Unity Church of Castro Valley
Sunday Message for December 6, 2009
ADVENT WEEK 2 - PEACE
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. This is a very special and holy time of the year. Let our invocation this week be, "God of all journeys, visit me with your peace in this time of reflection. Help me remember those who have graced my journey with their accepting arms and words of blessing."
The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation and marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Advent represents the approach of Christ's birth and fulfillment of the prophecies about that event. We should get our hearts ready by thinking about Christ.
(Light the first candle.) I light this candle to remind us that we must prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.
This is the candle of Faith. With the eye of faith, I see God in all. As we look at the light of this candle we celebrate our active faith in the power of God, the justice of God, the Truth of God that is continually at work in our minds and hearts.
(Light the second candle.) I light this candle on the second Sunday in Advent to signify Peace. Peace is like a light shining in a dark place. As we look at this candle we celebrate the peace we find in Jesus Christ.
(Mark 1:4) "John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
Today we light the Second Candle of Advent, the Candle of Peace. We remember the prophets who spoke of the coming of Christ, of how a Savior would be born, a king in the line of King David. The prophet Isaiah called Christ "the Prince of Peace". They told us how he would rule the world wisely and bless all the nations.
When Jesus came he taught people the importance of being peace-makers. He said that those who make peace shall be called the children of God. When Christ is realized within us it brings us peace. We light the Candle of Peace to remind us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and that through him peace is found.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Light of the World, the prophets said you would bring peace and save your people from trouble. Give peace in our hearts at Christmastide. We ask that as we wait for you to come into our hearts, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and everyday to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your peace with each other. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.
(Luke 1:37-55) For nothing will be impossible with God. 1:38Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
1:39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 1:40where she entered into the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 1:41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 1:42and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 1:43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 1:44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 1:45And blessed is she who believed; that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. 1:46And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
1:47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
1:48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
1:49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
1:50His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
1:51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
1:52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
1:53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
1:54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
1:55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
So, this scripture starts off in (Luke 1:37) For nothing will be impossible with God.
The angel Gabriel has just told her that she is to give birth to the Messiah For nothing will be impossible with God. We need to remember this, especially in this economic situation.
He is saying that it doesn't matter what you have believed, or what the appearance is, For nothing will be impossible with God.
It doesn't matter what the economic experts say. It doesn't matter what you have or don't have right now. Just know that nothing is impossible with God. Hold to that truth and you will manifest everything you might need.
BLESS ONE ANOTHER
Luke's account of Mary's visit to Elizabeth immediately follows Gabriel's departure from Mary. Having boldly assented to bear the Christ, Mary finds herself suddenly alone. Young and unwed, Mary's awe at Gabriel's invitation probably gives way to fear, dismay, and a sense of isolation. Who will believe her? Who will listen to her? Who will comfort her?
Elizabeth. We do not know whether Mary decides to visit Elizabeth because they have been close kinswomen and friends for a long time or because Mary simply has no one else to whom she can turn. But we do know, as does Mary, that her elder relative has experienced, as has Mary, a miraculous conception of her own. This fact alone may have prompted Mary to act decisively once again and journey, alone and "with haste," to see Elizabeth.
Surely Elizabeth's welcome assures Mary that she has done well to turn to her kinswoman. Blessed by Elizabeth for her faithfulness, Mary breaks forth into a song full of praise for the liberation that God has brought. We know this song as the Magnificat.
A. M. Allchin has noted in his book, The Joy of All Creation, that this meeting of Mary and Elizabeth is, in one sense, the beginning of Christian liturgy. He observes that in liturgy we meet not only God but also one another. The blessing, praise, and liberation that flow out of Mary and Elizabeth's meeting serve as a model for how we, in worship and all of life, should bless and call forth one another's gifts.
A lesson to be learned was how to receive a blessing that caused more problems than it solved.
"How can this be?" the words kept going through Mary's head as she sat in her chambers on another side of the country.
Mary - a peasant girl, unmarried - was to be the mother of the Christ.
To be pregnant is one thing.
To be pregnant with the Christ is something altogether different.
How could this happen? This was not the way Mary had planned her life.
"How do you defend a blessing you cannot explain?" she asked herself. "How do you live with a blessing that creates more problems than it solves?"
Besides, who would believe her? Joseph? Absolutely not. The townswomen? Hardly. Elizabeth, her relative? Perhaps…
At least Elizabeth was married. Still, Mary needed someone to talk with. Someone who knew what it meant to grapple with God's intentions. Someone. A woman, pregnant like herself. Mary's mind kept going back to the old woman Elizabeth. Suppose her kinswoman did not believe her? It was a chance Mary had to take. She needed to talk with another woman.
