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Archive for December, 2010

I heard this story on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday for several years when I was in seminary.  I enjoy telling the story as an Advent sermon.  During Advent 2010, I have been thinking about the Christmas Crazy Train that whistles through many communities, churches, and homes.  When we choose not to board the train, we are free to live into the season of Advent – expecting and preparing, and free to resist the consumerism and commercialism that tempts us and distracts us from the presence of the living Lord, God with us, that reminds us of who we are and whose we are.  May we remember and share the gifts of grace, relationship, hospitality with the Christ among is.  So may it be.

 

John Henry Faulk’s

Christmas Story

Copyright: National Public Radio

The gifted storyteller and former radio broadcaster John Henry Faulk recorded his Christmas story in 1974. This story was a holiday tradition on Weekend Edition Sunday.  Faulk was born to Methodist parents on August 21, 1913. The fourth of five children, he attended the University of Texas. For his master’s thesis, he researched ten sermons in African-American churches and gained insight into the inequity of civil rights for people of color. He later taught English at the University and served as a medic in the Marines during World War II. Before the John Henry Faulk Show debut in 1951 on WCBS Radio, Faulk hosted numerous radio programs in New York and New Jersey. He was blacklisted in 1957, but with support from Edward R. Murrow, won a libel suit against the corporation that branded him a Communist. Faulk’s book, Fear on Trial, published in 1963, chronicles this experience. Later in his career, Faulk appeared on Hee-Haw, wrote and produced the one-man plays Deep in the Heart and Pear Orchard, Texas, and made an unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat in 1983. In 1990, John Henry Faulk died of cancer in his hometown of Austin. The downtown branch of the public library there now bears his name.

 


 


A Transcript of John Henry Faulk’s Christmas Story

The day after Christmas a number of years ago, I was driving down a country road in Texas.

And it was a bitter cold, cold morning.

And walking ahead of me on the gravel road was a little bare-footed boy

with non-descript ragged overalls

and a makeshift sleeved sweater tied around his little ears.

I stopped and picked him up.

Looked like he was about 12 years old and his little feet were blue with the cold. He was carrying an orange.

And he got in and had the brightest blue eyes one ever saw.

And he turned a bright smile on my face and says,

“I’m-a going down the road about two miles to my cousins.

I want to show him my orange old Santa Claus brought me.”

But I wasn’t going to mention Christmas to him

because I figured he came from a family –

the kind that don’t have Christmas.

But he brought it up himself.

He said, “Did old Santa Claus come to see you, Mister?”

And I said, “Yes. We had a real nice Christmas at our house

and I hope you had the same.”

He paused for a moment, looked at me.

And then with all the sincerity in the world said,

“Mister, we had the wonderfulest Christmas in the United States

down to our place.

Lordy, it was the first one we ever had had there.

See, we never do have them out there much.

Don’t notice when Christmastime comes.

We heared about it, but never did have one ’cause –

well, you know, it’s just papa says that old Santa Claus –

papa hoorahs a lot –

and said old Santa Claus was scared to bring his reindeer down into our

section of the county

because folks down there so hard up

that they liable to catch one of his reindeer

and butcher him for meat.

But just several days before Christmas,

a lady come out from town and she told all the families through there,

our family, too,

that they was — old Santa Claus was come in town

to leave some things for us and if papa’d go in town,

he could get some Christmastime for all of us.

And papa hooked up the mule and wagon. He went in town.

But he told us children, said,

“Now don’t ya’ll get all worked up and excited

because there might not be nothing to this yarn that lady told.”

And–but, shucks, he hadn’t got out of sight up the lane there

till we was done a-watching for him to come back.

We couldn’t get our minds on nothing else, you know.

And mama, she’d come to the door once in a while and say,

“Now ya’ll quit that looking up the lane

because papa told you there might not be nothing.”

And — but long about the middle of the afternoon, well,

we heared the team a-jangling

and we ran out in the front yard,

and Ernie, my little brother, called out and said,

“Yonder come papa.”

And here come them mules just in a big trot, you know,

and papa standing upright in the bed of that wagon

holding two big old chickens, all the feathers picked off.

And he was just yelling, “Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.”

And the team stopped right in front of the gate.

And all us children just went a-swarming out there like a flock of chichis,

you know, and just a-crawling over that wagon and a-looking in.

And, Mister, I wish you could have seen what was in that wagon.

It’s bags of stripety candy and apples and oranges

and sacks of flour and some real coffee, you know,

and just all tinselly and pretty and we couldn’t say nothing.

