15 December 2019: The Third Sunday of Advent

Michael Rader is a lay preacher at St. Hilda St. Patrick. The texts for the day are available here.

Good morning!! And happy Third Sunday of Advent! We’re
almost there!!
Today we have kindled our rose-colored candle. Traditionally
this candle represents Joy. The joy experienced by the birth of
Jesus; the Messiah as foretold by the prophets of old. Together
with the first two candles, Hope and Peace, they gently guide us
through Advent to the arrival of Mary and Joseph at the stable in
This Rose candle is sometimes referred to as the Shepherd’s
candle since they were the first ones to experience the joy of the
tiny child born in that shelter from the cold.
Our beautiful texts this morning from Isaiah and the Psalm are
about joy – but about joy yet to come. And until that joy arrives,
we are in a long period of waiting. And with waiting comes the
need for patience, because this joy is in God’s time, not ours.
It isn’t easy to wait patiently, is it? It is not in our nature.
Human nature is to grow anxious when we don’t know what’s
coming next – or when for that matter.

Waiting can be quite nerve-wracking. Especially when the
electricity is out, you don’t know when the power and heat are
coming back on – and you have family and friends coming for
dinner in a few hours. Or, when we are anticipating the delivery
of urgent lab test results. Or maybe when we watch others
getting things that we feel we “need” or “deserve”…
It can be hard waiting for Christmas Eve to finally arrive; the
journey to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for all of the
decorations and goodies; visiting with brothers, sisters, cousins,
aunts, and uncles.

It can be exciting waiting for others to open the special
presents you made just for them, hoping that it brings joy to their
faces – and maybe a few tears to their eyes.
Looking forward to joy can feel excruciating at times. Having
patience is hard.

**From the Epistle we just heard, I love the visual from the
letter of James. “The farmer waits for the precious crop of the
earth, being patient with it until it receives the autumn and spring
rains.” This reminds us that we are forever dependent upon
God’s will and loving mercy for all that we receive. And that
God’s gifts come in God’s time, not on our schedule.

James is speaking to the common man and woman, to those
who are not rich and able to buy anything they want, when they
want or need it. He is writing to those of us who depend on
others; on each other as in a loving, caring community.
He urges us not to grumble against one another. I think we
have a tendency to do that when we grow impatient? He holds
up Isaiah and the prophets as examples of long, ages long and
prayerful patience.

And we heard about John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, sitting in
a hard, cold prison. He’s not sure what’s coming next – or when.
John has sent his followers to approach Jesus because he needs
reassurance that Jesus really is the Messiah, and that the
prophesies he has been proclaiming, which have landed him in
this prison cell, have not been in vain. John is very much hoping
and praying that the answers they bring back to him will fill his
heart with joy.

Others who are waiting this Christmas are the immigrant
children sitting in hundreds of detention centers, children so
young that have spent many months of their short lives in these
facilities. Memories of past Christmases with their families are
fading at best – or maybe non-existent. They hope and pray,
waiting to be rejoined with their absent families.

During this past year, over 69,000 infants, toddlers, kids and
teens have been held in our detention centers. And yes, I said
“our” detention centers. Enough children to fill T-Mobile Park, or
Husky Stadium to capacity. As of November, there were 4000
still being held, typically for between 90 days and 6 months.

They may – or they may not ever be reunited with their parents.
Fortunately, the numbers of children being detained are
dropping – but unfortunately it is not stopping either.
Most of these young children suffer emotional and
psychological trauma during their separation, and crippling
anxiety, fear of the unknown. When they are finally returned to
the nations from which they came, little if any of the damage
done is being treated or addressed. They are scarred for life.
These children are waiting; waiting to be rescued; to be saved
from their distress. It can feel like a lifetime.

We spend a lot of time waiting. We can do it while wrapping
ourselves in self-isolation – or we can wait joyfully with others,
sharing our hopes and dreams for each other. Sharing each
other’s pains and sorrows. Remembering those who made this
journey with and for us many years ago.

Here in this sanctuary, we share our dreams about what we as
a church family can do for our neighbors. About how we can use
our wonderful facilities (with a bit of work) to make better the
lives of those who are hurting, those who are seeking a
relationship with God and his children. We know how to make a
difference in our community.

On Christmas Eve, at the end of our late evening Eucharist, I
find such joy and peace as we turn down the sanctuary lights,
light our candles, and we gently sing Silent Night. It transports
me back 60 years, back to when I was in the third grade in my
church’s Boys Choir at midnight Mass. It connects all of the
Christmas Eves from way back then – and to all the family and
friends I have shared them with over the years.

Let us share the joy of the birth of the Christ child; for which
we waited so many years as children of Abraham.
Let us go forth in joy from this house of God, sharing it with
others we encounter along the way, and remembering those who
are alone or abandoned this Christmas.
I wish you all Joy.
In Jesus’ name…

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