The season of Advent is always about anticipation. We anticipate, long for, await the coming of the Christ-child on Christmas Day. But this rhythm of anticipation is in contrast to a cultural practice of the Christmas season: an immersive season of celebration, gift-buying, eating, and music that demands we engage right now, right away, all season long.

How might we engage Advent in a fresh way this year? What if we could use the power of our senses — our body’s natural gifts of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound — to deepen our anticipation of the coming of Christ? All around us, we are invited into a full-sensory extravaganza of Christmas celebration — here and now — even at the outset of December. …


It is remarkable how much we have to be grateful for every day: the sun that rises, the air we breathe, warm homes to live in, clean streets in our cities, and the company of friends and neighbors with whom we live, move and have our being.

It is also remarkable how easy it is to become cynical and disoriented by all the heartache, hunger, injustice, and fear that we witness in the world. Whether we turn on the evening news or remember a loved one in the hospital, many circumstances call our hearts to sadness and lament. …


In the month ahead, many of us will gather around tables for meals with loved ones, friends and family. Some of us will travel long distances or receive guests from afar, sitting down together after time spent apart to eat, share stories, and experience each other’s company. It is the season of Thanksgiving, the time of year we return to God gratitude for an abundant harvest, a table filled with enough, and lives nourished from God’s hand.

As is common for many Christians who gather at table throughout the week and especially at Thanksgiving, we practice “saying grace.” I think of growing up, listening to my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, hosting the meal and gathering our family together with a word of prayer in response to God’s bountiful providence. We say “grace”, putting the words of thankfulness upon our lips. We speak the “grace” aloud, acknowledging before others the ways we have personally and communally been impacted by God’s providing love. …


Sermon

August 13 — Origin Stories — The Next Generation

The preaching text this morning comes from Genesis 37.

“Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives’; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. …


On Christmas morning, we stand at the burning edge of a new dawn. This is a morning of hope. A morning that says “the Light has come, what we’ve waiting for has arrived.”

Every Christmas, we have the opportunity reaffirm this trust and hope. The darkness does not win, Light will always dawn again and overcome.

It seems, in so many ways, that the world’s darkness is pushing in with an increasing intensity around us. But today, we rise, we look out into the distance and the horizon, and we see the glimmer of a light dawning.

The Light of Christ, which we celebrate today, burns at this edge of dawn. Christ’s compassion and world-remaking love sets a fire in our hearts, calling us out to bear light and hope to all we meet, to all the nations. At this burning edge of dawn, we encounter possibility in the face of the impossible, light in the face of all the darkness. …


Waiting. That’s what this whole season has been about. Waiting is what we focus on in Advent. We believe the light is going to come and so we wait.

We believe that in the birth of Christ, peace has come. And so each year, we prepare and wait and long and hope that this peace would be born in us again. We anticipate that in the joy of Christmas morning, the light would rekindle a fire in our hearts and bring about peace on earth in the fullest sense.

On Christmas Eve we wait in the dark before the dawn. The deepest moment of the waiting is in these last few hours of Advent. The darkness is about to pass away — a new day is dawning and with it the light of the world! …


When I set out on this Impossible Light project, I was fascinated by the beautiful image of light overcoming the darkness and the celebration of Christmas situated in the bleakest time of the year. I thought this was a story of light being greater than darkness, a story only about hope coming from a triumphant entry of the Lord.

It’s a story about belonging. At the core of the story is a statement about how humanity and all of creation matters to God and matters to one another. …


Welcome to winter, my friends. Although, it feels like winter has set in long ago and we are already longing for the light of spring to dawn, aren’t we?

As we celebrated the Winter Solstice last evening I am struck by the hauntingly beautiful carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.


Tonight, we celebrate the Winter Solstice. It is the darkest night of the year, the shortest day, where the light is the thinnest. We are nearing the end of the journey and we wait in hope for the dawn.

In the deepest, darkest night, we are as close as we will get to the light coming. We can taste it, sense it, know that it’s almost here.

Isn’t this true about many of the darkest moments of our lives? If we look back, aren’t many of those times the places where we are brought to our thinnest place, our deepest longing, and somehow we are met in that longing? It’s the random person at the grocery store who smiles your way as if they know how desolate life is right now. It’s the kindness of a stranger in the waiting room as you await a dreaded diagnosis. …


I have been on a journey over the last couple of months, rekindling a fire in my heart as a writer. What began as a spark in the early Fall has turned into a viable flame through the course of the Advent season with writing daily reflections on the Impossible Light. And now, as this season draws to a close, I’m excited about what’s next.

Here are a couple of embers from the fire I hope continue to grow in 2017:

Weekly Reflections

First, I would like to slow the pace of Impossible Light down and spend the year of 2017 doing some sort of ongoing weekly reflection on the topic. I’ve seen this Impossible Light project as an opportunity to develop my pastoral voice in a more free-flowing way than it might come out in a typical sermon or paper. …

About

Seth Thomas

Finding rhythm in Bellingham, WA.

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