(Isaiah 2:1-5; John 4:19-26)
1st Sun of Advent, Nov 27, 2016 – UBC Digby – J G White
Have you ever been part of a conspiracy? No? Well, when the snow arrives, don’t let me catch you singing this: (Richard B. Smith, ‘34)
Later on we’ll conspire As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid The plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland.
To conspire together is to make plans together. Today, I invite you to join the Advent Conspiracy, a movement among Christians to do December differently, to live Advent without all the traps of the Season that is just beginning to catch us. Shopping, rushing, wanting stuff, pigging out, getting in debt, forgetting Bethlehem.
The first of four themes for Christians in Advent can be Worship. Worship Fully. Come and Worship.
Isaiah the prophet exclaimed to the Jews of old: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob” (2:3) Isaiah paints one of these visions of the Hebrew Holy City and their Temple as the highest mountain, raised up, to which all the peoples of earth will be attracted. Attracted and gathered to Almighty God.
God calls. Come and worship. Christ calls.
It was the night of the annual Santa Parade of Lights, Windsor NS. Out by the local mall parking lot, the many vehicles, floats, and groups walking were lined up. The local Baptist Church even had a float. On the trailer was an old ‘pump organ’ that the pastor played, dressed in old-time garb and a top hat. Others dressed in Victorian outfits were there to sing the carols. But in the front of the float was a rough structure with a feed-trough in it. A young couple huddled there, dressed in old, Mid-Eastern clothing. A baby doll was in the straw of the manger.
As the parade wound along the streets of the town, with the crowds of young and old alike cheering them on, at once Mary and Joseph saw this… A child in the front row called out: “Hi, Mary! Hi, Joseph!”
A moment of worship, in Santa’s parade? Full- fledged worship happens outside our own buildings.
One day, Jesus with his disciples traveled through the region called Samaria. The Samaritans were like the Jews, but had broken away generations before. They had their own holy mountain for worshipping God, not Mount Zion in Jerusalem. But when Christ has a private conversation with one of the locals at a community well, He reveals some amazing things. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 24)
Our worship of the Son of God transcends the buildings and the rituals we know so well. Our worship includes our private moments of devotion, and the spontaneous praise that happens anywhere.
And when we worship fully, it is so that God may Teach us. Show us the way. Look back to those words of Isaiah 2:3 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… that he may teach us his ways…” Isaiah goes on in his prophecy: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
God’s ways, God’s law, God’s word. Our worship, together, can be at the heart of this. Of our practical training as disciples. Our apprenticeship to Jesus. Our following of our Master, our Shepherd. So Advent, these weeks before Christmas, can be a time of learning and training.
So we use the Jesse Tree this year. A decoration that puts up, each day, a symbol of an Old Testament person, or event. We remember the ancestors of Jesus, as well as our many mothers and fathers of faith. The spiritual heroes of the Bible. During this week a fruit tree will go up, reminding us of Adam and Eve. Noah’s ark will go on the tree, remembering that story, and God’s covenant then. And so on.
We also listen to the words of the many carols that are still sung and played all around us right now. On the radio, on street corners, in the stores, on the internet. We still learn from the stories of the Messiah coming into the world.
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. Hmm… Jesus has more hands-on things to teach us about reconciliation.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there. Christ still has things to do with us to prepare us for heaven.
God with us is now residing, yonder shines the infant Light. There is more to enjoy that we know, when it comes to God living with us here and now.
What we learn from God when we focus upon God has results. It changes us, wonderfully. We get trained to go out there and make a difference. We worship so We may Walk in His Paths.
Isaiah 2:3 “…that we may walk in his paths.”
Isaiah 2:5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
I was reminded last week of what someone once said to me about the danger of being ‘spiritually fat’ Christians. You know, we have been to many many Bible Studies, and retreats, and memorized scripture, and prayed. And we still want more of that. But what do we DO? Sometime we need to get up off our duff and get out there and do what we know in the cause of Jesus.
The Rev. Sam Shoemaker was a great preacher of the 20th century, an Episcopal pastor, and one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. He wrote this poem as an Apologia for his life.
I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which [people] walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside & staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.
The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for [people] to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any [person] can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the [person’s] own touch.
[People] die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.
Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.
[ There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.
I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door. ]
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from [people] as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.
Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
‘I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.
This is walking in his paths. This is walking in the light of the LORD! This goes hand in hand with true worship, worshipping in spirit and in truth.
[ Micah the prophet famously asked: (6:6a, 8)
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
He has showed you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? ]
Your December can be a season of worshipping God fully. All we are, worshipping all God is. Our lives an offering to Jesus the Christ.