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2 Advent, The Rev. Mary Cat Young preached at Grace Church, December 10, 2017

2 Advent, Year B, RCL Readings

Content warning.  This sermon starts out with a lot of fairly depressing imagery.  It gets better.  


It’s December.  There are bells ringing and lights twinkling, and cheery music blasts from store to store as red and green and plaid scarves and and red and white elf hats and ironic ugly Christmas sweaters are on display everywhere we turn. It’s like the volume has been turned up on the hustle and bustle of the city and I find myself wondering if any of it is real.  


Are these the truest markers of the season: invitations to get into the holiday spirit, the pressure to buy the life changing gadget for your mom, the newest tech advancement for your nephew, the pink scooter that my 3 year old child has been telling me she wants from Santa since September (By the way, I didn’t teach her to ask for things from Santa, by the way, someone on the playground must have!) All of this post-Halloween, post-Thanksgiving effort goes in to putting on Christmas – and on December 26th it will all be gone, with the flip of a switch.  


Strangely, walking through Union Square Christmas market at moments feels like what I imagine shopping in a marketplace in Ancient Egypt was like. Merchants, barkers, the smell of spices, the sound of crowds and animals, Tables with statues large and small of god’s (lower case “g”) for everything. A god to pray to for health, for wealth, for protection for revenge, for love, for resurrection of the lost. Everything under the sun with an icon or an image or a symbol to turn to, to purchase, to claim and to own, if you have the means. Not to mention beggars and hungry children running through the streets and corridors of the city.


We are living in a time when the many facets of need are split apart from the complex connection they have to one another, and they split apart the common body of our humanity, our economic classes, our body politic, our red states and blue states, red counties and blue counties, even our denominations – as voices cry out one on top of another of what Jesus would do, who Jesus would vote for, where Jesus should live, or perhaps be held captive.


Every morning I wake up and read the headlines and listen to the news reports and scroll through my feed, and my friends, Good News seems to me to be severely lacking.


A friend mourns the loss of her father. A health crises has left a family struggling to make ends meet on less than full time pay. Severe weather has struck another region, fires rage in California.

Tax bills that benefit the wealthiest among us. Terrorism and a tragic murder touching our city, and our Grace church community here.  

Politicians are preaching from their pulpits and it is weak and twisted theology, because they preach of a God who celebrates wealth and racial inequality, and patriarchy.


Everything you see on the streets has a glitzy appeal, but it is all temporal. And when it’s all too much to take in, our first world problems, our human citizen problems, there is the inevitable quick fix of a cocktail, or a Netflix binge. But is that going to provide the strength needed to face the news of the real world, the real needs of our neighbors far and near Yet again tomorrow, or rather just an antidote to help avoid it.


Christmas will arrive soon and we, as followers of Christ, are asked to look forward to an event that took place two thousand years ago.  An event that marked a change in the world, a change in the way that God would make Godself known to us, by being with us in our humanity, in our vulnerability, in our places of fear and trembling, of disappointment and outrage, of war across oceans and war in our own homes and families.


The chaotic brokenness of the world that Jesus was born into somehow feels very close to the world that we are living in here and now. The fracture of religious life, the oppressive nature of political maneuvering by factions holding tightly to their resources,  power, their reign.


The world that God created, the companions God created to be in relationship with, allowed fear of scarcity of resources, fear of nature, fear of powerlessness to cloud the vision of living in love with one another. The darkness is real. It was as real then as it is now.


And yet, a blanket of snow fell on our city yesterday. Fell on the righteous and the unrighteousness alike. Fell gently and completely un-ignorable. Unavoidable. Brightening up even the brightest of city streets with all the twinkling festive lights that have been hung to lift our spirits, whether we believe in the promise of Christmas or not. Whether we know who Christ is or what God’s invitation to love and be loved is. A blanket of snow that brought peace and light to the cold night in December.

And yet we gather here, in this place to hear Good News.  Good news in this day and age is counter cultural.  It goes against the grain of the darkness that have come to expect daily to cross our newsfeed, to depress us on our morning commute, to make us wonder about the real life consequences and possibilities of moving to Canada.  


The Good News of Advent is that it reminds us of the time of darkness and despair that the world toiled in before knowing the name Jesus. The world in which prophets called the attention of those who would hear them that God was on the move, that light and life was breaking in in a new way, in a new day on the horizon.


The Good News was that we have a role to play in bringing that kingdom, a role of repentance, a role of awakening ourselves and our neighbors to the possibility that living in love can be, will be, must be true.


The Good News that even though we look back to see what is ahead of us, it is precisely what brings us hope in the current season of recognizing how far we have to go. Because we are not alone in it. We are not purchasers of powerless god image statues from the marketplace, but we are followers of a living God, and God is on the move. And God is with us in our humanity, in Christ’s incarnation, even in the season of Advent as we step into the past to watch and wait for Christ to be known to us in incarnation yet again.


That is the Good News that John the Baptist was proclaiming. That is the Good News our gathering here in this warm and bright space proclaims. That is the Good News that you take out into the city behind those doors, to the lives you will touch each day, in your relationships, in your generosity of resources, in your outrage at injustice, in your taking a standard speaking to the hope and presence of Christ in the world, Christ in the darkness, Christ in this season.


Hear it again, this is The good news.

In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken

Perhaps this poem, Advent Credo, can be our reminder in this season of what the Good News really is.

Advent Credo

by  Allan Boesak

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—

This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—

This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—

This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—

This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—

This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

From Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak, Eerdmans, 2004.

One Comment to "2 Advent, The Rev. Mary Cat Young preached at Grace Church, December 10, 2017"

  1. […] here to read Chaplain Mary Cat’s Advent 2 sermon, preached December 10, 2017 at Grace Church, […]

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