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Sunday, December 7, 2014

#StayWokeAdvent: The Gift of the Angels

Last Sunday at UM Church for All People, Rev. Karen Cook opened an Advent sermon series on God's gifts. But Micheal Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Davis, John Crawford & others weighed heavily on our minds that morning.

In her sermon, Rev. Cook eloquently brought all of these themes together. She weaves in elements from Micky ScottBey Jones's 'It’s Advent. #StayWoke' and speaks to the power of God's gifts to us in these times:

For Christians, Advent is the season when we’re preoccupied with anticipation.  It’s a time when we celebrate God’s ability to give “beyond all we can ask or imagine.”  In Christ, God gave us the most unexpected gift: Himself.  We can see God, know God, and experience the benefits of God’s presence.  In Christ, God demonstrated His great love for us and brought to earth blessings that even those who have “everything” long for—peace, contentment, grace, forgiveness, hope, purpose and joy!

Advent invites us to stand together as people with our brothers and sisters in Ferguson as we all struggle to and wrestle with the decision to move forward with so many unanswered questions, in Chicago as we weep with decisions made and so many unanswered questions, in Cleveland as we weep with decisions made with so many unanswered questions, as we wait anew for hope:
"Have you ever been stuck in a dark place with only a sliver of light or no light at all? You know those times waiting for news that could bring just as much struggle as it brings resolution? Remember the times of waiting and waiting, not knowing when the answers will come? Times of anticipation, of unknowing, of darkness before more light, are not always joyful, peaceful, or even largely hopeful. These are times of struggle, times of wrestling, doubting, mourning, crying, yearning, times of staying alert to the signs that light may be coming, that things are changing.
This is the time, the time of Advent, to stay alert…to “stay woke”…to your senses, your mind, your body, your feelings, your spirit to where to Spirit is stirring and leaning. Stay woke….to the impact your life has on others…Stay woke…to the injustice that we either contribute to or diminish…Stay woke….to the groanings of the world…Stay woke…to the humble, radical, empire-upsetting ways of Jesus…Stay woke…to the darkness…Stay woke…to the light…and to the sacred and profane in both."
-'It’s Advent. #StayWoke'
We have to stay awake because this message of Advent regardless of what is going on around us is Good News, it is news that is worth waiting for, it is news that is worth sharing. And this same news became gift to the shepherds:

The angels belong to another world, but the shepherds belong to the lowest social class in this world. The angels are bright and glorious with heavenly light, but the shepherds are dirty and carry the stench of sheep. The angels knew what it was like to exist in the presence of God, but the shepherds were excluded from the very temple they provided sheep for sacrifice. The angels explode onto the scene with loud, dynamic shouts of praise and worship, but the poor shepherds are stunned and frightened into silence.

The angel of the Lord stood before the outcasts of society.  And gave this amazing gift to these shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…

...Today a Savior has been born to you.”

Beloved, the shepherds needed this gift, but we need this gift too, just to deal with the anxieties of life.

Let me ask you, are you worried? Are you anxious? It seems that our lives are so hectic, especially this time of year, and there are so many different worries bearing down on us from every angle. All these worries can weigh us down and depress us.

But it’s not just the worries of life that can get us down, it’s also the realities of life. Realities which are painful vivid reminders that we live in a fallen world. There are many in our community who are alone, there many in our community who are grieving, there are many in our community who are looking for safe affordable housing, there are many in our community who struggle daily with additions.

The world can be such a depressing place and that‘s from just this season alone. But the gift of the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” Into this dark depressing world was born He who is the light of the world. What good news! What great joy!

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

It is a threefold message wrapped up in one gift:

First, "Glory to God in the highest heaven"
God had kept His promise to destroy the works of the enemy through the person and work of Jesus Christ. I love the scripture in Psalm 24:8 it sounds like a battle cry:
"Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle" 
This is the God whom the angels glorified: God who won the victory for us over the powers of darkness through the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the first great gift of the angels.

"And On Earth, Peace"
We must understand the nature of this peace. This is not a peace treaty between nations that will soon be broken. This is not the empty peace that men seek in false religions, or in material possessions, or in worldly philosophies, or in psychology, or in many other things of this earth.

Jesus said in John 14:27, "My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Beloved, This is a peace that comes by way of the Holy Spirit who has been sent by the Father and the Son into the heart of every everyone of us. That’s the second great gift of the angels

"Among those whom he favors!"
Those who are favored of God know that God is with them.  They have His ear as they walk through dark valleys and they know that their struggle to remain true to God will not go unrewarded.  God’s favor can be felt in the spirit. When we have the favor of the Lord, we rest in quiet confidence that we are forgiven and that God is not finished with us yet.

Romans 5:1 tells us that "therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

And so, not only during this season of Advent but on every day of our life on earth, we can share the angels gift of joy with everyone we encounter: "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the messiah the Lord"

This gift should be able to get you through what every you are going through
This gift should help you kick whatever habit is holding you back
This gift can hold you in the midnight hour,
This gift can dry your weeping eyes
This gift…

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." (Jude 1:24-25)


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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