Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6
I don't wait very well. I hate to wait in line for anything. But the worst kind of waiting is when I am not sure that what I am waiting for will ever happen. I had triple mini strokes a few months back. My surgeon, my rehab therapists and those who had had a similar surgery all promised that I would feel as good as new. A neighbor shared with me that he had a similar deal. He said one of the dangers of stroke surgery is depression." He might as well have said, "Ben needs to wait for his recovery with a sure and certain hope."

Luke quotes Isaiah who proclaimed to a people held captive in a foreign land for three generations, that they could now anchor their waiting in a sure and certain hope. There was a new emperor. Cyrus didn't know it, but he was Yahweh God's servant. "You can start packing," said the prophet. God is going to bring you back home.

On the second Sunday in Advent, we meet John the Baptist. John's mission was to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. His message? "All flesh shall see the salvation of God."

The people in John's day had "waiting depression." We often suffer from the same malady. Luke listed many of the enemies of the Lord's coming that can be historically verified. But John's message was a sure and certain hope. Jesus was born. Jesus died and was raised again. And Jesus is coming again.

Cure us, O Lord, from "waiting depression." Amen!

Luke 3:1-6 (NRSV)

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene,

2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,

4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5 "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;

6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
The Advent imagery of this hymn is waiting for the greatest of all weddings to take place. The whole world waited for wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton to take place last spring. Part of my family has lived in Windsor, England, the past three years. I remember hearing on the news how they waited for hours, pressed against the iron fence surrounding Buckingham Palace, just to get a glimpse and a couple of pictures of the royal family in procession.

I am writing these words after I have had the privilege of participating in a wedding. I had talked with bride and groom about all the preparations for this extraordinarily beautiful wedding and marriage feast. It was to take place in Vegas. It was my granddaughter. This was big for this country preacher. I can't remember ever doing so much waiting, but it was worth it.

It is easy to equate Advent with fear and judgment. It is good to be able to remind ourselves that we are waiting for the great wedding celebration.

Dear Jesus, we feel as giddy as a bride this Sunday as we wait to be forever united with you in marriage. Amen.
"Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
1 Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear;
the evening is advancing, and darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising and soon is drawing night.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle; at midnight comes the cry.

2 The watchers on the mountain proclaim the bridgegroom near;
go forth as he approaches with alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting; the gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory; the bridgefroom is at hand.

3 The saints, who here in patience their cross and suff'rings bore,
shall live and reign forever when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory the Lamb they shall behold;
in triumph cast before him their diadems of gold.

4 Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear;
arise, O Sun so longed for, o'er this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
the day of earth's redemption that sets your people free!

My Lord, What a Morning

My Lord, What a Morning
Marian Anderson sang this African American spiritual as a part of her 1939 Easter Sunday concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This world-renowned contralto was denied the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall because of her race.

"My Lord, What a Morning" became a prelude to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It is now a theme song for all oppressed people everywhere. Lutherans have even made it a part of our hymnal.

The theme of this Advent season is "Waiting With a Sure and Certain Hope." This hymn is a vision of that hope. No matter what the pain and injustices may be today, God will one day right all wrongs. We wait for the morning when the stars begin to fall.

My Lord, what a morning it will be when you return in all the glory of your salvation! Come quickly! Amen!
My Lord, What a Morning

Refrain
My Lord, what a morning; my Lord, what a morning;
oh, my Lord, what a morning, when the stars begin to fall.

You will hear the trumpet sound, to wake the nations underground,
looking to my God's right hand, when the stars begin to fall.

You will hear the sinner cry, to wake the nations underground,
looking to my God's right hand, when the stars begin to fall.

You will hear the Christian shout, to wake the nations underground,
looking to my God's right hand, when the stars begin to fall.

Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25-36
"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down ... Be alert at all times."
An associate shared this story.
It was 1:00 a.m. and I was making my rounds as a night watchman on the 17th floor of a lower-loop office building. I did not use my flashlight as I looked for any possible lights. Suddenly a high-pitched sound pierced the dark and silent hallway and I felt the wind on my face. My heart raced, even though I knew that it was a bat. One has to need a paycheck badly to work as a night watchman.

