Preacher: Jessie Houff
Scriptures: Zephaniah 3: 14-20 & Luke 3:7-18
A little bit more frost on the grass each morning. Breathtaking, fiery red leaves cascade to the ground with every steady breeze. Winter is near.
Winter is the death that makes way for a new spring. A necessary death. A beautiful one. Sounds like Jesus.
At least in the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate this new life of Jesus in the time where we experience death ongoing. Nature shrivels around us as we await the celebration of God in human form. In a world and a time where disease has unwillingly taken charge, we hear our first scripture:
“Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!…The LORD, your God – will rejoice over you with gladness, he will exult over you with loud singing…I will remove disaster from you…I will bring you home”
What a joyous scripture. It makes me not fear my own demise. Sounds so beautiful. God is so excited to “meet us”, to come home.
There’s a saying these days that I’ve often found myself using and hearing others say. The saying goes, “It makes me feel some kinda way”. This is said when something incredible happens – no matter if it’s devastating, joyous, or fearful, this saying skips the part where you need to search for the precise words to express how one feels. You just simply “feel some kinda way”. This Zephaniah scripture does that to me. With my hand on my heart, warm, happy, at peace.
Then as a stark contrast we have the Luke scripture:
“You Brood of Vipers!…The ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
I just felt so warmly about meeting God, now I’m fearful I might not make it it there! I better do good! You better watch out, you better not cry.
Much like last year, I couldn’t wait for the Christmas season to begin. I counted down the days when I could go get a tree. The anticipation for the lights and the smells and spending time with loved ones couldn’t come soon enough. Now that it’s here, I find myself giving thanks throughout the day a little more than normal. Now when I get home I’m not only greeted by my pup, but I’m blasted in the face with the intoxicating scent of evergreen. I lean in close, take a deep breath in —-
To me, there’s nothing quite like it. Makes me feel some kinda way. Though it’s dark when I get home, that just means my lights get to show off their splendor to my neighborhood a little sooner.
Then for some reason, like a glitch, I remember that email I forgot to respond to –
I didn’t plan for dinner and I’m SO hungry –
My back pain is in full swing after being on my feet all day and I have to do it all again tomorrow.
It doesn’t take much to derail my peace, unfortunately. My friends remind me to breathe more. Deep breaths —————– ——————–
Lately I have noticed a lot of conflict happening around me-friends of mine, co-workers, family members. It’s like there’s something in the air causing intentional harm and stress. It’s like listening to music in the car – a sweet, quiet tune of silent night followed by the glitching, cringy, piercing advertisement yelling at me go to the JC Penny RIGHT NOW!
Why couldn’t the peace just have stayed? Why did I have to be yanked into the realities of commercial christmas so violently?
Perhaps these glitches are there to remind us to be thankful. For every happy season there will be a stressful one. And our character is defined by how we handle these glitches.
Advent season is one of waiting and of peace. But Mary’s life at the time was certainly not all peaceful. Conflict, doubt, uncertainty, and fear were constants. And yet Mary persevered. HOW?? To be as young as she was, a virgin going through all this chaos and stress, how did she do it?
The song “Breath of Heaven” comes to mind. Written in 1992 by Amy Grant, this is a song that reflects the inner turmoil Mary experienced while pregnant with Jesus. The struggle, the stress, the deep breaths. In the Lyrics, Mary sings:
“I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now…
Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven…
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy…
Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Help me be
Breath of Heaven”
-Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant
Amy wrote this story of Christmas from the one who made Christmas happen – Mary – as she prays to God. Jesus – the manifestation – the breath of heaven to lighten Mary’s darkness. In the stress, she stopped to breathe and pray.
And then she moved onward.
Friends. We sit here together waiting for the coming weeks. We anticipate the celebration while still going to work, balancing our schedules, commuting, dealing with the stress that comes our way.
I pray that in all the chaos and the glitches that grace our paths will not derail our days but give us opportunities to breathe –
-create space to feel some kinda way
-and move onward. Amen.