Just kind of held our breath and looked at it, you know.

And papa standing there just waving them two chickens,

a-yelling, “Merry Christmas to you. Merry Christmas to you,”

and a-laughing that big old grin on his face.

And mama, she come a-hurrying out with the baby in her arms, you know.

And when she looked in that wagon, she just stopped, and then papa,

he dropped them two chickens

and reached and caught the baby out of her arms, you know,

and held him up and said, “Merry Christmas to you, Santa Claus.”

And baby, little old Alvie Lee, he just laughed

like he knowed it was Christmas, too, you know.

And mama, she started telling us the name of all of them nuts.

They wasn’t just peanuts. They was — she had names for all of them.

She — mama knows a heap of things like that.

She’d seen that stuff before, you know?

And we was, all of us, just a-chattering and a-going on at the same time,

us young’uns, a-looking in there.

And all of a sudden, we heared papa call out,

“Merry Christmas to you, Sam Jackson.”

And we stopped and looked.

And here comes Sam Jackson

a-leading that old cripple-legged mule of his up the lane.

And papa said,

“Sam Jackson, did you get in town to get some Christmas this year?”

Sam Jackson, you know, he sharecrops over there

across the creek from our place.

And he shook his head and said,

“Well, no, sir, Mister. Well, I didn’t go in town.

I heared about that, but I didn’t know it was for colored folks, too.

I thought it was just for you white families.”

All of a sudden, none of us children were saying nothing.

Papa, he looked down at mama

and mama looked up at him and they didn’t say nothing,

like they don’t a heap of times,

but they know what the other one’s a-thinking.

They’re like that, you know.

And all of a sudden, papa, he broke out in a big grin again.

He said, “Dad-blame-it, Sam Jackson,

it’s a sure a good thing you come by here.

Lord have mercy, I liked to forgot.

Old Santa Claus would have me in court if he heared about this.

The last thing he asked me if I lived out here near you.

Said he hadn’t seen you around

and said he wanted me to bring part of this out here

to you and your family, your woman and your children.”

Well, sir, Sam Jackson, he broke out in a big grin.

Papa says, “I’ll tell you what t’do.

You get your wife and children

and you come down here tomorrow morning.

It’s going to be Christmastime all day long.

Come early and stay late.”

Sam Jackson said, “You reckon?”

And mama called out to him and said,

“Yes, and you tell your wife

to be sure and bring some pots and pans

because we’re going to have a heap of cookin’ to do

and I ain’t sure I’ve got enough to take care of all of it.”

Well, sir, old Sam Jackson,

he started off a-leading that mule up the lane in a full trot, you know,

and he was a-heading home to get the word to his folks and his children,

you know.

And next morning, it just –

you remember how it was yesterday morning,

just rosy red and looked like Christmastime.

It was cold, but you didn’t notice the cold, you know,

when the sun just come up, just all rosy red.

And us young’uns were all out of bed before daylight seemed like,

just running in the kitchen and smelling and looking.

And it was all there sure enough.

And here come Sam Jackson and his team

and his wife and his five young’uns in there.

And they’s all lookin’ over the edge.

And we run out and yelled, “Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.”

And papa said, “Christmas gift to you, Sam Jackson. Ya’ll come on in.” And they come in and mama and Sister Jackson, they got in the kitchen

and they started a-cooking things up.

And us young’uns started playing Christmastime.

And it’s a lot of fun, you know.

We’d just play Christmas Gift with one another

and run around and around the house and just roll in the dirt,

you know,

and then we started playing Go Up To The Kitchen Door And Smell.

And we’d run up and smell inside that kitchen door

where mama and Sister Jackson was a-cooking at,

and then we’d just die laughing and roll in the dirt, you know,

and go chasing around and playing Christmas Gift.

And we played Christmastime till we just wore ourselves out.

And Papa and Sam Jackson–they put a table up

and put some sheets over it,

some boards up over some sawhorses.

And everybody had a place, even the baby.

And mama and Sister Jackson said, “Well, now it’s ready to come on in.

We’re going to have Christmas dinner.”

And I sit right next to Willy Jackson, you know,

and he just rolled his eyes at me and I’d roll mine at him.

And we’d just die laughing, you know,

and there was an apple and an orange and some stripety candy

at everybody’s place.

And that was just dessert, see.

That wasn’t the real Christmas dinner.

Mama and them had done cooked that up.

And they just had it spread up and down the table.

