in sacrificial circumstances. Love does!  Love came down at Christmas and "God so loved the world love," keeps it message alive and forever TRUE.

Some of these small things  and larger profound things, caused the Church Ad Project to come out with a Christmas card with Santa on one half of the front and Jesus on the other with the caption,AWho=s birthday is it anyway?@ While the story of the birth of Jesus may be a familiar one, those tidings of comfort and joy are not necessarily at the heart of what the majority of people who call themselves Christians celebrate as Christmas.   The birthday bash has become so big, we've largely forgotten whose birth it is that we are celebrating. According to a recent survey, fewer that half of Americans who identify themselves as Christians say the most important part of Charismas is the birth of Jesus. While 88 percent of the 1,006 people surveyed identified themselves as Christians, only 37 percent of them said Jesus= birthday is the most important aspect of Christmas. AFamily time@ was the most popular answer, with 44 percent of responses saying  it is what makes Christmas important to them. 

No doubt that family time is what Christmass is.  The profound reality is that Christmass was the first step in God=s plan to make human beings become a part of the Family of God, the Trinity.  The story is a familiar one and certainly nothing is ordinary about it, yet the words of the angels, Agood tidings of great joy I bring to you and to all the people@ don=t quite get across to us, especially after we've been fighting for that last gift at the mall, battling our ways in and out of parking and seen anything but good will leveled at us all for a Aholy-day@ beginning with the name of Christ and bearing little semblance to its namesake which Satan is fighting with ferocity to stamp out. .They think happy holidays is an avoidance except:  holiday is from "Holy Day"…oops! 

Here, lying in the manger, is God's unconditional love for you, His will to save, His desire for you to be His own. Before you knew to ask for a Savior, God sent One. Before you knew to ask for a Christ, He gave you One. Before you knew to ask for a Lord, He came and made Himself your Lord, a Child conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.

Here, wrapped in swaddling clothes, is God's gift to you. It is a gift that will outlast all the others. This little Child in the manger will give to you when you need most to be given to: when you are oppressed with guilt, when you are pressed down by your past, when you are at a loss for who you are and why you exist, when you fear for your life, in the hour of your death. Imagine a gift, lying under the tree, with a tag that reads simply, "To you." No name on it, just "to you."

Anyone who saw it, and bent down, and picked it up could say, "This one's for me." Anyone could unwrap the gift and claim it as his own. That's what the tag on this bundle wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in Bethlehem's manger reads. It says, "To you, from God." "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Is it  difficult for you to be given to. We are so proud, so afraid of being humbled, so resistant to receiving as "self-make" Americans. When we get that unexpected gift from someone, our joy is mixed with other feelings. "Oh, you shouldn't have," we say and we mean it! Now I have to go out and get you something (we may think). 

We do the same with God. We don't want to be given to, we want to get for ourselves.  Grace is so...humiliating! But God came when no one asked for Him. He was born where there was no room for Him. Before He was invited, He came in the most humble of ways. Before we called on Him, He called on us. Before we let Him into our hearts, God took us into His own heart, and gave us His Child.

How can you fight this infant Son of God  Look on this child's face, and see the face of God come down to save you. This Child would grow up. He would open the eyes of the blind man, open the ears of the deaf;  still the storm and raise the dead;  preach the kingdom of God having come in Him. He would hang on a cross and die. See the lengths to which God will go to rescue us! He removes His royal robes, and exchanges them for diapers. He hides His majesty under the weakness of the infant in the manger AND the man on the cross.  Christmas and  Easter are one! 

We can't come to Bethlehem, and even if we could, we wouldn't find Christ there. But Bethlehem can, and does, come to us in the Church the place where He makes His dwelling in a world that has no place for Him. The Word is His manger. He wants to make your heart his . Tonight Jesus comes again, not as Lord and King but as a little baby reaching out to you to give his love and receive you.  Will you let him in.  This helpless appearing child holds heaven and earth in his hands, he reaches out in love to give and receive love. He says again, I ill love you to the end of time.  Receive him today.  He says but one thing come. Receive him into your heart as Lord, Savior, Brother and Friend.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Apocalype of God + Advent 1 + 2015


