November 29, 2020

Message for November 29, 2020 – “Tis the Season!”

(From Mark 13: 24-37)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

     I grew up in the small town of Rotterdam, New York, a suburb of the city of Schenectady.  Schenectady had its own version of Higby’s Department Store—it was called the Carl Company.  Located smack in the middle of Downtown Schenectady, Carl’s, as we called it, had two large windows to display the latest merchandise.  I used to love to go Downtown with my Mom to see how these windows were decorated with each new season.  As a young child, seeing these windows decorated with an automated Santa and Mrs. Claus and a huge tree with gifts beneath it was a clue for me that Christmas was now on its way.  A sign on the window even confirmed this fact.  It said… “Tis the Season!”

   It has been just a few years since those days of my childhood, and I have come to understand the words of the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is a season for every matter under heaven.  A season is a particular span of time.  For example, we have heard a lot recently about the season of COVID-19.  This season was unexpected, and, quite frankly, uninvited.  It is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019, and as a highly contagious viral disease, became a global pandemic by March of 2020.  This invisible virus is insidious in its behavior: some folks can carry it in their body with no symptoms of illness, while it has placed others in hospital beds and intensive care units.  The US statistics show 13.2 million cases, with approximately 265,000 deaths from this disease over its 8 month history.  It has forced us to quarantine at home with our nuclear family members, and to remain at a social distance of a minimum of 6 feet from those in other households.  Although a COVID vaccine is finally in our sights, no immediate end of the suffering it has caused is likely.  We will have to endure this “season” for a while longer.

     The year 2020, as a season, is larger than COVID-19.  Yet, it has surely been a time of uncertainty and change.  Americans have taken to the streets to actively protest the centuries old systems in our country that have allowed racial inequality and injustice to prevail.  It will take our ongoing commitment to change to keep the momentum of this movement going and finally put an end to this season of racism in America.  In addition, our country is experiencing an uncertain future in its political life.  This year, we have endured one of the most negative and divisive election campaigns from our presidential election to the election of our local governing officials.  These activities threaten the very foundations of our society.   We need to end this season of adversity with our neighbors and replace it with a kinder and more tolerant basis for interacting with those of differing political views.

We need to follow the words of 2Chronicles 7:14 and turn from this behavior, repent of it and pray for God’s forgiveness so that we may receive the healing of our land.

     Our scripture lesson from the Gospel of Mark for today reminds us that, as people of faith, we are also in a season.  The year 2020 is part of a larger season of awaiting the completion of God’s plan of salvation at the end of the age.  It is a plan that began when God sent God’s only Son, Jesus, to earth to dwell among us.  He brought God’s love to us, up close and personal.  He healed the sick, ate with sinners and preached the good news that the kindom of God had come to us.  Not everyone received his message, but to those who believed, he promised an eternal new life in his name.  He was killed by those who would silence him; but, God had the final and definitive response.  God raised Jesus from the dead to show us the power of God’s love for us—it conquers even our sin and death. Now we know that there is nothing—nothing in all the earth—that can ever separate us from God’s love for us—if we will only allow ourselves to believe.  We are now living in the season of grace—grace abounding, until Christ Jesus shall come again in victory at to end this age, this season, to usher in his kindom.

     Today is the first Sunday of the season of Advent—Advent means coming.  During Advent, we celebrate all of God’s plan for our salvation that was put in motion when our Lord and Savior, Jesus, was born in Bethlehem that very first Christmas.  We recall that God did not send Jesus to us as a king with a crown and scepter, but as a king who was a suffering servant.  Jesus lived among people like us, he understood and cared for them, as he cares for us, he bled and died on a cross, then he arose to life again, sending his Spirit to comfort and help us.  Jesus loves us still, and he is coming again to usher us into a new age, a new season, one of peace.  

We do not know when this new season will begin, and so we must wait for it to come.  As we wait, we celebrate all that God has already done for us through our Lord Jesus.  We are grateful for God’s love as shown to us in the life of Christ Jesus, the Son.  And so, this Advent season, we prepare to celebrate his humble birth again and anew.  Trim the trees, let the Carols play, pray for peace to come, let us begin today.  The prophets have spoken, their message is clear, may this be the season, may this be the year.  Amen.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (music-Thomas Helmore, 1854, words-multiple origins)

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.