2021-12-12 Advent 3
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children, late in the season. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children whining for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two young kids in tow. She was feeling what so many of us feel during the Christmas season at this time of year – stress! The overwhelming pressure to go to every get together, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list and so on. Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd inside. She squished her way into the elevator, dragging her two kids and all her bags of stuff behind her. When the doors closed she couldn’t take it anymore and shouted, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, dragged out into the street and shot!” After a brief pause and few chuckles, a voice came from the back of the elevator, “Oh, don’t worry, Ma’am, they already crucified Him!”
It’s so true isn’t it? The world that we live in is like a giant, joy-eating monster. Christmas is all about the joy of the Messiah being born for the life of the world, and yet we, like the woman in the story, get gobbled up with the crazy busyness of the season. The rushing, the shopping, the baking, the cleaning, the preparing, the fretting, the worrying, all of these things dominate our minds. Like a leech, the season of Christmas can drain the joy right out of us. But fortunately for us, we have our secret weapon. We have the season of Advent to get our ducks in a row and our priorities in line! This glorious pre-Christmas season helps to scare away the monsters and pluck the leeches off! Today is the third Sunday in Advent – and we notice a wee change. The color of the candle today is pink. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a Christmas treat heartburn advertisement for Pepto-Bismol! It’s pink because it is a lighter shade of red which was the original color of the Advent candles back in the day in Germany. Then they went to purple, and now they’re blue, but the pink one still remains. And it is pink to represent the lighter shade of joy that we should be exuding at this time of year in preparation for the birth of Christ.
But too often it is just the opposite. We find ourselves anything but joyful. Overwhelmed might be a more realistic word for our lives at this time of year. And we are not alone in this either. Many moons ago, when the Old Testament Prophet Zephaniah was sent to God’s people, things were’t tickety-boo either. In fact, it was down right nasty. It was a troubled time to say the least. Manasseh, the long time King, was long past his expiration date as a politician. And you know the old saying. Politicians are like baking soda in the fridge, we only replace them when they start to stink! Needless to say, King Manasseh was stinking. The religion and morality of God’s people had been brought to an all time low. The people worshipped foreign gods, they worshipped the stars, and even practised human sacrifice! It was nasty and unbridled wickedness!
Despite how bad things had truly become, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In the midst of that cesspool of iniquity arose a good King. Josiah came in and cleaned everything up. Not bad for an 8 year old! They found the book of the Law in the temple that had long been forgotten. In reading the scriptures they discovered the will of God – and how far from it they had fallen. Josiah tore his robes when the words touched his ears. In stark repentance for the people’s sin, the scriptures say “the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant” (2 Kings 23:3).
It’s amazing to see things turn around on such a big scale. It goes to show that God is ultra-faithful to His people. Even a people who were completely and utterly lost in sin and iniquity. God is faithful. He sent them a good king who would pave the way for joy to once again return to his people. Of course, Josiah the king points ahead to Jesus the King of Kings, who would also come to His people in the worst of times. And, Jesus brings us true joy. Our problem is that we are sinners and we become blinded to it very quickly. We, like God’s people of old, can let the world drown our joy and bamboozle us with all kinds of false gods and dumb ideas.
Abandoning our false-Christmas is the starting place. By that I mean, all the stress and anxiety that this season can make for us ought to be let go. There is no point in getting worked up about shopping and baking and cards and whatever else goes through our heads at a million miles a minute. In fact, the consumerism of Christmas really misses the mark of our Lord’s incarnation. We worry and stress more about buying presents for everyone than we do over spending time with our Savior. It’s the typical “Mary and Martha” syndrome. Martha was busy with much serving while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching. “Lord,” Martha protested,” “tell her to help me!” Tell her to get off her butt and get over here! Tell her to join in my cesspool of anxiety, fret and worry! After all, misery loves company!
But Jesus responds to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). This is why we have Advent. It helps us become “Mary people” instead of “Martha people.” It helps us focus on Jesus instead of all this crazy worldly stuff. It helps us replace our anxiety, stress and worry with God’s Holy Joy. This is what Jesus calls the “good portion.” Like the little succulent nugget of tenderloin left on a pork chop! It’s the best part! We focus on this heavenly joy on this third Sunday in Advent. But it is easy to let our heavenly joy be eaten up by the world. It requires much diligence on our part to keep our hearts and minds focused on Christ our Lord which is where true joy is to be found. The world has always hated Jesus, so much so that they crucified Him – which was far worse than being drug out into the street and shot. But we take heart because Christ Jesus has overcome the world. All of our problems and struggles, all of our sins and iniquities, our little Savior was born to set us free from them. When we think about our Savior, lowly and lying in a manger, the most humbling thoughts come to us. “He’s lying there for me.” “God Almighty put on flesh for me”. The maker of the universe became one of us. Of His great mercy and compassion for all mankind, God has done it. The very source of our heavenly joy is that heaven has come down to earth for us and our salvation. God truly is Emmanuel, God with us. He scatters the darkness and blesses us with His joyous heavenly light. He calls us away from our anxiety, stress and worry and replaces them with that amazing heavenly joy that surpasses all understanding. Think about this incredible blessing the next time you are tempted to get swept up in the craziness of this Christmas season. Let your heart and mind settle on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. He is our true joy and our peace, now and forever more! Amen! Come Lord Jesus. Amen!