Advent I+C              29 November AD 2015            Fr.  Robert R.M. Bagwell+

All Saints' Hampton, SC                                                The Apocalypse of God


Jeremiah 33:14-16                                                                                       Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13                                                                                 Luke 21:25-36

In 1974, Carlo Corretto, a Roman Catholic mystic and hermit, released a book called: "the God who Comes", presents a portrait of God as the one who comes. God has come in the garden, in the babe in Bethlehem, (incarnation), will come again (parousia) and is continually coming. Though simple, the portrait is not simplistic. Believers will be encouraged and inspired to believe more in a God who is present always. The Judeo-Christian Bible from the "beginning" reveals a God who is loving, caring, intimate and pro-active toward His Creation  Let us for a moment reflect on the unique message of the Bible. In what other tradition of any other religion on planet earth is there is a God who pursues humankind?

This God is one that has been termed, "the Hound of Heaven," the "Shepherd seeking His Sheep", "the King of Love", the "Servant King.", the One who humbles himself to win the hearts of the people he has made.  Have you noticed that from the beginning, humanity does not move toward God, rather God moves towards humanity. To quote  Fr Carretto's book title: He is the God who comes.

Jesus is the God who comes. It all begins, "in the beginning" of Genesis chapter one.  The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia, as we speak of Pentecost.. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany,. During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration'

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had firmly tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.  Unlike many in these  later ages of our church when we "pretend" that the Lord somehow has not come yet, or at least what it was like for those believers before Jesus' first coming during the Advent/ Christmas time in history.  Given the "wars and rumors of wars" of our time, the quality of expectation is mingled with the preemptive dread of Armageddon in this earthly realm forgetting that for the redeemed Church of Jesus, there will be inexpressible joy at his coming in clouds in great glory! 

The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah'  During Advent the Church, looks back upon Christ’s first coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people and to restore the creation as it was at the beginning.. We participate in that redemption with our time, talents and treasures until God calls us home.  

The Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season: The redemption which began with the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, the Holy One of God, will be completed on the day when Christ Jesus comes back  AIn the manner as (the disciples) saw Him go@ as the angels told them on Ascension Day.  Until that time, we waitCwaitCwait.

WaitingCwhat about waiting?  Does anyone enjoy waiting? In line at the grocery store? In line at a toll booth? For the end of the school year? For report cards?  For job interviews?  These might be negative senses of waiting. Yet waiting is a part of life and Christian and secular sources would testify that it is actually a positive experience. Let me term that kind of waiting, "anticipation". Anticipation  is almost necessary for good things to come into beingCA healthy baby, personal  intelligence, strong personal relationships, works of art,  stable and profitable businesses,  

A strong spiritual life or a godly personal character are not developed overnight but through the exercise of learning to wait, practice and serve others.. Scripture tells us that Athose who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar like eagles, run without getting tired and walk and not wear out.@ (Isaiah 40:31)Waiting on God with such an attitude pre-supposes faith in Him, trust in Him and hope in His promise.

Only people who know reliance on God can stand when circumstances seem to deny it. Yet there is a sense that the world is rushing toward a culmination of history  by the growing concerns of the secular worldCISIS,          Russia and Turkey, Israel and her place in God's plans, the 'black lives matter' movement, nuclear arms, rampart starvation, crime, disease, and the world economy. The world needs a spiritual awakening. The world needs the Savior.

Waiting is a virtue that we should cultivate. Statisticians and sociologists tell us that our current ultimate value is measured by the use of our time. We want to learn good time management. ADon=t waste my time!@ someone says. We have all kinds of devices guaranteed to save time and manage it effectively.  But as we rush here and there, put more and more activities into less and less time, have we lost our souls?  Have we forgotten the virtues gained by waiting? Have we become more "human doings" than "human beings?" We want instantaneous everythingCafter allCAtime is money@ the culture tells us..  The consequences of this are only beginning to show up in our culture. We have instant access to too much information on the information highway and we are only beginning to realize that more is not necessarily better!.

Faxes, computers, TV, radio, mp3 players and newspapers. Instant gratification of whatever we wantCThrough creditCbuy nowBpay later. Instant food by restaurant and microwave. Life=s problems are solved quickly, easily and efficiently  in thirty minute segments on TV which shapes our concepts of what we can realistically expect in life, relationships, jobs and possessions. 