And so papa and Sam Jackson,

they’d been sitting on the front porch

and they come in.

Papa, he sit at one end of the table,

Sam Jackson sit at the other.

And it was just a beautiful table like you never had seen.

And I didn’t know nothing could ever look like that and smell that good, you know.

And Sam Jackson, you know,

he’s real black

and he had on that white clean shirt of his and then them overalls.

Everything had been washed and was real clean.

Papa, he said,

“Brother Jackson, I believe you’re a deacon in the church.

I ain’t much of a church man myself, but since you’re a deacon, Maybe you’d be willing to give grace.”

Well, Sam Jackson, he stood up there

and his hands is real big

and he kind of held onto the side of the table, you know.

But he didn’t bow his head

like a heap of folks do when they’re saying the blessing.

He just looked up and smiled.

And he said,

“Lord, I hope you having as nice a Christmas up there with your angels

as we’re having down here

because it sure is Christmastime down here.

And I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to you, Lord.

Like I say, Mister, I believe that was the wonderfulest Christmas

in the United States of America.”

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3rd Sunday in Advent

Luke 1:47-55

Magnificat

 

What do you do when an angel comes to you in the middle of the night and announces that you, a young woman, engaged to be married, are one of God’s favorites, and that somehow the Holy Spirit will cause you to be pregnant with the Son of God?

And, by the way, one of your cousins, an older cousin, who has been unable to have children for all these years…she’s pregnant, too.

What do you do? What would I do? Well, I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a young woman, let alone a pregnant one. But I do know what it’s like to be engaged. So what would I do if I learned from an angel that I was about to participate in some miracle of God? Well, thinking back to my engaged days…I would definitely not have run to go tell Kazy’s parents. Or mine either, at least not right away. And I wonder how I would have broken the news to Kazy.

Well we know what Mary did, after the angel left her with the big news, she went to cousin Elizabeth. In fact, she went off in a hurry to see her. Was she in a hurry because she was excited, or afraid, or confused? We don’t know, Luke just said she went to her “with haste.”

Maybe she believed that Elizabeth, her elder, barren, yet somehow pregnant cousin could hear her wondrous story. Maybe cousin Elizabeth, who was in a similar situation, could help make Mary feel better.

Imagine their visit together. An old, childless woman; and a young, unmarried girl. One the wife of a respected priest, the other the fiancée of a village carpenter. Neither expected to be mothers at this time of their lives, one was old and barren, the other one a young woman, who had never been with a man. Yet they meet and embrace, both filled with the promise of motherhood. Elizabeth, now hopeful in her pregnancy despite years of hopeless barrenness, responds with hopeful expectation at the arrival of her young relative Mary.

These two women are the ones who introduce the Messiah in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel. They are prophetic and radical. Although they are Jews living under Roman occupation – where the Emperor is Lord and master, Elizabeth proclaims that her cousin Mary is to be the mother of her Lord…and it’s not Caesar. Mary, who today wouldn’t even be old enough to get her driver’s license yet, not only the mother of the Son of God, but the prophet of the poor, she sings a song telling of the overthrow of the social, political, and economic order…the powerful will no longer serve on thrones, but those who were thought low will be lifted, and the hungry shall be filled. Strength shall be shown by mercy and grace, and by how the lowly are lifted up.

Luke says that Mary’s visit to Elizabeth lasts three months. Imagine how they spent their time. I remember Kazy and her friend Amy spending time when they were both pregnant, expecting babies within weeks of each other. And I think about other expecting mothers I know and have known. Imaging about the babies they’re carrying. What would they look like? What color hair will she have? What color will his eyes be? Will he be tall like his grandfather? Will she have her mother’s fair skin?

Imagine them putting ears to stomachs listening for heartbeats, and talking to the baby inside. Imagine these mothers rubbing each other’s tired feet and sore backs, brushing and braiding hair.

Imagine them spending these few months knitting blankets and making clothes. Preparing beds and baskets. Nesting. Imagine them thinking about rocking bundles of joy, and playful childhoods. Could they have imagined what kind of adults their children would be, and mercifully they were unaware of how their lives would end.

Maybe the elder Elizabeth had some advice about marriage and relationships for Mary. Being older and barren, Elizabeth may have been aware that people talked about her behind her back. Childlessness was often looked down on, as a sign of punishment or failure. Maybe she could help Mary prepare for people talking about her behind her back…about being pregnant and not yet married.

