Our Advent sermon series this year is called, “Sacred,” and I am hoping to challenge you to see our preparations for Christmas through the Advent season through the kaleidoscope of the sacred.
When you see or hear light in the darkness, hope in the despair, I invite you to post it to social media with the hash tags: #sacred #adventlight
Selections from Isaiah 35:
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing. . .
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
“A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Say — that sounds pretty good doesn’t it? A Holy Way where everyone who travels it is safe and filled with joy and gladness.
That’s what I call “Sacred Space.” But I don’t think sacred space has to be located in any one specific geographical location — sacred space can be anywhere that the eyes of the blind are opened, the deaf can hear, the lame leap like deer. . .
That doesn’t happen, you say? We just don’t see miracles like that anymore?
You can say that, but I’d like to share some stories with you:
“The tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”
Christine is a middle school girl, who after years of bullying learned not to speak up in class. It wasn’t only her peers who poked fun at her when she asked questions, but oftentimes even her teachers would ignore her or refuse to answer her questions. At home, a bulk of her time was spent alone, as her single father worked late, and she was asleep before he got home. So she just remained silent. Christine found her way to youth group, and after a few weeks built up the courage to speak up. Do you know what happened? Her peers actually listened to her. Her youth pastor tuned into her questions and helped her find answers.
“The lame shall leap like deer.”
Mabel is an elderly woman who just celebrated her 80th birthday. She’s lived a rich life full of family and friends. She used to spend hours at the church, volunteering in many capacities. But lately she has attended several funerals of her closest friends, and does not have the mobility or energy to get to the church much. She has started to feel useless — consumed with the thought that she doesn’t serve any purpose to anyone. “I’m just a burden on everyone,” she thinks to herself as she sits at home, alone. But her church family noticed, and a neighbor offered to pick her up to come to worship on Sundays. Once there, Mabel began to feel a sense of wholeness and belonging that she had forgotten. And though she was daunted by the idea of walking through the ice and snow, and concerned about the number of little people running around, the fellowhsip of her church family gave her the courage to participate. She found purpose in worshiping God, and realized she had not lost the ability to be a prayer warrior, or to crochet prayer shawls.
“The ears of the deaf unstopped.”
And then there is David, a young man who just doesn’t fit into any “normal” categories. He didn’t do well in school, and didn’t want to go to college. He repeatedly heard, “You’ll never amount to anything” and “You’re a failure.” After so much negativity, David stopped listening. Somehow, he entered a mentoring ministry through church, and began to hear words of hope: “You can do this,” and “Look how far you’ve come.” Now David has a set of goals and some tools under his belt to help him succeed.
“The eyes of the blind shall be opened.”
Shelly is a single mother with two young children. She escaped from an abusive relationship, only to find herself barely keeping her head above the water. The cost of childcare takes more than 60% of her income, even working over-time at the local grocery store. She feels safe in this community, and doesn’t want to leave, but she sees no hope. When the preschool offered her a scholarship for her children, everything seemed to fall into place. She now sees that she can get back on her feet, and feels confident and grateful for the great environment where her children can learn and thrive. When they are old enough to go to public school, Shelly sees a future that includes completing her bachelor’s degree through online schooling.
These stories are the proof of sacred space. Places where those rough spots are becoming smooth. Where Mary’s song from Luke 1 seems to be coming true:
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
These places are indeed sacred space. Christine, Mabel, David, and Shelly are not specific people — they are all of those who struggle and feel beaten down, but find new life in Jesus and in being part of a fellowship of Christians. What if we were to look at all the places where we live and dwell and pass through as sacred space, where these miracles could come true if we only shared the light and love of Christ, and offered the encouragement of connection to everyone we encounter?
In this season of Advent I ask that you challenge yourself. Please don’t raise your hands and shrug your shoulders in helplessness. Please don’t wait for some future date when Jesus will return to make all of these things come true. Please start now to believe in transformation, and embrace your own call to make the ground you stand on sacred space.
I remind you of these beautiful and inspiring words from a woman named Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
is to look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.
–St Teresa of Avila
With great hope and expectation that we can indeed provide the sacred space for the “Holy Way,”
During our recent Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:
▪ It’s out of love for Christ and the family that we’re so fortunate to be part of.
▪ I am loved, and I am forgiven. How can I not return love and forgiveness to others? I have everything I need, and most of what I want. How can I not share my abundance with others? How can I not give, when I have been given so much?
▪ My goal is really only to make other people’s lives a little better.
▪ Love of God. Love of people in this fellowship. Because “I Can” give of time, talent, gifts. Bring peace to my heart and soul. Helps keep life in perspective. What’s important.
▪ Love and support.
▪ I share as a “thank you” to God for this talent.