If we don=t find a relationship or a job satisfying,  leave! quit! Get another relationship or another job or go on workman's comp!! Patiently working through, waiting for the benefits of our faithful working takes too much time!  Waiting takes too much effort! Perseverance takes too much time!  Is it any wonder that people have fallen away from relationship with God, others and themselves  in our age? Time to develop our spiritual lives is not the way we operate.

If Church lasts too longCwe are wasting valuable time. AWasting time with God@ is a concept absurd to many. We want to be entertainedCspiritualized and sacramentalized in microwave time. Is it any wonder there are so many weak Christians in our day!  To be free from time=s tyranny, measuring time as our ancestors did -- by the gentle passage of seasons, by sunrise and sunset, not by seconds, minutes and hours.   We may think that we control time, but we actually live under its constraints.   Jesus says that when you see the fig tree blossom, you know what time it is.

Someday, there will be no tomorrow. The door will open and then it will shut In the New Testament the Church expected Christ Jesus= immediate return so there was an urgency in their proclamationC Christ Jesus might be back any moment. They sought to win as many as possible to Christ Jesus before His judgment of the world.  It was a time of urgent anticipation. As Christ Jesus= coming delayed, they were involved in spreading the Gospel and building communities of believers to the ends of the known world. As the issues of passing this faith on to other generations became of concernCthe organization of the Church  developed.      From this Church came our Kalendar that seeks in the timelessness of God to take us through the history of His people once per year.  All time was visibly seen as God=s time.

The four weeks of Advent have since the seventh century represented the four thousand years the Jews awaited the promised OneCMessiah. Advent  is a time to prepareCto wait for the coming of God as a little babyCto remember the value of anticipation and preparation.  Too many Christians do not prepare. They celebrate the Christmas event before handCand when it arrivesCit is anticlimactic. They do not think to use the material blessings that God gives to further his work, because, they  may need it tomorrow. But none of us knows when it is our last day and those resources will be of no use to us and will have reaped us no riches in heaven. With the ecological crisis, the threat of nuclear war, and international monetary problems, unstable governments and disease, everyone is thinking in apocalyptic terms, especially with terrorism.  We think apocalypse means Adoom@ but it actually means, Arevelation@. Jesus says that for us all there will be a day when there is no tomorrow. The invitation comes, the door opens, the word is spoken, and it is time. It is the time to prepare ourselves for Christ=s second coming to judge the world that we may be ready.

As we enter this Christian New Year today, our challenge is to make it one of preparation of ourselves for Christ and his purposes in our lives. We need him each day as the Savior yet to come and yet already here in our hearts. From the quietness of the winter darkness to enter into Christ=s illuminating light. If we do not participate in worship, if we do not commit to being part of the Body on the day of the Resurrection and making it the cornerstone of your weekly calendar, you will not experience the depth of the Christian Life that God wants for you. Lastly, we might get active on behalf of someone who needs our help.  Pray for guidance on what to do.  It won=t take God long to let us know.  Advent says, STOP! Evaluate, consider, prepare, be still, be ready.

As we enter this seasonCwould we be ready for Jesus to come to us today?  Advent is a reminder to always be ready.  The world is for the Christian to be viewed from a perspective of the endCthe End judges the present.  ChristianCare you ableCwilling and ready for IHS to come again?  Take the time to get ready. The last words of the Bible are these: AHe who testifies to these things says, >yes, I am coming soon.=  Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.@  The Greek word is  maranatha.. It is the season of reminder that as we say in the creed, Ahe will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.@

One of my favorite Advent anticipatory musical pieces, by Paul Manz, renders this beautifully.

Peace be to you and grace from Him
Who freed us from our sin Who loved us all, and shed his blood
That we might saved be.
Sing holy, holy to our Lord
The Lord almighty God Who was and is, and is to come
Sing holy, holy Lord.
Rejoice in heaven,
all ye that dwell therein
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below
For Christ is coming,
Is coming soon
For Christ is coming soon.
E'en so Lord Jesus quickly come
And night shall be no more
They need no light, no lamp, nor sun
For Christ will be their All!

Even soCmaranathaC Lord Jesus quickly come !

AMEN