Two ordinary women, with whom God found favor…just like God, choosing ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Young Mary, the Christ-bearer, who responds with faith and expectation to God’s gift. Her song tells the story of God’s faithful acts. In today’s reading, known as “The Magnificat” she tells that:

God is faithful from generation to generation

God’s mighty arm, the same arm that freed the captive Israelites

has scattered the proud,

and brought the mighty down from their thrones.

This same God has lifted up the lowly

has filled the hungry

and sent the rich away empty.

God has kept covenant

and remembered to show mercy.

 

Mary imagines the world in her song, she expects this world because God has promised it. God has done these things, she sings about them in the active tense. The good news is that God has done these things:

God has freed the captive

God has lifted up the lowly

God has filled the hungry

God has remembered to show mercy, and kept His promises.

When Kazy and I lived at the homeless shelter in Atlanta, this was the sermon text one day, and one of the women who slept in the streets, told us after hearing Mary’s song read aloud, she said that was good news for her because God had lifted her up.

The woman told us that she was called names and treated with unbelievable disrespect in the streets, people assumed she was a prostitute, or tried to take advantage of her. But the song of Mary, an outcast woman favored by God, gave her hope and courage not to live in shame.

We know the rest of Mary’s story. But today the story stops before she has her baby. Today we find Mary just beginning her journey. After three months she leaves her cousin’s house and goes back home to Nazareth – pregnant – expecting – waiting.

The good news for me in today’s reading is Mary’s journey, and her hopeful expectation. It is good news that Jesus was born of a woman, an ordinary person living in an oppressive empire. It is good news that God has done, and is doing these things, and that we can participate as a reminder and as a witness to what God is doing in the life and witness of this church and in our community.

When I hear Mary’s song, I think about one of my favorite songs, Imagine by John Lennon.

Imagine there are no countries, it isn’t hard to do.

Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.

Imagine all the people, living life in peace….

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can.

No need for greed or hunger.

A brotherhood (and sisterhood) of man.

Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

Can you imagine this world? Can you imagine a world not divided up by lines and borders? Can you imagine a world that does not build deadly weapons for people to carry into war? A world that no longer studies war, but prepares for peace. Can you imagine a world where there is no religion to call right or wrong; rather people living faithful lives for a common good? Can you imagine a world where things are not possessed but shared, where there is no need for greed or hunger? Can you imagine?

This is like the world imagined by Mary, the mother of Jesus. Indeed this is like the world expected by Mary. Today, as we imagine, let it not be wishful thinking or pretending. Like Mary, let us imagine a world that is different than the ordinary place where we live and work.

Imagine that a real, live woman, from Nazareth…out in the sticks, and ordinary girl who sang out, “My soul magnifies the Lord who has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly. God has filled the hungry.” Mary sings of a living God at work in the world, the city, the suburb, the northside, and the southside, even in the church.

In the coming days, we may find ourselves traveling to be with family and friends, we may drive on crowded streets, and find ourselves in crowded stores. As we live our lives where we are, as we continue our journeys through the everyday and even the mundane, let us take this young girl’s song with us, let us carry Mary’s song – The Magnificat.

Let us remember that God has always chosen ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Keep this song in your heart. Imagine. Our Lord was born to an ordinary girl, in a barn. And the world is still talking about this marvelous baby and this amazing man who ate with sinners, taught people and healed them.

Will Willimon, a Methodist preacher, and Bishop in Alabama tells the story of an old woman in the Louisiana bayou who had raised more than a dozen children, most of them she took in because nobody else wanted them. Despite her own poverty, she raised them to be worthwhile adults. Somebody asked her why she did it. She replied, “Well, I saw a new world a’comin.”

This bayou woman had Mary’s imagination. An ordinary woman, with whom God did extraordinary things.

Mary believed. Mary imagined. Mary sang. Mary expected.

So may it be with us. Amen.

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2nd Sunday of Advent

Matthew 3:1-12, Isaiah 11:1-10

1. Way In

Reflecting on the Christmas decorations in the church

significance of hauling the traditional decorations out

memories

family and friends

remembering as liturgy

comfort, familiarity

Theological, scriptural significance and symbolism

evergreens

light/candles

Chrismons

good reminders in the Advent season of preparation and expectation

that’s “Advent waiting” as we discussed last Sunday

Christmas decorating at my house

hauling boxes up from basement

decorating tree, etc.

