“Prepare Ye The Way: What’s Next?”
When we look at the readings from our service this morning, you can see we’ve covered a lot of ground this morning. We’ve started with Genesis and have moved into Paul’s letter to the Colossians, with a number of stops in between. This approach tends to give one a difficult focus when preparing a sermon!
We’ve all heard the Christmas story not more than 2 days ago as we gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate Christ’s birth. We know the stories of the visit of the magi. This is one time of year where everyone seems to have at least a basic understanding of the birth of Christ and what happened around that time. The trick is, do we all understand what it means?
Now we are the hardcore group. We are the ones who dragged ourselves out of bed this morning after, what I’m sure were a very busy couple of days. Some of us might have even considered skipping this morning, but we would have felt too guilty, so we got up and made our way here. And, as expected, we’ve been part of a very nice service of lessons and carols. I had a feeling it would be a special service since last year when Carman and St, Andrew’s came together it was special. And it’s even more special this year since Clyde Ave. has joined us.
One of the things I love about this community is how our churches are coming together. On days like today, we put aside our differences to come together to share in the common aspects of our faith. We are Christian. We are all God’s children. We have different words for things, different approaches to theology and worship, but we are united as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. This is what’s important. This is what’s going to help rebuild the foundation of faith in our communities. This is what’s going to help share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world around us.
But where do we start?
Like I said a moment ago, everyone seems to know something about the Christmas story. Whether they picked it up watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas special, or maybe they’ve picked it up at church. We all have some sort of basic understanding of the circumstances around Christ’s birth. But what does it mean?
We don’t listen to a lot of other preaching in my house, but when we do, it’s almost always Charles Price. He’s the preacher at the People’s Church in Toronto. You can watch him on Vision Television on Sunday afternoons on the show Living Truth, it’s a broadcast of parts their services focusing mainly on the sermon.
Charles Price once said, “We cannot separate the cradle from the cross. We can’t separate His birth from His death. We can’t separate the baby from the man. We will not understand Christmas unless we understand Easter and we marry the two together.”
Simply put, there is no Christmas without Easter. Right? There’s no sense celebrating his birth if we don’t acknowledge what he has done in his death.
At Carman, we spent Advent exploring how we can prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. We looked at when he is coming by exploring Jesus’ words saying that he will return at an unexpected time. In the end, it doesn’t really matter when Jesus will return, because we should be seeking to be prepared within our hearts for his return all the time. So whenever he does return, we’re ready.
Then we looked at why we need to be ready. We looked at the words of John the Baptist explaining that those who are ready will inherit the kingdom of God as part of God’s great harvest, while the rest will be thrown into the unquenchable fire. So we get ready because the Kingdom of heaven is a place we don’t want to miss out on, and the alternative doesn’t sound very pleasant at all.
We also looked at who we are preparing for. We looked at the message John sent to Jesus from prison, asking if Jesus was indeed the one he was prophesying about. Jesus’ response was to tell John, “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.” Jesus is indeed the promised one sent by God to make things right in the world.
Ok, so if we are prepared, then what’s next? We’ve heard the story, we’ve celebrated his birth, now what?
It’s not often I get to preach on a text like our reading from Colossians this morning. I tend to follow the lectionary (which are the prescribed readings for each Sunday), and it doesn’t come up very often. The reading from this morning though is a beautiful snapshot of who Jesus is and what He continues to do through us.
Paul is praying for the Colossians. He is encouraging them to grow in their faith and to let God work through them as they deepen their understanding and their relationship with Him.
I need to read a good part of this passage over again, because it is so well written. Paul writes,
“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
This is scripture that captures the essence of what Charles Price was talking about when we need to understand Easter before we can celebrate Christmas.
God came to earth as Jesus Christ. The creator of all things, visible and invisible, became one of us to “reconcile to himself all things.” That is to bring us to Him.
He did this by the cross. On the cross Jesus brought all things onto himself, all the sin of the world so that we may be one with God. As a result, we are able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so we can do all the other things Paul talked about. So we can bear fruit and and live lives worthy of the Lord.
Once we grasp what Jesus’ death and resurrection has done for us, then we can truly celebrate the sacred night we call Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is just the start of the new story. The prophets of the Old Testament told us he was coming to make all things right. He came to earth, he showed us the way back to God, and now the story does not end. We are carriers of the story, we are the children of God who live out the story in our homes, our churches and most importantly our community.
My friends, Christ is born! Let us live out his Gospel message of love, healing and peace for the whole world to see!
May this be the gift we share with the entire world. The gift given to us this season.