Reflections from Bill Cotton’s Memo to Preachers; Dec. 3, 2017
Romans 13:11 “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;” 13:12 “The night is far-gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…”
The historical event named Jesus the Christ is larger than life. It is Good News to all who will listen. To make sense of this event, we who worship need to get it down to a manageable size. Thus, tradition has provided us with the lessons for the Church year.
Professor Fred Gealy from SMU, believed that we would develop a hobbyhorse approach to the Gospel if we stray too often from following the prescribed texts. Hobbyhorse approach to Advent/Christmas is to find a story theme that worked once, and we use it over and over again. Becoming predictable in our telling of the Advent/Christmas story is not the wisest idea. But as time does not stand still for anyone and as the season gets overcrowded with activities we all too many times fall into this trap for convenience sake or for tradition or for sentimentality.
The weekly lectionary texts for Advent and Christmas (posted each week in the bulletin) can provide for us a way out. Karl Barth once told his students if they would discover the strange world of the Hebrew Scriptures, the congregation would be amazed and delighted to hear a fresh new Word. So here we go again, 2017/18—a journey in time that brings wonder and awe, as we dare to speak of the Eternal One.
The Advent Collect for the first Sunday circus 1789 begins this way: “Almighty God, give us the grace that we may cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light now in the time of this mortal life, which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility…”
This prayer is especially helpful this year as we find ourselves and the nation caught in a radically new political situation. What Word of hope can we, the Church, offer? What shape shall our prayers take? The Advent Collect speaks of the great humility of Jesus, even as it also speaks of the Christ as righteous Judge.
One thing we know: when the Church is silent, other voices fill the vacuum. This is not the time to go silent into the dark night—nor should we find ourselves caught up in blind rage. The late Walter Wink gave us this thought, “Prayer opens up a space in which God can work. Prayer is our way of creating signs in the night. “Let this be a sign to you….” is preface for the discovery of perfect humanity housed in a stable—edged out of the world (Bonhoeffer). Our weekly worship should be signs that point to the new possibilities always already present in Jesus the Christ. Folks, There is an old saying reminding us, “We too have a dog in this fight!” So go, punch holes in the darkness. Create signs.
“Indeed, the eternal light invades the darkness, shines brightly in the middle of the night To make each of us children of light”
See you Sunday,
Rev. Dennis Hopes
Pastor Kim Dewey