Luke 2:41-52 

41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and 

friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for
46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parentssaw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years,and in divine and human favor. 

The setting for this mornings’ gospel is a pilgrimage that Jesus makes with his parents and a whole host of others to Jerusalem to celebrate passover. It was a huge festival that every pious Jewish family would want to make. 

It’s important to note that the authors up to this point in Luke have made Mary and Joseph the center of the story, Jesus doesn’t do anything without them. However, in this narrative, Jesus begins to take center stage. 

It’s also interesting to note that the authors give Jesus’ age. He’s 12. He is in the process of entering adulthood and this story is meant to mark a place of growth for Jesus. He’s making a statement. 

But, before that statement, we have the dramatic emotional experience that some of us as parents have gone through. Realizing you don’t know where your kids are. Now, I haven’t forgotten where my kids are for a complete day, but I have had a few moments in places like Central Park in NYC, King’s Island, or Disneyland where I’ve turned around for a brief moment and couldn’t find my kids…that sense of urgency in finding them brings up all sorts of feelings that we parents fear. 

Part of that emotion is out of a sense of wanting to protect our kids, but also the thought of losing them, of losing the relational connection, is overwhelming. That’s true not only with kids, but with anyone that we have a relationship with. 

So, Mary and Joseph have left Jerusalem, they’ve been gone for a day before they realize that Jesus isn’t with them. Now, before you judge them as parents, remember that this is a different culture. Unlike today, Mary and Joseph are a part of a large clan of relatives. They all share a sense of responsibility for each other and for their kids. So, it would be natural for Mary and Joseph to assume that Jesus was being taken care of, and that when their clan left, that someone would have Jesus. 

But, that wasn’t the case here. They had left Jesus. When they went back to Jerusalem to find them, they searched for him for 3 days! Could you imagine the panic and the angst of his parents, missing someone they loved? 

After three days, they went to the temple. I’m not sure what led them there, maybe it was a sense of needing to go and seek spiritual comfort at the temple, or maybe they heard that Jesus may be there, who knows. But, when they got there, they found Jesus in the middle of religious scholars, listening, asking questions, being curious…it says that even the teachers at the Temple were amazed at his answers, his maturity, and understanding. 

I’m not sure what Jesus was talking about that day, but my bet is that it had a lot to do with God’s love being summed up by how much God loves us and calls us to love others…of a God who created us out of relationship, for relationship…a God who gives us community with one another, with God’s self, and with the world around us. Jesus was listening not only to the teachers, but also to God’s Spirit revealing to him where community can be made present. 

When Mary, as any mother would, asked Jesus why he put her through this…why the anguish of wondering where he was, Jesus responds, “why were you searching for me, you should have known I’d be in the one place where I can intimately experience relationship with others and with God.” 

Jesus refers to being in his father’s house. We can get caught up in the masculine reference to God, but the Israelites used Father in a relational sense, it has much more to do with attempting to describe God in intimate, relational terms than subscribing to God masculine qualities. Language sometimes fails us in giving testimony to our experience. 

God is closer than any parent, God is within us and outside of us, God is “other”, we are not God, yet God reveals to us who were created to be, saved to be, and sustained to become.  

Jesus is experiencing God’s joy, God’s Presence, God’s love in the temple. 

It seems like Mary, like many parents, was not able to “see” or  “hear” her son in this moment…but, she paused, listened…and saw and heard him in that moment.  Mary doesn’t continue to scold him, she doesn’t understand all that Jesus is saying, yet she knows that her child is authentically experiencing God. It says that she treasures these experiences in her heart. Treasure is a great word, it’s something of immense value. In other places in the new testament, there is the parable of giving up all that you have to find the hidden treasure, it also says that where your treasure is, there is your heart. 

Friends, this is a hard one…harder than we thing.  Where is your treasure?  Do the work of finding your heart…not others hearts, but start with yours!  I know 

Mary’s treasure was in her son, the relationship they had, Jesus also treasured his mother, he didn’t intend to cause her anxiety, but he was also growing in his understanding of God’s love for humanity. God’s desire for us to experience love for God, for others, and for ourselves. God’s summary of the entire law, of the 10 commandments, into loving relationship. 

It’s fitting that we have this gospel lesson after Christmas, the coming of Christ bringing to us the promise of God’s loving presence…now, we are called to grow in our understanding of that Love by following Jesus’ example. In Luke 2:52, it says that Jesus grew in his teenage years up until his public ministry at age 30 in wisdom and in God’s and others favor. 

