Each Sunday of Advent we process into the sanctuary, led by a child carrying a lantern. This year we’re singing “Emmanuel,” a song that reflects on a name that means “God with Us.” Advent is a lot like the season of Lent, because it forces us to slow down and look for God’s presence in our midst. This is an especially difficult task at this time of year, because there are lots of distractions. For instance, the Christmas buying season begins earlier each year, and the radio stations go all Christmas on Thanksgiving Day if not before. Then there’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, office parties and holiday concerts. Yes, there is much to do, and so little time to do it. So why bother with Advent? Why not go directly to Christmas? Since this is my first opportunity to preach during the Advent season, I decided to bring us up to date. Because I’m preaching from the prophetic books of the Old Testament, I thought we might look back at the lectionary readings from the prophets chosen for the first two Sundays of Advent.
David Gushee was the Perry Gresham Lecturer for 2015. He addressed the important question of how to be a welcoming and inclusive community, especially regarding LGBT brothers and sisters. While there isn't a print version, you may listen to David's words of wisdom here.
We adults may forget at times that children might be watching us and listening to us. So, what are they seeing and hearing as they run around in our midst? What message is being conveyed? What stumbling blocks are being placed in their way?
As we work our way through this section of the Gospel of Mark we’ve heard Jesus give the call to discipleship, while also revealing that the path he has chosen leads not to glory but the cross. We’ve heard Jesus tell us that to be his disciples can be rather challenging. So, offering prayers to a cuddly Jesus might be a bit out of place! Of course, Jesus’ disciples didn’t quite understand his message. They kept thinking in terms of grandeur not suffering. They preferred Palm Sunday to Good Friday. They even argued among themselves about who was the greatest.
This morning we’ve heard two healing stories, both of which take place in Gentile regions, and it seems that Jesus needed to learn a lesson that would help define his ministry and ours. While I believe that Jesus’ message was one of grace, love, and inclusion, perhaps even Jesus needed to learn to value people who didn’t share his religious and ethnic background.