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Reflection at Advent Lessons and Carols December 10, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
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THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT 
Reflection at Advent Lessons & Carols  5 p.m.
 
Genesis 3:8-15, 20-22; Isaiah 52:7-10; Zephaniah 3:14-17;
Isaiah 60:1-6, 13-15; Isaiah 66:10-13; Luke 1:39-46;
Matthew 25:31-40
Canticle: Magnificat
Carols, other canticles, and anthems
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
The Rev. Janet Campbell
December 10, 2017
 
 
 
In the darkness and cold
of winter nearly upon us,
 
in the 
          darkness and cold
of the wintering of our nation:
 
          the ugliness, division, and uncertainty
          that have enveloped us
                    like a shroud . . .   
         
we gather on this Advent late afternoon
to sing and pray and proclaim
words of
hope and trust and rejoicing . . .
 

Over against a world which seems
          to be careening ever nearer total madness,
 
in the uncertainty and violence of these fraught times,
 
we set the words and songs
          of hope and trust and rejoicing
that God’s people have proclaimed and sung
          across the centuries.
 
Words and songs
          of promise,
          of expectation,
          of restoration,
          of justice,
          of peace.
 
Our declaration
that God in the past
          has broken through the madness,
and will in the future
          break through the madness,
and even now in the present
          is breaking through the madness,
 
 

“How can this be?”
we may ask,
 
perhaps not realizing
we have just asked the same question
posed by a young Jewish woman
in a Galilean village
over 2,000 years ago . . .
 
when,
visited by an angel,
she learned she was to be
the mother of God’s son . . .
 
if she agreed.
 
The angel’s answer,
“With God, all things are possible.”
 
“With God,
all things are possible.”
 
With Mary’s assent
the Greatest of Possibilities
          was born into the world . . .
 
born into the world
          in Roman-occupied Palestine,
          in a time of brutal oppression,
                   widespread poverty,
                   systematic injustice . . .
 
God among us.
 
Advent is the season
of the Great Possibility . . .
 
the fact
and the beauty
and the striving
and the sacredness
          of incarnation . . .
 
seen in the once-for-all
particularity
of the human/divine child
born of Mary’s willingness
and God’s desire . . .
 
God’s desire to dwell among us
          as one of us,
to experience incarnate life
in the incarnate world
          of God’s own creation . . .
 
to know sunrise and sunset,
          the gift of friendship,
the taste of bread and wine,
          the touch of another human being,
the fragrance of the rose
          and the prick of its thorn . . .
 

to know joy and sorrow,
          disappointment and satisfaction;
defeat and success,
          hope and despair;     
 
to know hunger and cold,
an aching back,
elation and depression,
exhaustion,
sleep’s sweet surrender
and renewed strength in the morning;
         
to know the abiding presence,
and the sudden seeming absence,
of God . . .
 
to know life,
all of it,
even death,
as we, God’s children,
know it.
 
 

Advent is the season
of preparation,
 
and we prayed at the beginning
of this service
that in this season
we might prepare ourselves
to be shown the true meaning of Christmas,
 
a meaning first revealed
          in the infant in the manger . . .
a meaning that has been unfolding
          in the world ever since . . .
a meaning that is alive
          among us today.
 
For the true meaning of Christmas
is this:
the Great Possibility
          born into the world in Jesus,
          alive in the world in us,
is
the fact
and the beauty
and the striving
and the sacredness
          of incarnate life . . .
 
and a kingdom
coming into being
          in and through us.
 

Not a kingdom
as this world knows kingdoms . . .
          of the few, for the few . . .
 
but a kingdom
          of all, for all,
 
a communion and fellowship
of every tribe and language
          and people and nation
bound together  
          in the love and mercy of God.
 
This kingdom
is ever stirring into being
in ways seen and unseen,
God working
through the lives and words and actions
          of God’s beloved children . . .
 
us,
you and me,
and everyone who loves God . . .
 
“We cannot do great things on this Earth,
only small things with great love.”
said Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
 

Mother Teresa,
who, with great love,
cared for the poor, sick, and dying
          in that suffering city.
 
“We cannot do great things on this Earth,
only small things with great love.”
 
 
Advent,
season of possibility,
          preparation,
                   expectation.
 
We usually think of this expectation
as our expectation of God . . .
to do something, to act.
 
but we might also think of Advent
as the season of God’s expectation . . .
 
God’s expectation of us,
to do something, to act . . .
 

God’s expectation
that our preparation for
          the celebration of Christmas
will also be preparation
          for the work of Christmas –
 
not the work of
shopping and presents,
parties and feasts . . .
 
But the work of
the Great Possibility.
 
 
Howard Thurman,
20th century African-American     (1899-1981)
author, pastor, theologian, educator,
          civil rights leader,
wrote of this work of Christmas
in a poem entitled
 
I will light Candles this Christmas.
 
I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
 
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
 
It is for this work
that we now prepare
          in Advent.