Prepare the way for joy

Read in Spanish after the English version

December 12, 2021. Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3: 14-20 Isaiah 12: 2-6 Philippians 4: 4-7 • Luke 3: 7-18

The texts for this third Sunday of Advent are filled with a lot of positive proclamations: rejoice! Don’t be afraid! God is in your midst! Praise the Lord with joy! Rejoice always in the Lord… I say rejoice again!

That is… until we read the lesson from the Gospel.

You litter of snakes! Trees that do not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!

I would say that someone feels a little more advent than others… but again, I guess it depends on what you are focusing on at the moment. We strive to work hard to create an Advent experience that is filled with hope and anticipation… and most of these “Christmas spirit” things leave us feeling pretty good inside.

In a recent reflection posted on Facebook, my friend the Reverend Eric Doolittle, who is a chaplain at North Central College in Naperville, IL, concluded with this verse: Christmas / Epiphany. ” This reminder comes after his observations about the incredible levels of burnout among the clergy, which is reflected in this article I also saw circulating about pastors joining the “Great Resignation.”[1] His words stemmed from a place of deep concern at the pace the clergy and religious leaders are trying these days, while we are still leading this ever-changing pandemic.

When I consider this concern with the texts for this third Sunday of Advent, I come to a place that balances two things: the continual exhaustion of all that is needed to make this time of year “come true.” Of course, there are all the requirements for our church and liturgical responsibility… but for many there are many other things to see. Decorating spaces, meals to prepare, gifts for shopping and wrapping and giving and creating a lot of holiday magic for the young or young at heart in our lives.

And that’s balanced with a reminder that the work we’re doing here isn’t just for this season. It is to prepare the way of the Lord. Advent reminds us of how Jesus came and why Jesus came, and to focus on the hope that His birth brings to a world in great need. But we cannot do our best for these four weeks plus Christmas and we have nothing more to give to continue to accompany our people on the journey as each of us prepares the way for the Lord in his midst after this one liturgical season. And I’m still not sure how to continue working, when I’m struggling to find the endurance to work “now”.

If we take to heart the texts from Zephaniah, Isaiah and Philippians, we know that the Lord’s way is filled with joy and rapture; peace and joy; a confirmation of security that should rest deep in our souls. But John the Baptist reminds us of another truth: not all things help in this process. And things that do not bear fruit on the path of joy must be pruned and set aside.

Well, this is starting to sound more like a message to pastors than an aid to your preaching. But I guess there’s something here for all of us. How do we consider the amount of time, energy, and resources we invest in preparing for Advent, without abandoning or considering the time, energy, and resources needed to prepare the way of the Lord in all seasons? Maybe this is an invitation to turn inward and reflect on your own spirit these days – and it can certainly be a help in preaching. But I think it is also an invitation for all of us – both pastors and parishioners – to carefully consider the actions of our heart and hands (our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness?) For this time of year, remembering that the journey is just beginning.

Prepare the way for joy

A memorandum for those who preach

December 12, 2021 – Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3: 14-20; Isaiah 12: 2-6; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 7-18

Translated by Rev. Paul I. Burrow

The readings for this third Sunday of Advent are filled with many positive revelations: Rejoice! Do not be afraid! God is with you! With joy – thank God! Rejoice in the Lord always. I repeat: rejoice!

That’s it . . . until we read the Gospel reading.

Snake generation! Trees that do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire!

I would say that one looks more like Advent than the others. . . but I guess it depends on what you focus on during this time. We strive to work hard to create an Advent experience that is filled with hope and anticipation. . . And most of that “Christmas spirit” stuff leaves us feeling pretty good on the inside.

In a recent reflection posted on Facebook, my friend Rev. Eric Doolittle, who is a chaplain at North Central College in Naperville, Il. He concluded, “Remember, the call is to prepare the way of the Lord, not just to be ready for a series of Advent / Christmas / Epiphany services.” This memory comes after his observations of the incredible degree of exhaustion among the clergy, which is reflected in this article I saw circulating about pastors joining the “Great Renunciation.”1 His words come from a place of deep concern over the pace at which the clergy and religious leaders are struggling these days, while we are still leading this ever-changing pandemic.

When I consider this concern along with the readings for this third week of Advent, I come to a place that tries to balance two things: the constant exhaustion caused by all that is needed to “cause” this time of year. Of course, there are all the conditions for our responsibility to our churches and to lead worship. . . but for many there are many other things. There are spaces that need decorations, there are dishes to prepare, there are gifts that you can buy and wrap and give away, and you have to create a lot of magic of the season for children or those who want to feel like children in our lives.

And – it is balanced by the memory that the work we are doing here is not just for this season. It is to prepare the way of the Lord. Advent reminds us of how Jesus came and why Jesus came, and to focus on the hope that his birth brings to a world in great need. But we cannot give everything we have for these four weeks plus Christmas alone, and we have nothing else to continue to follow our people on pilgrimage as each of us prepares the way for the Lord among us after this liturgical season. . And I’m not sure how we’re going to do this job, when I’m having trouble finding the strength to do the job “now.”

If we take to heart the readings of Zephaniah, Isaiah and Philippians – we know that the Lord’s way is filled with joy and rapture; peace and joy; a confirmation of security that must remain deep in our souls. But John the Baptist reminds us of another truth: not everyone helps us in this process. And things that do not bear good fruit on the path of joy should be cut off and set aside.

Well, it is starting to look more like a message to pastors, rather than as an aid to preaching. But I guess there’s something here for all of us. How do we consider the amount of time, energy, and resources we invest in preparing for Advent, without giving up or considering the time, energy, and resources needed to prepare the way of the Lord in all seasons? Maybe this is a call to think about yourself and think about your own spirit these days – and it can help you in your preaching. But I think it is also an invitation for all of us – pastors and parishioners – to carefully consider the actions of our hearts and hands (our prayers, presence, gifts, service and testimony? For this time of year, the memory of the pilgrimage is just beginning.


[1] https://sojo.net/articles/why-pastors-are-joining-great-resignation?fbclid=IwAR3ZW2LxQWIeP1n5VsH1BlRw7DvzO8KCUpNLts_JcFvVQeyMf-nUBZRextA





Source link

Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *