Dear members and friends of St. Albans Episcopal Church,
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah:
“See Iam sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Isaiah 40:3)
Just as the season of Lent prepares us for Easter, so Advent is designed to prepare us for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to live among us, to move into our neighborhoods and to live among us and our neighbors.
The church is called to be a place of cleansing. That is why we have confession for things we know we have done wrong as well as things we have done wrong unknowingly. It is a place where we find forgiveness. The church is a community of believers that happens to prefer to meet in a structure of four walls, or meets in the church yard, and is also the church that goes into the community and is involved in the affairs that reflect on each member. We find forgiveness and healing in the organic body of Christ known as the Church, built on the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ and foundation stones of the Apostles and Prophets. And we are called members of that church, as Peter calls us lively stones, stones that move around organically and within the structure of a building, not made with brick and mortar. In one sense we are called a living organism and in other sense we are referred to as the building of the Lord.
O comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40) We, the church, are called to provide a place of welcome, to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is in our midst to bring comfort. The church, which means the called-out ones, is here to encourage, to provide a safe place, a place to express our service freedom in Christ. I think of that expression: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1 KJV) I like it in the Message translation Christ has set us free to live a free life. So, take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Gal. 5:1 Message)
The church is a place to find freedom to be able to express yourself without feeling bound up by too many rules and regulations. Stand fast in your freedom and enjoy the freedom we have in God. Quit frowning. Let me see you smile. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. (Psalm 85:10-11)
In my post graduate business studies, I learned that building a healthy environment makes for a healthy business and a healthy church.If you want healthy dialogue and happy employees make sure you provide a comfortable environment. People need to feel free to try new things, to not feel like a failure if they try something, and it does not work out. That’s how we learn. And it’s okay to make mistakes. Nobody is going to come down on you if it all goes wrong, at least I hope they do not. It won’t happen under my watch. We are a glorious church without spot or wrinkle washed in the blood of the Lamb(Ephesians 5:27) Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.(2 Peter 3:15) We are a work in progress and God is not finished with us yet.
That brings me to my last point of this sermon, and it is based on the following scripture in Mark: The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8)
Jesus Christ will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. That’s where the freedom and excitement comes from. That is why we can sit back and take pause that God is doing something really great and really cool in the church and we are part of it. And we can really enjoy because the Spirit is within is and around us. And we wait for the promise of Jesus coming into the world at Christmas. He has already come and moved into our neighborhood, but in Advent every year we are reminded again of that. And, in that remembering, we are at peace.