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Sunday Message for December 3, 2023

ADVENT WEEK 1 FAITH

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. This is a very special and holy time of the year. Let our invocation this week be, "My faith increases as I feed it and nourish it with living words of Truth, as I think about God's power, as I feel God's life in me, as I abide in God's love."

The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation since the 6th century and marks the beginning of the Christmas season and the Church year for most Western churches. The word "Advent" means "arrival" or "coming" in Latin and represents the approach of Christ's birth and fulfillment of the prophecies about that event. It is composed of the four Sundays before Christmas day, starting on the Sunday closest to November 30th, which is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and ending on Christmas.

Today is special because it is the beginning of a new season. We call this season "Advent." It is a time when we get ready, preparing ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child. We should get our hearts ready by thinking about Him. We should become "expecters." What we are doing right now around our Advent wreath is a way of preparing for Christmas.

(Light the first candle.) I light this candle on the first Sunday in Advent 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.

(Isaiah 26:2-4) "Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace - in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock."a

This candle is symbolic of the strong, unwavering, and enduring faith that is a necessary foundation for the building up of a spiritual consciousness.

Jesus said in (Matthew 6:25-33) "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith?

Therefore, do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
b

PRAYERc (from Galatians 2:15-21): Lord God, we light this candle to thank you that we are justified not by our works but by our faith in Jesus Christ. We have died to the law that we may live to God. It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who is the light of the world.

God, help us in preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, to make our hearts ready and to place our faith in you. Help us today and every day to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing our faith with others. We ask it in the name of the one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen.

SCRIPTURE
(Luke 1:26-35) In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God."
d

The scripture starts off with an angel showing up. If you look to The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, you see that angelse are our spiritual perceptive faculties, which always dwell in the presence of God "These angels are the thoughts that understand spiritual principles. The office of the angels is to guard and guide and direct the natural forces of mind and body, which have in them the future of the whole man.

The particular angel that showed up was the angel, Gabriel. This is the same angel who appeared to Daniel to interpret his vision for him. This angel also appeared to Zacharias to tell him of the coming birth of John the Baptist, the cousin to Jesus. To Zacharias this angel said, (Luke 1:19) "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God."f

The name Gabriel means 'God is my strength.' Gabriel could also be said to refer to the masculine or wisdom phase of the divine in us. The masculine contacts the love (feminine, soul, Mary) phase of our spiritual nature, and causes us to become conscious of the Christ in ourselves, to the end that we may bring this Christ into expression and manifestation.

All of this happened in Nazareth. Nazareth was a despised place (the things of the Spirit of God are considered foolish by the natural man), and as such would be a type of inferiority. It was considered a community of commonplace, if not disreputable, people. (John 1:46) "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"g Yet in this commonplace village Jesus was raised; and in the seemingly mediocre mind the Christ Truth is received and expressed. Nazareth typifies the commonplace mind of man, but it is a place of development, through which the Christ comes into expression.

Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, represent wisdom and love, which have been ideas in mind but are now to bring forth a manifestation in substance. Joseph might also be said to represent the Son of man and Mary the divine motherhood.

Joseph was merely betrothed to Mary, yet she was "great with child"; so, Joseph "was minded to put her away privately." This means that we do not in the first stages of the birth of Christ in us understand the process, and sometimes are moved to put it away from us. The soul is heavily charged with divine life, and so full that it cannot express itself intelligently, because no union has yet taken place between it and the understanding (Joseph).

Mary, the mother of Jesus, represents the soul that magnifies the Lord "daily in the temple" and through its devotions prepares itself for the higher life. She signifies the divine motherhood of love. She can also be said to be intuition.

Jesus, the perfected-man manifestation, is conceived in the intuitive or soul nature, and is molded in its substance. This coming of the Christ body into activity is the result of an exalted idea sown in the mind and matured by the soul (Mary). The soul is devout and expectant. It believes in the so-called miraculous as a possibility.

Mary expected the birth of the Messiah, according to the promise of the Holy Spirit. She was overshadowed by that high idea; it formed in her mind the seed that quickened into the cell, and in due season there were aggregations of cells strong enough in their activity to attract the attention of the outer consciousness, and what is called the birth of Christ took place.

Mary, the soul, the mother of Jesus, refers to the conservative, conventional principle that suffers when the new order of life and law is set up. The soul has been bound by race tradition and custom until it is atrophied. Now it is coming to life, and in its travail it reveals the Lord's body.

And of course, Jesus is the I in man, the self, the directive power, raised to divine understanding and power - the I AM identity.

INVEST YOUR FAITH IN TRUTH
So you see, it is always about us. It's about our understanding and our faith in God. Have you ever said "Oh, if only I had more faith. If I just had a little more faith!"

Well, you might be surprised to learn you already have all the faith you will ever need. It's true. You don't gain faith; you discover it and you direct it. The issue is not how much faith you have, but where your faith is invested. You have faith on many different levels and in many different ways, but its most perfect expression is in your spiritual nature. True faith is a deep inner knowing that the good you desire is already yours. True spiritual faith is complete trust in God's will.

True faith, the kind you can always rely on, is a spiritual process based on eternal Truth. Faith is "knowing."

The question is, What are you "knowing"? Are you knowing that God is in charge of your life and therefore you will be led to the perfect means of healing? Are you knowing that the right job is waiting for you? Are you knowing that wonderful blessings will come out of the heartache you're feeling over a loved one?

Or are you knowing your life will be ruined because your spouse is an alcoholic? Or that you will become diabetic because your father was? Or that you'll never have enough money because your family has always been poor?

Plainly stated, faith is expectation. Whatever you strongly and consistently expect to come into your life is invariably what you will experience.

Here is something especially important: Faith, whether in the positive or negative, is always attached to a strong emotion. In fact, faith is not faith unless it has a strong emotion attached. You feel it's so strongly that it is almost a reality already.

Jesus taught that (Matthew 17:20) if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.h

If this is the case, why should you make any physical effort on your own behalf? Wouldn't it be easier to bring forth something into your life by merely directing your faith toward it? The answer to this, of course, is a resounding "Yes!" Your faith can make you whole. In fact, complete faith in God is the best route to instantaneous healing.

But hold on, we have to note two important things. First of all, it takes work to move your faith in the right direction. Secondly (and most importantly), although your faith is limitless, faith can only extend to the self-imposed boundaries of your present consciousness. It can go no further. Your present consciousness creates an "artificial boundary" which limits your faith, and limited faith can only express in limited ways.

How can your faith in abundant prosperity not be limited if your consciousness has faith that "I'll never be able to afford that"?

How can you direct much faith in your innate wholeness if your consciousness has faith that "I'll get heart disease because it runs in my family"?

This idea is so important that it bears repeating: Faith can only reach to the self-imposed boundaries of your present consciousness! It can go no further. Faith can be invested as strongly in sickness as in health, as strongly in poverty as in prosperity, as strongly in hatred as in love. Which will it be? It's your call.

So do you choose to have your faith invested in fear or in God? "My faith increases as I feed it and nourish it with living words of Truth, as I think about God's power, as I feel God's life in me, as I abide in God's love."

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 goodwill 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



aIsaiah 26:2-4
bMatthew 6:25-33
cGalatians 2:15-21
dLuke 1:26-35
eThe Metaphysical Bible Dictionary
fLuke 1:19
gJohn 1:46
hMatthew 17:20



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