This is the third and final installment in the Advent sermon given by Jim Edgel.
Last week Michele and I were driving home from a friend’s house and were struck by the number of homes that already had Christmas lights brilliantly lit. And during this week it has become even more so. It was my feeling that this year there are more lights than past years and I wondered why. Especially why there are so many on the homes of those who do not believe in the one who’s birth we celebrate in just a little over three weeks from now. Those who do not understand the treasure that is contained within our faith. I believe the lights that we see everywhere we go are expressions of defiance in the face of hard times. A tangible way to show that when all is increasingly dark – that there is hope. These lights are an attempt on the part of believers and non-believers alike to show that there is goodness and joy to be had. We all need beauty, we all should defy darkness, and we all need hope. The lights of Christmas provide or represent all three. Sadly, however, they do it differently for different people. For many people the lights that they string up represent a sad and futile hope.
The hope of a Christmas like they had as a child and did not know the sorrow of this world – a Christmas of warm fires, cold snow and sweet aromas
The hope for a family gathering – and a family life like that before they knew the pain of divorce, the agony of untimely death and the grief that separation brings.
The hope for a world of magic, a world in which Santa Claus and his elves really make and deliver all the toys that our children could possibly desire.
A world in which all the problems and pressures of daily living can be erased if only the carols are played from the rooftop speakers loud enough.
But for those that do not have the real hope that Christmas represents… this is all in vain.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not make Christmas like it was when we were children.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not hold back the darkness of sin and sorrow.
— The lights of Christmas cannot and will not change the world and bring us the salvation we desire.
Only the Christ that was born on Christmas day can do that. Only the hope that we have in him, who was crucified for our sins and who rose from the dead and who has promised to return can change our lives and make them worth living. Only the risen and living Lord can make the celebration of his birth something that is more than a brief, frantic and senseless time of feasting until we are sick of sweets, drinking until we are sick of drink, and spending money we don’t have on gifts that our children don’t need – until the rest of the world is sick of our wasteful and self-indulgent ways. For too many people the lights of Christmas are a reminder of the joy that existed in the past, rather than the promise of a joy to come – the joy that is to come when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains. For too many the decorations and the preparations are an attempt to capture for a brief moment the peace of forgetting the pain of the world rather than the triumphant proclamation that the Lord if light, the living God, will soon come and judge between the nations – and that on that day they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks – and that the pain of the world will be ended. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. There are many kinds of hope my friends, some are false hopes and some are true.
— It is a wonderful thing to prepare for Christmas by hanging lights and decorating trees and preparing gifts for those you love
— It is a wonderful thing to defy the course of the world and to proclaim that there is a special day – a day in which family and friends may gather and dine together in peace and with joy.
— But it is even more wonderful – when in doing so – you have reason to believe that a day is coming when the whole world will be at peace – reason to believe that when your life is done you will enter into a joy that is eternal – when you have reason to believe the light which only briefly defies the darkness during our Christmas celebrations, will be established forever.
We have such reasons – we have such hope.
And because of that – I – and you – can rejoice at Christmas time.
–Even when the money is tighter than we have ever known.
— Even when jobs are not secure or our health if failing.
— Even when our children have moved far away or our parents have died.
Because of the one who came at the first Christmas – because of his life – his death – his resurrection and his promise to come again – and because even now he is present in the hearts of all those who believe in him – you and I can face the world as it is – and make a difference to it – and be at peace in it.
The light of the world has come – may his light shine from your homes this Advent season and in all the seasons of your days. Amen.