Jesus was marked with God’s favor…Jesus represents all of humanity, therefore we are also favored by God. May we treasure these stories about Jesus, may we understand that our treasure lies in deep, abiding, and even curious love for others and for God…may we seek and see God in all that we meet and may we find ourselves in the Father’s house, which is the temple, which is the body of Christ, understood to be placed in the world and encompassing all of humanity.

Friends, may we experience God’s love as we practice loving the world around us. 

Darkest Night

Luke 2:1-20 

The Birth of Jesus

2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,


“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Well, 2021 is finally coming to an end…and yet, it seems a bit like deja vu, doesn’t it!  My goodness!  What a year 2021 has been…on top of 2020…and it seems like 2022 will start off in similar ways!  

Wars, rumors of wars, political nonsense, disinformation at every turn, isolation, changes happening so fast around us, and another COVID variant!

It reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray from a few years ago…if you remember that movie, the main character that Bill played was stuck in a loop that repeated his day, the same day, every day…it just so happened to be Groundhog Day!

Friends, it may seem like we are stuck in a loop in our lives, a place that is dark, without hope.  Yet, if we do the work, and receive the gift that Christmas offers, of light in the midst of darkness, we can break out of being stuck in this loop.  

We have been through a lot these past couple of years, but tonight, here we are,  together in some way, whether here in the sanctuary, or on Zoom, Facebook, we have gathered to hear this story again!  

With the passing of my mom and so many other things this year, I have been thinking, reminiscing of Christmas cookies, Christmas dinner at my mom’s house, Christmas trees, all of it.  This year, many of us have had to ponder on a deeper level what Christmas is about, it’s about something new being birthed…in us and in the world around us.  Childbirth isn’t easy, it’s painful…yet, what do we call babies after they’ve arrived?  “Little bundles of Joy”.  Possibility, mystery, love, struggle, suffering, growth, and presence are all wrapped up into babies.

Babies grow into adulthood through the throes of life.  Our faith does as well.  Sometimes we have to remember that things are formed in dark places, like the womb.  Faith, also is birthed in darkness.  And, faith is not about certainty…it is simply believing, deeply, that you are not alone in this world…that there is a God who resides within you and all around you that is with you…a God who entered humanity, became human, in the form of Jesus.  

December 25 is not actually Jesus’ birthday.  No one really knows when he was born.  So, why December 25?  It was decided by the early church because it is close to the annual winter solstice.  

The winter solstice is also known as the “longest night”.  It is the day of the year where it’s darkest the longest.

A mutual friend of mine and Sean Gladding’s, Katrina Harper, posted this on social media last week:

Winter Solstice is the time when ‘the sun stands still’, the shortest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, days become shorter from June 21st on, until around December 21st, when the sun seems to rise and set in the same place for a while. Then slowly the sun begins its journey toward the south again, and the days grow longer until the peak of sunlight at the Summer Solstice. 

The longest night of the year bears within itself the promise of the return of the light, the ‘rebirth’ of the sun. Thus, the Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate the darkness of the womb from which creation arises. We honor the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, the dark night of the soul and the rebirth of new hope and vision. When we move deeper into the darkness instead of avoiding it, we find the gifts the darkness holds. To some, that may mean moving into the shadow aspect of self. What needs to be released, to be brought into the light of our awareness? Even in our darkest moments we can find the seeds of growth and healing within.

The darkness of the long winter nights that culminate in the Winter Solstice is also a time to honor and celebrate the world of the unseen, of dreams, and of intuition. When we cannot see with our physical eyes, we learn to trust the inner vision, the power of insight and inner knowingness. The journey into the darkness prepares the way for celebration: in gratitude we rejoice in the return of the light, the promise of the sun lighting our path, the promise of new beginnings.

Uki MacIsaac

The symbolism is great.  Throughout history, people and culture have known “dark times”.  Times when things are in upheaval.  Unless we aren’t paying attention, we must know that we are also in a time of great change and upheaval.  And, let’s be honest, all of us go through dark times in our lives.  The question is, are we going to try and ignore the darkness, or live into it and grow and find God in the depths of it?  

Friends, the reality is that the church has so often preached a message of hope, of joy, of peace, of love, and even a message of Jesus without the darkness that we see around and in us, without struggle…and God is saying to us on the symbolism of this night…to look into the darkness in order to see a candle, a flame, of love…of promise, of relationship, of incarnation…

Into this season, God has called and placed us.  We are asked to embrace the dark night, because in the darkness we can learn so much.  

