We are beginning another season of Advent. This is my 10th Season of Advent as pastor of Douglas UCC. But those of you who have been coming to church all of those years, you know that I'm usually not here on the first Sunday of Advent, because typically, that's when Gregg and I would take our vacation. We were always gone during the first week of Advent. And you may remember that each year, we would always go on a cruise.
The last cruise that we went on was right before COVID. We haven't been on a cruise since COVID, but before COVID, when I got back, I told you about a young couple that we met on the cruise. They were there on their “babymoon.”
And that was a term that I was unfamiliar with. And maybe you are too. A Babymoon is kind of like a honeymoon for expectant parents. They know that after their baby comes their lives are going to change. So before that time, they want to make sure that they get to spend some good quality time together before the baby comes.
The young couple that we were talking with on the cruise, they were telling us about all of their preparations, everything they were doing to prepare for the birth of their first child. So they were reading books, and they were attending classes, and they were baby-proofing the house. And they were getting the nursery all set up. And they were sharing that it was a time of great anticipation and great excitement for this new birth, this new life that was on its way.
I think that that's the perfect way to begin the season of Advent. To see that birth as something we’re awaiting. This time of advent between now and Christmas, we are to be doing what those expectant parents are doing. We have to be making preparations.
But what are we preparing ourselves for? Are we preparing ourselves for the birth of the baby Jesus? I mean, didn't that already happen? More than 2,000 years ago? How can we prepare ourselves for something that already happened?
Well, our friend, Father Richard Rohr says that Advent is not a time of sentimental waiting for the baby Jesus. Rather, he says, Advent is a time of great expectation and great anticipation for the coming of the Christ, which happens within us.
If you were with us last Sunday, our reading was from Colossians. And we heard that Christ was the first born of all of creation. That billions of years ago, when God birthed everything into existence, there was the Christ.
Now Jesus was a man 2,000 years ago, who became one with the Christ, with that light of the world. He recognized that Christ presence was within him. And once he made that discovery, he made it his mission to go out and to teach others the way, the way to that same discovery within themselves.
And that's why he didn't just say, I am the Son of God. He said, You are sons and daughters of God. And he didn't say I am the light of the world. He said, You are the light of the world.
That's what Advent is about. We're preparing ourselves for that birth, that coming of the Christ light within us. So in our gospel reading today, for the first Sunday of Advent, we see an adult Jesus, 30 years old, and he's talking to his apostles, and he mentions not once but three times, the coming of the Son of Man. Now, if Jesus was talking about himself, that would seem very confusing. Wouldn’t that be confusing if Jesus was standing in front of you, and he said “Prepare yourself for the coming of the Son of Man”? That wouldnt make sense if he's already there. He's already standing in front of you.
But you see, when Jesus is talking about the Son of Man, he is not talking about himself, the personal noun, Jesus of Nazareth, that personal name. He's not talking about his human self. He's talking from his Christ consciousness from his Christ self.
The Christ is the only begotten Son. Now, most of us didn't get that message. Growing up in the Christian church, we got the message that Jesus was the only one, the only one that had that divine light. But if you actually read the gospels, the teachings of Jesus, he was telling us that that light of the Christ is within us too, and that we are to prepare ourselves for that awakening of the light that is within us.
The 13th century Christian mystic, who was known as Meister Eckhart, said in the 13th century, “All of us are the only begotten Son, because God is forever begetting the only begotten.”
The Christ continues to be born in all of us. We're preparing ourselves for the coming of that light. So how do we prepare ourselves? Well, let's look at those expectant parents, what they were doing. They were reading books and taking classes. Well, that's what you can be doing during the season of Advent, spiritual reading. Then they were baby-proofing their house, getting rid of things in their house that could be dangerous. We need to get rid of the things from our house, our inner temple, that are keeping us from our light – things like worry, fear, lack, limitation. And then we have to prepare the nursery. Get the nursery ready.
You know, in the story of the birth of Jesus, for Mary and Joseph, there was no room at the inn. The end is symbolic. It symbolizes our innermost being. During this time of Advent, we're making room and we're preparing room in the inn, in our interior self, so that we can birth the light into the world.
That's why we light candles. So the first candle is for hope.
As we heard, in our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning, it's difficult for many of us to be hopeful. Those words this morning come from this little devotional for Advent, which is called Low, an Honest Advent Devotional. It was written by our friend John Pavlovitz. We were so fortunate that John was here last year around this time speaking right here at Douglas UCC.
He begins the book with that passage we heard this morning about turbulence. And yes, it's hard to be hopeful, my friends, when the world is in such a turbulent place. But just as the pilot of the plane knows how to keep things steady, we can be steady during a time of turbulence in our world, because those four lights of the Advent candle are already in us. Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. We just need to connect with that light that is within us, connect with that hope.
And it's why John Pavlovitz says in another one of his books, it's actually the title of the book, Hope and Other Superpowers. John Pavlovitz said that hope is our superpower. It is within us and that's why he says don't let hopelessness trend in your head.
And I know when you watch Cable News, and you're scrolling on Facebook, it is hard. Your mind wants to go to that place of hopelessness. But we are children of light. We need to connect with those lights of love, peace, joy and hope that are within us.
And so that's what I'd like to invite you to do, as we begin this season of Advent together, is to find time each and every day to go within, to that inn within you, that manger, and prepare that place for the light to be birthed.
Scripture tells us that a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And you may remember a few years ago, at President Biden's inauguration, the young poet Amanda Gorman, who said something similar. She said there's always light if we're brave enough to see it. And if we're brave enough to be it.
So my friends let us be that light that we were created to be for the light is on its way. Let every heart prepare Him room.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration and Guidance
Rev. John Pavlovitz from his book, “Low: An Honest Advent Devotional”
Recently, I was on a flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the captain announced, “Please fasten your seatbelts, because it may get a little choppy.” “Choppy” is captain-speak for “we’re about to get shaken.” The captain was telling us matter-of-factly, “Hold on. Prepare yourselves. Turbulence is coming.” This should be familiar territory for us, as it was for the first disciples. As Jesus was preparing his students for his physical absence, he says to them (and to us), “In this world, you will have trouble.” In other words, “Hold on. Prepare yourselves. Turbulence is coming.” But Jesus reminds us that we should not be shaken into hopelessness. He, much like the pilot of my plane, is not overwhelmed, because he has the threat right-sided. We can do the same. The question isn’t whether we will be placed in the storms, but rather, how much of the turbulence we will allow to be placed within us. When we find ourselves in these storms or circumstances or troubling thoughts, we can rest in the knowledge that the things that cause our shaking, in the eyes of a God who sees and loves and accompanies us – are nothing more than a little “chop.” Yes, turbulence is coming, but be not afraid. Advent is a time of hope, not hopelessness, so may hope trend in your head and reign in your heart this Advent season.
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