My family memory growing up

We called it a “Manger Scene,” fancy word – Crèche

this church have one?

we did, but I never heard this word for it

crèche, from French for “infant bed”

Hinds Manger Scene

had it as long as I can remember

maybe Joy has it now

definitely a reminder of Jesus’ humble birth

sort of a sad lot, as I remember, no telling how it looks now.

Old age, I guess. Not made to last forever. Certainly not made to withstand handling of my sisters and me (probably mostly me) for over 40 years

Describe:

three-legged donkey

had to lean against the back wall of the barn to keep from falling over

camel that also lost a leg somewhere along the line

better shape than the donkey

pipe-cleaner leg

even found one that more or less matched his coloring

at least the camel could stand on his own

fleecy, cottony sheep and lambs

except for large bald spots

where they looked more like hairless cats

Cow

in pretty good shape

stood there lowing

whatever that means

baby Jesus

porcelain infant

treated with respect and care over the years

“You better be careful. That’s Jesus!”

but the manger …

repaired with popsicle sticks and bread bag ties

Mary and Joseph

kneeling beside the manger

looking holy and serene

like baby Jesus …

they enjoyed the care and tenderness over the years

such as one would expect for the members of the holy family

Mary looked terrific …

considering she had just given birth to a child in a barn

shepherds

in a little group

one kneeling, two standing

also placed near the manger

chips and cracks gave their beards and cloaks kind of a mottled look

and the one with any arms left at all

was holding a staff

striking resemblance to the camels leg

also made back in the day when pipe cleaners were really used to clean pipes

not sold at Michael’s for crafts

Wise men

huddled around the manger with the shepherds

never mind the scriptural evidence for their arrival 12 days after the birthing night when the shepherds got there

Angel

looking down from atop the barn

lacy wings were shamefully tattered and dingy

but her little face was still sweet and … well, angelic

shining brilliantly above was the star

if not brilliant, at least earnestly shiny

or as much so as so-many-years-old aluminum foil could

Humble and worn as this manger scene was …

setting it up meant “getting ready for Christmas” to me and my sisters

it was comfortable and familiar

I remember

putting my face at eye-level with the manger scene on the table where it sat, surrounded with pine straw

… thinking about the journey of the wise men on camels and the shepherds on foot

…thinking about a new-born baby like one of my sisters in a manger

in a barn with animals around stamping their feet and snorting

… each repair job on the aging figures in the scene

the ones my father fixed

and the ones I fixed or re-repaired as the years went by

Manger Scene (I feel pretentious calling it a crèche)

surely you have, or have had one at your house or in the church

as I describe my family’s does it spark any memories for you?

preparation of your home

how that preparation prepared you spiritually

Bridge

now imagine that humble and serene manger scene being invaded

Invaded?

imagine peering in at that holy scene and seeing something irreverently out-of-place

like one of Pauly’s Power Rangers standing among the shepherds

or a Polly Pocket sitting in the barn by Mary

how would that make you feel?

disrespected, angry, insulted

sort of how I think about the account I just read from Matthew’s gospel about John the Baptist

as we are preparing for the birth of the Christ child

… in the middle of the familiar stories and songs

… in the middle of our comfortable and familiar manger scene…

in the middle of all our reverent preparations …comes some kind of nut

in the middle of preparation, prayer, lighting candles, decorating, and sending greetings …

comes John the Baptist, preaching fire and brimstone

while we’re putting up Christmas trees, he’s preaching about chopping down trees

while we’re lighting Advent candles, he’s preaching about blazing fire for a sinful world

while we’re planning holiday meals and cooking treats, he’s eating locusts

while we’re cleaning and ironing our festive holiday outfits, he’s wearing camel hair and leather

and I don’t think we’re talking about the fashionable came’s hair like some men’s blazers are made from

we’re thinking of nice things to say in Christmas cards and he’s calling religious leaders snakes and sons of snakes

J.t.B. doesn’t fit here

this hell and damnation sermon doesn’t belong in our manger scene

maybe at Lent when we’re supposed to be all repentant …

but not during Advent

not in our manger scene

let’s get back to comfort food

back to the familiar manger scene

back to familiar decorations and symbols

Or does he belong?

Does J.t.B. understand Advent in ways we miss?

Can we listen to John with new ears?

Can we consider that God knew what he was doing when he put this part in the Bible?

What is John teaching us about preparing the way of the Lord?