In the darkness of Christmas night, there is a great stirring, movements towards hope and something new.  There are shepherds seeing and hearing miraculous news while dutifully minding their flocks.  There are wise men and women seeking knowledge and growth.  

The passage that we read tonight is full of subversive beauty!  Caesar August, the Roman emperor was the head of a political cult that set him up to be divine, a savior, the lord, one who didn’t have any failings, a winner at all costs…and he lived in imperial power exacting a census that was a sign of his authority and ability to collect taxes and contribute the wealth of Rome.  Yet, Jesus comes to us impoverished, on the run, and in a dirty stable.  His coming is announced to a group of outsiders, literally, shepherds and not some great proclamation to the entire empire, this proclamation came from the heavens to a few shepherds and wise men and women so that it can be carried to and for all of creation.  Amazing!

Into that dark night, a baby is born.  Emmanuel or “God with us”!  Jesus, Emmanuel, born to us, humanity.  God, entrusting God’s self to us, in darkness, and to a couple of teenagers who were still trying to figure things out!  God, who gives hospitality and relationship receives hospitality and relationship.  The “uncreated” creator giving over itself to its creation.

Into the night, a small light came on to the scene of history that grew to a blazing fire illuminating hope, peace, grace, friendship to ALL, welcoming the outsider, showing radical hospitality.  This Jesus that says he will be with us in the darkness birthing new life and possibility to us and to those around us!  This Jesus that reminds us that the church is not the latest program, fad, building, numbers, or whatever but that we are the very body of Christ!  We are becoming more and more radiant as we acknowledge the hard and struggle of life, share that life together, and look at each and see the “glory on each face”!  

We have opportunity after opportunity to meet God in the darkest places and to grow into people of radiance as we wait for the morning light!  

Friends, in this new year, may we walk together in whatever darkness that we are in.  May we embrace where we are on this journey together.  And, may we look into the darkest nights of our lives for the hope of Christ to be born again in us and around us…and may we proclaim and rejoice in this king, this savior, this lord, this friend to us.  


Isaiah 12:2-6

Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
    God has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

Give thanks to the Lord,
    call on God’s name;
make known God’s deeds among the nations;
    proclaim that God’s name is exalted.

Sing praises to the Lord, for God has done gloriously;
    let this be known in all the earth.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Luke 3:7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now 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.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Joy!  The third Sunday of Advent, our third candle gives us the word Joy.  Joy is defined as follows:

: a feeling of great happiness

: a source or cause of great happiness : something or someone that gives joy to someone

: success in doing, finding, or getting something

That last definition seems to fit this season of “giving”.  We fritter about doing things, looking for gifts to give, and we receive gifts from others.  

Yet, do we experience joy?  It seems to me that oftentimes when we look for joy or think that things will bring us joy.  We are disappointed or disillusioned.

In Scripture and even in the world around us, we find that there is great joy in announcing the coming of Jesus.  Jesus is coming to bring restoration, wholeness, justice, peace, forgiveness.  The very meaning of the word Advent is “appearance,” “arrival,” “dawn,” and “return”.  

Most in this culture know that Christmas has something to do with the arrival of Jesus.  Yet, we can’t seem to remember why we should have joy.  We are reminded often in this culture with clever phrases like “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  Sometimes commentators on some channels or so called news outlets will talk about a “war on Christmas”.  Based on the amount of spending and consumerism…and the number of times of I’ve Christmas movies reappearing, I’m not exactly sure what war is being fought and who’s winning.  

All of this to say, it is oftentimes hard to find joy when we are being pushed so many messages trying to break through to us.  We are busy, we have things to do, we can’t slow down and expect everything to be done by December 24.  

We have expectations of what Christmas joy should be, yet we may not always experience it.  We need time to slow down and experience joy.  It takes making space in the midst of craziness to be still.  That can be hard, but it’s so necessary.  When we slow down though, we often are faced to sake some hard questions around life.  

In our passage this morning from Luke, John the Baptist is announcing the arrival of Jesus with some harsh words.  He’s calling many in the crowd, a brood of vipers.  He’s talking the crowds that the system, their way of being, all of it, was being struck down.  They ask John what they should do.  John gives them a response that they may like.  That deep change, a change for the better, was on it’s way…he goes on to tell them to get rid of things, to get to your core of who you are…that this change will be hard, but you’ll be better off for it.

