Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent 3: To be welcomed is to be redeemed


The Third Sunday in Advent. Mary’s Sunday. And we begin with three verses of Barbara Lundblad’s O come, o come…

O come O come
And bless each place your people dwell
Melt ev’ry weapon crafted for war
Bring peace upon the earth for evermore
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

O come green shoot of Jesse, free
Your people from despair and apathy
Forge justice for the poor and meek
Grant safety for the young ones and the weak.
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

O come now, living water, pour your grace
And bring new life to ev’ry withered place;
Speak comfort to each trembling heart:
“Be strong, fear not, for I will ne’er depart”
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

We read the beautiful Isaiah passage about roses blooming in  he desert. (The new translation, crocus, just doesn’t get it.)  But we stumble on Isaiah 35:
A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it
And we talk about what does it mean to be perceived to be unclean.   And Stephen  says, Unclean is unwelcome.  And later, to be redeemed is to be welcomed…    That works for us. That’s who we are trying to be.

I sing The Rose, as a meditation on Isaiah.

Then there’s the Matthew passage(11:2-11) about John the Baptist and expectation: Are you the one we have been waiting for? Or do we need to keep looking?  Jesus answers in terms of the Isaiah passage.

But I start with asking folks how they are doing. And after it turns out everyone is doing pretty well, I say that often expectations create problems this time of year. We’re expected to feel joy, happiness. Families expect to find reconciliation, homecoming. But it doesn’t always work out that way. What we call Blue Christmas.

But somehow we come around to our current situation. I shared how I had been at a gathering last Sunday night and a woman pastor had shared that she had used West-Park as a sermon illustration. That what she had seen at Presbytery was like the green shoot springing up through the stump. And my Catholic friend Father John had  quoted me in his sermon. About hope. And I realize that people are seeing us that way. That there are new expectations.

And I realize that as bad as we felt on September 29th, when Marsha and I felt so badly beaten, the outcome was a better situation. What we did between then and November 19th allowed us to turn around the long running narrative about West-Park. And the work we did brought us together as a community. When Cara was in the hospital for two weeks, someone from the church was there every day. That wouldn’t have been true  year ago.

For this there is joy. Mary’s pink candle lit and glowing.

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