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Advent 3, December 11, 2011

Advent III A RCL December 11, 2011

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
Canticle 15, p. 91
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
John 1: 6-8, 19-28

In our first lesson this morning, the people have returned from exile to find their beloved Jerusalem in ruins. They are trying to rebuild, but they are traumatized by years of oppression in a foreign land. They feel  paralyzed.

Isaiah is given a word from God: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners… to comfort all who mourn, to give the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.”

The physical rebuilding will happen, but, more importantly a spiritual regeneration and healing will occur.

These are the words of the suffering servant, the messiah. These are the words Jesus read from the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth. This is the description of his ministry and our ministry together with him and with all the saints.

Our gospel today begins, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.”

At this, the darkest time of the year, the light is coming into the world, and, as John the Evangelist has said, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Our Savior is coming into the world he created. He brings good news. His love and healing knit together our broken hearts. He frees us from all that binds and imprisons us. He comforts all who mourn. He strengthens our weak knees.

The light is coming into the world. Prepare the way of the Lord.

The Thessalonians were suffering persecution. Paul was well aware of their situation. Yet he counsels them so wisely, because he knows that Christ, the Light, is coming into the world.

“Rejoice always,”  he says. Be deeply joyful. “Pray without ceasing.” Be in constant contact with God. Lord, what would you have me do and say?  “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Not an easy thing to do. But we can always give thanks for the presence of Christ in every situation. Even a diagnosis of cancer, even a death, even a thorny and hurtful family situation or a painful dilemma among people who care about each other. Christ is always there, right in the middle of it, helping us to get through it, helping us to reach out and feel his love and light in what seems an endless darkness.

“Do not quench the Spirit,” Paul writes. The Spirit can lead us in unforeseen directions. The Spirit can challenge us to go on new paths. We are called to let the Spirit flow and bring new life wherever the Spirit wills.   “Test everything; hold fast to what is good,” Paul writes.  Always look for what is bearing the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,  faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Our Savior is coming into the world. The Light of the world comes as a baby in a manger far from the centers of power and as our King who will set all things right.

What are we called to do at this most holy, expectant time? We are called to let him in, let him into our lives and our hearts, let him bind up our wounds, mend our broken hearts, renew our hope, strengthen us to help him bring in his shalom.  

At this, the darkest time of the year how we yearn for his light. The light of Christ is coming into the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

May we let his light shine.       

                        Amen.

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