Year C Advent 1 Luke 21
Lift Up Your Heads
Luke 21:25-36

A. J. Gordon was the great Baptist pastor of the Clarendon Church in Boston, Massachusetts. One day he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, "Son, where did you get those birds?" The boy replied, "I trapped them out in the field." "What are you going to do with them?" "I'm going to play with them, and then I guess I'll just feed them to an old cat we have at home." When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, "Mister, you don't want them, they're just little old wild birds and can't sing very well." Gordon replied, "I'll give you $2 for the cage and the birds." "Okay, it's a deal, but you're making a bad bargain." The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue. The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ's coming to seek and to save the lost -- paying for them with His own precious blood. "That boy told me the birds were not songsters," said Gordon, "but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, 'Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!'"

This is Advent. And the message of these times is the song of those wild birds. It's the song sung in every carol this season: Redeemed! It’s the meaning behind every gift given under the tree: Redeemed! It's the Word the shepherds heard: Redeemed! It's the assurance Mary received: Redeemed! It's the star the Wisemen followed: Redeemed! [Depending on your style you might omit the repetition of "Redeemed" at the end of each sentence but allowing it at the end of this paragraph.] You and I have been trapped by sin, but Christ has purchased our pardon. He who has this hope in his heart will sing, and you know the song: "Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!"

Will YOU hear the song this season? Will YOU see the signs this Christmas? You can, if you will stand up and lift up your heads. It is all around. Don't you know that...

  1. Our Redemption Is Written in the Heavens.
  2. Our Redemption Is Witnessed on Earth.
  3. Our Redemption Is Wrapped in Our Hearts.

If This Is Your Faith, Tell Me Your Stories
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

We are used to dividing time into two different eons: "B.C." and "A.D." or as the secular world now calls them, "BCE" and "CE." To say we live in 2009 A.D. or C.E. gives us a sense of the passage of time, a feeling of where we stand in the flow of events. But such designations don’t distinguish much else about the changes the centuries have brought.

After a fearsome November storm season across North America it seems one designation that might help describe the changes time has brought is to divide life "B.E." and "A.E." — "Before Electricity" and "After Electricity." There is nothing like an extended power outage to remind us just how dependent we are on the power grid for our life-styles and livelihoods.

When the power goes out everything is work. Making a cup of coffee requires a fire, a cast iron kettle, a lot of time, and gives sad, gritty results. Creating a whole meal can take a whole day.

But there are other changes that occur when the power is out that aren't all bad. Without the TV, computer, video games, and music downloads, families who are hunkered down against a storm have to find something else to do. Off-the-grid days are the days when we drag out the old board games, find a deck of cards, start a giant jigsaw puzzle. As soon as the batteries run out on the iPod and the cell phone, talking to each other are the only voices that we have to listen to.

That is why in "B.E." time the most important members of a community were the storytellers. The storytellers were revered for their wisdom and honored for their knowledge. The storytellers were responsible for telling people who they were, where they stood in the world, how they came to be, and what they should be doing.

Even in these "A.E." days, the things we learn as stories stick with us become a part of us, far more than any lesson we learn by rote. Read a paragraph about unemployment and poverty rates and you might nod off. Hear the story of "The Grasshopper and the Ant," and you never forget why we all must work for a living.

But stories only live on when they are told and re-told. Each new generation must learn the stories of its people, its family, its nation, and its faith, or the stories are lost forever.

Just inside the main entrance to Harrods, the great London department store, there is a statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed (whose father owns Harrods). As my twelve-year-old daughter and I stood in front of it, Soren innocently asked, "Who is Princess Diana?" The woman who had been the most recognized icon of the eighties and nineties was a complete mystery to her, an unknown nobody, because Soren had never heard her story.

In the same way all of the Christian faith is always just one generation away from extinction--unless we tell our stories. No one is "born" a Christian. Christians can only be "born again" after they hear and inhabit the stories that tell of God’s love for the world... presents Leonard Sweet