And, I’m not sure what John was expecting, or what joy he was experiencing…and I’m sure he didn’t know that he was about to face a horrendous death at the hands of King Herod just a short time afterwards.  Later, when he was sitting in a jail cell, waiting for death, he had some hard questions to face.  I wonder, did John, in the midst of his expectations being dashed, in the midst of his sorrow, did he find joy?  It seems like he certainly found some courage, but, i have to admit, I don’t know how I’d feel in the place of John.  

When we read the Isaiah passage, we hear a reminder that does give us joy in the midst of so much change that is surely coming, not only to the people of John’s time with the arrival of Jesus’ public ministry, but also to us today as we live into this advent season.  That God is with us, that God will not let go of us, that God is in the midst of all of the change calling us towards the best version of ourselves…and that growth, or repentance, which, again, simply means a changing of one’s mind, of understanding what is deep within your heart that God dwells in, is upon us.  How we respond to God’s Presence within and around us is up to us.  

I believe that the message of Jesus bringing freedom does give me joy.  How?  Because Jesus demonstrates to me a God who isn’t far off, isn’t affected by what we experience.  The words of Isaiah ring loud within my being because God just isn’t saying words, God knows what it’s like to be oppressed, to be captive, to be overwhelmed, to be in season of life that is foggy, uncertain, to be brokenhearted.  God has experienced all that we experience.  God has experienced sorrow, deep sorrow.  Yet, God still came to us, God listened to us, God demonstrates throughout history and through Jesus, and even now through God’s Presence and Spirit, in and through our communities and each other, that we are not alone.  

Jesus did come, he did arrive.  And, he did also die and have many of his expectations shattered.  Yet, there was something deeper.  Something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.  This Jesus’ power was not found in conquering Rome or forcing himself over us, his power was loving deeply.  Loving to the very core of all of us.  Not giving up on us, even in death.  This love that God has for us and that we can share in does lead to sorrow, but sorrow always gives way to joy, a deeper joy than simply a song or words can describe.  

I don’t always get it, but, at times I catch glimpses of this joy.  It can come in the midst of a run, or in the gift of listening.  Listening, however, can be hard.  Yet, it’s so important if we are to experience joy. When we listen to deeply to our hearts, try to live in a deeper awareness, it can be scary at first, but then freedom comes to live as we were intended to live as we look deep into our lives and find God, in the midst of our sorrow, and moving us towards joy even in that sorrow.  

Christmas celebrates the birth of a child.  Childbirth, and I’ve said this before as I’ve been told, can be painful.  When McKenzie and Brennan made their appearance, out of hours of labor and pain, there was so much joy!  Life is also filled with sorrow, but the joy of their presence is so much more.  Being a parent has brought change, I’ve changed, I continue to change.  I have to listen a lot…and, sometimes, I think others in my family actually listen to me.  

A few years ago, in a different church that I served as a pastor, we went on a journey together to listen to our community, I remember visiting with a new friend who lived near the church  He’s Jewish.  But, he said our church was is his church because he lives in the neighborhood and he wants it be vibrant and good for others.  

Friends, there are so many people in our community hoping to see a new story emerge within the church, and in our church in particular I believe.  That new story starts with commitment.  And, just like being a parent, we don’t know how things will turn out, but, as we listen to one another, to our community, and to a God who has entered into our experience and calls us into experiencing life together.  At times it will be painful, filled with sorrow, yet there is a deeper joy welling up within us as we listen, work towards justice and forgiveness, and actively expect God’s Presence to come to us now and in the future when everything is restored to what it should be.

So, I’m in and willing to take that risk.  And, I believe we all are as well!  Amen?


Luke 1:68-79 

68  “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69  He has raised up a mighty saviorfor us in the house of his servant David, 70  as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.71 72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
 78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break uponus, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 

Luke 3:1-6
The Proclamation of John the Baptist 

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was rulerof Galilee, and his brother Philip rulerof the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias rulerof Abilene,2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, 

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
 ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
 and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” 

How do we receive messages these days? What are some examples of messengers? 

As I read these passages in Luke, the word messenger came out loud and clear. 

There are stories of messengers throughout history, especially when they bring good news. However, things may not turn out great for those messengers. 

One of the most famous messengers was the Greek courier, Philippides. There was a great battle between the Persians and the Greeks. Philippides had run a message to the Spartans for help with the Athenians. He ran for a couple of days apparently. His last run was from the city of Marathon to Athens. When he arrived at Athens, the Greeks were eager to hear the outcome of the battle, Philippides had good news and exclaimed, “Joy! We won.”, then legend has it, he fell over and died. 

Not a great ending, but that is where we got the name for Marathon races. And, I love them, and feel like dying at the end of one…only to get excited about running another one! 