2, Tell the Story

John says to prepare for the coming future of the Lord

do we prepare for his coming as God’s word instructs?

or do we prefer to shape our future based on how we think the world ought to be?

who’s in charge and who benefits?

us and people like us?

or the strangers and aliens among us?

check back with Deuteronomy for how God describes a “Godly nation”

J.t.B. sees a group of religious leaders coming for a baptism he calls them a brood of vipers (now that’s hitting close to home). “Who warned you,” he asks, “to run away fro the wrath to come?”

he warns them against claiming right and privilege because Father Abraham is on their side

J.t.B. scoffs at this, religious heritage doesn’t save you or guarantee your future

God could raise up a whole generation of children of Abraham from a pile of rocks

Do we look at security the same way as those Pharisees and Sadducees?

are we over-confident in the fact that we came from good, God-fearing, church-going people?

doesn’t that make us a little better?

but John would say, phooey, God could raise up a whole generation of church-goers from a pile of rocks – or a pile of snow

Do we think too much that we have it all sewed up? Or all figured out?

Do we?

or do we believe that the future is in God’s hand?

J.t.B. gives us clear instruction – Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near

repent, he’s telling us to turn our lives around

not just a small turn

talking about really cranking the wheel around

the Greek word we try to translate and tame into English is metanoia

“change or shift” “perspective”

in other words, a complete reordering of life

change of heart

Clarence Jordan, preacher, integrationist, Greek scholar and author of Cotton Patch Gospel says,

“repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you got caught doing…repentance is a complete transformation of heart.

I can relate to that

sure, we’re sorry when we get caught

that’s not repentance

when we allow God to work in our lives through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as witnessed in scripture…only then can we be transformed

J.t.B. challenges us to turn away from the future as we try to create and control it; and look to, and live for

the future God creates

to get there, we have to metanoia

reorder our living

open up to God’s transforming power

this can be difficult, even threatening to us

because it means exposing our own triflings

and struggle for control

releasing that requires a change of heart, a reordering, a repentance

I heard a preacher say that “we don’t bring in the kingdom by changing, but we receive the kingdom by going to our knees in repentance and turning our backs on the way we were before”

these are positions of submission not power

because we never stand as tall as we do when we are on our knees before God

and we never look so well as when we turn our backs on the way we were before

John’s words are urgent, and he is right

if we don’t’ turn and follow him, we’ll be sorry

the new future/the kingdom of heaven is breaking in on us and we must be ready

John is calling us to prepare the way of our Lord, prepare him room

by turning from ways that separate us from God and others

and to meet God in our repentance

J.t.B. uses simple words, and my mind appreciates that

he says the axe is laying at the foot of the tree

and every tree not bearing fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire

we are not saved y our works…we are saved, by grace, though faith

but our life and salvation is wasted when we don’t live lives worthy of God’s intentions towards us

We prepare the way for the Lord when we turn to God and start bearing good fruit

we don’t prepare for the kingdom of heaven by withdrawing fro the world

we are called to be fruit-producing trees

our lives produce fruit when we honor God by the way we live

Think of someone you know who is a fruit-bearing tree

I was reading about Brother Bryan, a Presby. minister in Birmingham, AL during the depression

he opened up his church to give bread and soup to hungry families

I may have told you before about the statue of Brother Bryan in BHM

and how his old church now runs a women’s shelter, transitional home, daycare, and medical clinic

Brother Bryan bore fruit

and that seed continues to multiply

3. So What?

We are called to prepare, to make ready.

God takes us seriously.

God takes our sin seriously and calls us to take it seriously too

God has made us for a better way, and wishes for us the best

G. grieves when we turn our backs on the future that can await us.

God breaks into the winter of our lives and says,

“Look at the new growth. See the shoot coming from that old dead stump. Catch my vision fore the future.”

Maybe John the Baptist is not such an unlikely Advent character.

Not that after some study he’s any less intrusive.

still looks out of place in our manger scene.

delivery is fire and brimstone,

but his message is one of hope for the ones who will listen,

and be transformed by the Lord who’s on the way.

His message is that God cares about our sin so much because he cares about us so much.

Dr. Shirley Guthrie, a beloved seminary professor of ours, liked to say, “God loves us the way we are, and God loves us too much to want us to stay that way.

John the Baptist is crying urgently in the wilderness that God has a future in store for us.

Advent is the time to catch the vision, to catch God’s vision.

Advent is the time to bear fruit worthy of the name of our Lord

Be filled with his Spirit

and live as if we believed that our lives were bought at a great cost.

In that we bear fruit

and live for the sake of God’s kingdom which has already come near

So may it be with us. Amen.

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