RELEASING THE TRUTH AND JOY
Elizabeth's greeting affirms Mary's faith. With this show of solidarity from another woman, Mary's lingering doubts disappear.
Yes, blessed is she who believes that the promise made her by the Lord will be fulfilled. What reassurance! What a gift! How significant this was for Mary! How often do we need reassurance when we are challenged, or required to face difficult situations, or to carry heavy responsibilities! Is this what we mean by building solidarity among women?
With this assurance Mary feels liberated. She is liberated from her fears and misgivings, from her feelings of weakness and of inadequacy. She is liberated from what she was taught as a woman. Suddenly she sees the significance of Gabriel's message. She realizes what it actually means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and how such power can reverse all so-called natural human order.
Then Mary, like Hannah before her, is filled with joy and gratitude and breaks out in a hymn of praise to God, her Savior.
DECORATE CHRISTMAS TREE
And in this church we start the season off joyously with a ceremony that explores the symbolism of the Christmas tree and all its ornaments.
You were all given Christmas tree ornaments when you came in. When I name the ornament that you have please come forward and place it on the tree. Each year we, like little kids, eagerly await the trimming of the Christmas tree. But let's look behind the tinsel and trimmings to what they represent.
The TREE itself is a symbol. Its branches are ever green. But they remind us that the life of God is eternal and is constantly being renewed in us. The tree, as we do, reaches up to a higher understanding of God. Its branches reach outward on all sides, as if to welcome all races of people and all creeds.
On the tree are strings of LIGHTS. How beautifully the colored lights glow, each symbolizing the Christ light. The many colors remind us that each of us expresses good in his own way, yet he draws his life and strength and wisdom from God, the source of all good. Even as Jesus Christ became the light of the world, so can we let His light shine forth through us to bless our world.
We place colored BALLS on the tree. So, now everyone who has colored Christmas tree ball ornaments come up and put them on the tree. Many colors are reflected from these shiny balls, yet the colors seem to harmonize. This is symbolic of the different races and creeds and nations and indicates that they can live together in peace and harmony. Jesus was born to point the way to peace among men. The Christ Spirit in all men will teach them how to solve their problems so that there will be justice and freedom for all.
Next we have a tiny ANGELS for our tree. So, now everyone who has Angels come up and put them on the tree. The angel is a symbol of the Christlike thoughts that help us to express more of the Christ Spirit. At Christmastime we can send angel thoughts or thoughts of good will to people all over the world.
Now we have toy HORNS to sound our Christmas joy. So, now everyone who has Horns come up and put them on the tree. When we hear the notes of "Joy to the World," let our hearts be filled with a deep abiding joy, the joy that comes to us when we love God and do His will.
Beside the horn we now hang a golden BELL. So, now everyone who has Bells come up and put them on the tree. For hundreds of years at Christmastime, the bells have chimed out the message, "Christ is born." "Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if He's not born in thee, thy soul is all forlorn."
A BIRD perches on a branch of our tree. So, now everyone who has Birds come up and put them on the tree. It is the dove of peace, reminding us that if we truly want peace, we must let peace express through us. We must live peaceably with others.
Here are long strands of bright BEADS and tinseled CHAINS for our tree. So, now if you could put those on the tree. Does it not seem that the beads are smiles that lead from one person to another? And the links of bright tinsel represent the deeds of kindness that link many human hearts in understanding and love.
Now on our tree we place SANTA CLAUS. So, now if you could put those on the tree. Here is the Spirit of giving, all dressed up in a red suit. We can express the spirit of Santa Claus in our giving, too. We can send love and a blessing along with our gifts.
We place on our tree a tiny white LAMB. So, now if you could put those on the tree. The lamb is a symbol of innocence and purity. It reminds us of the Good Shepherd who told His disciples, "Feed my sheep." As modern disciples, shall we give spiritual food to those who hunger for a better way of life?
Our tree needs a crowning touch. At the very top we place a shining STAR. What memories and thoughts that star brings to mind! We see the Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem, and we know that the light of the Bethlehem star still shines to guide men.
And now that the tree is trimmed, let us turn in thankfulness to the Father and know that: 'The star of God's light shines within each of us, to help us keep the Christmas Spirit through all the year.' May you have The Spirit of Christmas which is Peace, The Gladness of Christmas which is Hope, and The Heart of Christmas which is Love.
Dear God, What a wondrous time of year this is! I feel Your presence all around me. I hear Your voice in the excitement of children. I see Your light in the twinkling stars of a dark night. I feel Your love in the hugs of friends and family. And I know, God, I know that here in Your presence is where I belong, where I am whole.
So bless these people here in their journeying that they may find the embrace of acceptance; and in their acceptance may they find their song; and in their song may they find liberation - the holy coming to birth in each of them. Amen
SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:4; Luke 1:37-55