Sermon: “Re-envisioning Advent”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from November 27, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors
We have two passages today. One is, of course, Isaiah's vision of the future as he was given to take to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The other sounds more like a Tim LaHaye novel. And if you don't know who Tim LaHaye is, he was the author of the Left Behind series. You have to wonder, there are a lot of times the Tim LaHaye series comes to mind when I've been driving down the road and you see a couple of shoes sitting there. It's like, did I miss something?
The good news is it was normally it's only one pair of shoes or one shoe even that's even more frequent. and they weren't just strung together and up around the telephone wires, which means they weren't high schooler shoes, uh, or middle schoolers, or college kids for that matter. Or if you're a scout that's been to Philmont, where when you're finished, a lot of people throw their hiking boots up over the entry sign. By the end of the summer there, you know, several hundred pairs of boots hanging up there.
But that has nothing to do with our scripture. Our scripture this morning really is about people that are looking to the future and trying to figure out whether Nostradamus was right. Or the Mayan calendar or whatever thing you're looking at to tell the future.
You know, they were looking for all these signs and Jesus says about that day an hour. No one knows, neither the angel of Heaven nor the son, but only the father. So, Jesus is saying, I don't even know when the hour is coming, so don't worry about it, just keep awake.
Uh, and this is our first Sunday of Advent when we turn our minds to really preparing ourselves for Christmas when we celebrate the coming of Christ into our world, and we get so many things on our schedule that sometimes we forget to really focus on what Advent is all about. You know, it seems to start with, well in Grand Blanc, it starts with the Messiah sing and the community Thanksgiving service, and then you've got your fall concerts from the schools. You know, they can't call 'em holiday concerts, they're fall concerts. But if you go, you're probably going to hear some music that's kind of seasonal.
And we have all of these activities and you've got tree lightings and Christmas parades and this and that. And I bet you a lot of people probably had NBC on Thursday morning for the Thanksgiving Day parade from Macy's, And then other people would've made sure that they were watching after that for the Westminster International Dog Show. And that's if they weren't watching football, you know, watching Detroit find an interesting way of losing.
But our schedules just get full, full, full, full this time. Maybe it was working at the food bank, maybe it was ringing bells. And there's just more and more and more that we seem to cram in, and we forget about this right here (points at hope candle) because if we have children, our minds turn to their wishes. And I don't know about the rest of you, but we've now, you know, with adult children, we now get calls saying, what do you want for Christmas, mom, dad?
And we struggle to answer. We struggle to answer, not because there's nothing we would like to have. There's nothing we need.
The house is already full. Now, granted, most of it is their feathers, and they haven't flown the nest totally yet, but the house is full. There's nothing more that we need, so even the wishlist becomes something that we don't have time for.
Isaiah talked about a time when people would come up on the highest mountain to worship the Lord. Now the highest mountain for people that lived in and around Jerusalem, wasn't in Jerusalem.
And it also wasn't the mountain that the people of Samaria would go up, or worship on. It was actually a mountain in Egypt.
But when you think about it, Isaiah wasn't talking about a physical mountain. That vision wasn't about the physical mountain. It was about looking at something that was a little more ethereal. It was looking at a mountain that was a mountain of learning.
Many people shall come and say, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. What would happen in this day and age if we re-envisioned Advent? If we re-envisioned Advent and took it seriously as a time to learn the Lord's instructions and follow his ways, what would that mean in our individual lives and the way we interacted with other people, and the way we went around our daily business?
What would that mean if not just those who claim to be Christian? People of all faiths, in all places, were to try to learn the Lord's ways and follow them during Advent. What kind of difference would that make in our lives? On PBS yesterday they were doing a story of Silent Night, and of course, part of that was it wasn't just a story of the music or the hymn that we know. But it was a story all based around that hymn, including an armistice, for Christmas Eve on a battlefield of World War I. And if you don't know that story, the troops put down their weapons for an hour, and came together, because people from one trench started singing Silent Night and the people from the other trench started singing Silent Night, and they met in between and exchanged photos and talked to each other, and they went back to their trenches and had a hard time pulling the trigger after that.
And one of the commanders they interviewed said It is a bad thing to do a Christmas armistice because once you see the other as a human, you can't, it's much harder to do your job as a soldier.
Well, that's exactly what Isaiah is talking about, beating swords into plow shares and spears into pruning hooks. He's talking about seeing other people in a way that makes it so that you can't do them Violence. Instead, you're doing something that cares for them.
And this world really, really needs us to see others as humans, to see others as children of God. We need that kind of hope, and we need to be working towards it. And that gets difficult. It's easy to say that we want, you know, we want this piece to come around, but actually doing things to bring it about.
We say, well hold it, I'm just one person. I can't change the whole world. I can't make that all happen. And I challenge you. I know not everybody watches tv anymore. People just stream it what they wanna watch on a little screen. Let me challenge you to, not the beginning of the news when they're talking about everything that's going wrong in the world, watch the last five minutes of the news.
And it doesn't matter whether you're talking about local or national because the last five minutes is when you find out where someone, an individual, is doing something that makes a whole lot of other people's lives better. That's when they do those feel-good stories as they refer to them. Or the morning boost, or depending upon what station you listen to, they may have some other term, but when you see those stories, it's a reminder to us that one person can make a difference.
When I was doing my, uh, executive leadership certificate program at McCormick, one of the things that was brought up was effecting change in your sphere of influence. You know, you can't change everything, but you can make a change within your sphere of influence.
And then when you add to that, the whole idea that one thing that happens here, I don’t know how many people have heard about the Butterfly Effect? What that is, is a theory that if a butterfly moves its wings, that there is an effect that eventually goes around the world. Because it moves the air, the air moves molecules or pollen or whatever, and eventually, that just keeps spreading out and goes all the way around the world.
So, if you take the one person affecting change in their sphere of influence and you put that together with a butterfly effect that goes all the way around the world, you can make a difference as an individual. We get that opportunity constantly.
Did everybody hear about the fire at the apartments in Grand Blanc this week? You know it happened Tuesday, 24 units were damaged, 16 unlivable. All those families had to be relocated.
You have a chance to do something about it. It might be something as simple as making a donation. It might be filling your belly. You can go to Great Harvest Bread all this week, and 20% of the sales go to the people that got burned out.
You know, there are little things we can do. Talking with Kim earlier about bell ringing yesterday. And it was amazing this year, more than in previous years, I think there were more tens and twenties getting put in the kettle than I think I've ever seen. And it seemed the rare occasion that it was only a dollar or two and even more rare, I think it was three people, while we were there for two hours, that put just change in. And it's because that's all they had in their pocket.
Now those dollars make a huge difference to people that need the help. Salvation Army was helping the folks that got burned out.
So, before we say that you don't have any chance of changing the world and bringing about the hope that is Christmas, think about the little things that you can, or maybe even already do, do that can make that difference. Maybe it's just the way you decorate for Christmas. Do you decorate in a way that lifts up the commercial aspect, or do you decorate in a way that lifts up the holy aspect of the holiday?
You see, even something that simple can be reimagined and re-envisioned so that it is a sign of God's hope coming into the world. So, let's, for the next four weeks, look at what we're doing and see how that turns around the way we view advent, and how we live into Christmas. Amen.