But, Philippides did have good news to share and ran long, hard, and with much pain to share it. 

Our gospel lesson this morning is all about a messenger who has come to share truly good news. 

Our first passage in Luke comes right after Mary’s song where she talks in beautiful ways about God’s promise of a Savior, of the Messiah, the deliverer coming to the world through her. A song where she reminds us that God does keep God’s promises. 

In our text, it is Zechariah’s turn to give us a song. Zechariah is high priest and he and his wife Elizabeth were well past their years for childbirth. When Zechariah heard that he was finally going to be a dad, he didn’t believe it…so, the angel delivering the news said that he wouldn’t be able to talk because of his stubbornness in not believing. It says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. 

In the Old Testament, when someone is said to be filled with the Spirit, that means, sit up, wake up, and listen. Zachariah has a lot of respect, he’s older, he had gone through a lot in life, he had given up on being a dad, yet through it all, he was faithful. He may have been shut up by God for a time, but I think even that was a gift from God. God was not through with Zachariah, even though he had lived a long life, God was saying to him, YOU, even in your advanced age, have a purpose that will change the world! Zachariah had time to sit, be still, and listen to the rhythm’s of his heart and hear God’s whisper in his life. 

He was ready to share. When his mouth was loosened, praise and wisdom followed. As well as reminders. Zachariah tells us that God is powerful by using the symbol of a horn. In antiquity, the horn was a symbol of power. It made a loud noise and help, or deliverance, would follow. If you had a horn, you had powerful friends. God was bringing salvation, was making things right. 

Zachariah is also sharing that God has made a covenant with humanity. That God would rescue us, would show mercy, and that our hope is coming. 

He then says that his son, John, will be the messenger. That John would come and prepare the way…and would shine a light for those living in darkness and guide us towards peace. John would bring good news of God’s entering humanity, of restoring right relationships, God would keep his covenant and make God’s loyalty and love to humanity known through John’s cousin, Jesus. God was not only living in community with us through Spirit, but would also physically live with us. The uncreated entering creation. 

Humanity often lives in darkness, we bump about not knowing where we are going. We break things, cause damage to ourselves and others, even destroy one another. Yet, God says that we were created for so much more, for mercy, forgiveness, and for relationship. And, to serve others and God without fear as it says in verse 74. 

Jesus would guide us towards the way of peaceful living with one another. 

And, John does just that. In our second Luke passage, John speaks to the crowds who come to him, some curious, some ready to change, all wanting something more. John rails against the religious, political, and social structures of the day. It’s no accident that Luke mentions the year, and the different leaders of the day. Luke is reminding his readers the setting in which John gives his message. John is standing in the public arena calling all towards repentance, to change towards a new life signified in baptism…the old life is gone, a new life has come. 

John is one crying in the wilderness, reminding his readers of the wilderness that they were in when they left Egypt…it seemed like it may take a while, they wandered around, but in God’s time, they were delivered out of the wilderness and into something more. 

Not all may have experienced this…some died in the wilderness. But, we have to realize that God is committed to the whole picture, all of humanity. With God, no one is lost, even if they are on different parts of the Journey. John is telling us that Jesus is coming to us now to show us and remind us that the Kingdom of God, of heaven, God’s Presence is here, now, and will be with us forever. 

Friends, just like the marathon runner, we may be tired, we may be worn out, we may want to give up. But, we’ve got good news, we have a God who is calling us to live differently, to change, to repent and live in forgiveness of our stuff and the stuff of others, to let go of the past and live into a new future even as we practice a new Presence, and to have peace…real peace.  Peace in scripture is not the absence of conflict, but a deeper sense of faith that we can live into.  We may not know the future, we may have a lot of uncertainty, but we also are all connected to one another and a divine flow of God’s love that calls us into.  Friends, we are never too old, we never have it all figured out, but if we are willing to submit to one another and to God, just as God demonstrated through Jesus, we can come out of the wilderness and into the promise, the hope of salvation and into the abundance of life that God promises! 

Now, it’s one thing to say this, to talk about peace and presence in the midst of so much dissonance and change, another to experience it. But, I can personally attest to his, I have experienced this, along with others in this room this morning, in conversations with friends from this church and in the neighborhood and throughout the city… 

As we come to this table today, we are reminded of God’s abundance as we are called to this table together…look around you as we come forward, look at each other in a new and wonderful way, put the old behind…and also, look inside of you, God is doing something in each of us…something new. After communion, as you leave, look at others that you see or meet in a new way as well, the promises of God are being fleshed out all around us!