The worst part of the job was the waiting. The time went fast when I was securing the building for the night, but after midnight the hours began to drag. Sometimes, I would work in the wood shop, even though I didn't want to be caught by a surprise visit from my supervisor. Most often, I whiled the time away playing cards with the boiler engineer two levels below the street. The best that could be said about my being a night watchman was that at least I didn't fall asleep.

When the clock struck 4:00 a.m., I would take the freight elevator up to the 19th floor. It was where desks and cabinets and other supplies were stored. It was easily the spookiest floor of all, but it had a small window on the east wall. I would look over the city lights and scan the horizon for any trace of the sunrise. I loved spring and summer because the sun would peek above the horizon much earlier. Once I saw traces of the sun, I would get a new spring in my step. My shift was almost over and I could go home.

It is one thing to exegete the Advent texts; it is another thing to be a night watchman and feel the text in one's heart.

Lord Jesus, again we ask you to come quickly. But until you come, give us the faith and courage to be good watchers.
Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)

25 [Jesus said,] "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

26 "People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

27 "Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.

28 "Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

30 "as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

31 "So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

35 "like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

36 "Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

I Thessalonians 3:9-13

I Thessalonians 3:9-13
"Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you."

Paul waits to get together with his friends with the sure and certain hope that one day they will all be a part of Jesus' welcoming party when He comes again.

A window into this text for me today as I write this is the Rahmann sisters. I met them while doing interim work some years ago in New Jersey. I was schmoozing among the worshipers before the service and I came across two women I didn't know. "Are you twins?" I inquired. Their spirits came alive and they began to giggle. "No, we are sisters, but we are not twins." Then one pointed to the other, "She is older than I am."

That exchange began a friendship that lasts to this day. When I am in New Jersey or New York I always stop to have dinner with the "Twins." They have schooled me in the history of the northwest corner of New Jersey. Pictures of my youngest grandson hang on their walls. I even have a bluebird house in their wooded homestead. (I have a cross on "my" house to attract the more religious bluebirds.)

One of the Twins is now in a serious battle with cancer. I pray, as did Paul, that the Lord will direct my way to visit my friends. They have a wonderful pastor who is my friend, but I want to personally visit them. I have no doubt that we all will be a part of Jesus' welcoming committee, but I need to see them now. So, I wait.

Lord Jesus, we wait to connect with our friends and family even as we wait for you. Amen.
Hub Nelson
I Thessalonians 3:9-13 (NRSV)

9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?

10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.

12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Psalm 25:1-10

Psalm 25:1-10
"Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long."

Henny taught me what the Psalmist was waiting and yearning for. She grew up in orphanages in her early years and in a foster home as a teenager. Her mother was in a mental hospital most of her adult life and her father was abusive, and then disappeared from her life.

Young Henny was very bright and had amazing artistic abilities, but was labeled by her peers both at school and later at work as a loser. One day, at the company where she was a bookkeeper, a bank executive recognized her ability, loyalty and honestly and became her advocate. He introduced her to his pastor and together they instilled a feeling of self worth that continued into her retirement years.

As one of her later pastors, I preached one Sunday that God has created us to soar like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. When I left that parish, she gave me a beautifully framed picture of a seagull. She didn't have to say a word. I knew she meant, "Hub, I am a hen, but I confidently wait for the day when I will fly like a seagull." I think that she is already taking her test flights. "For you," writes the Psalmist, "I wait all the day long."

O Lord, come quickly, that I may fly like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Amen.
Hub Nelson
Psalm 25:1-10 (NRSV)

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.

5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O Lord!

8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Advent is a time of waiting with anticipation. Children visit Santa with their long lists. Adults may buy an extra lottery ticket to fuel their dreams. The biggest Christmas gift I ever received was one that never really physically happened, but was still real.

I received a call from one of our older members in an assisted living home. He was so excited that I could hardly make out what he was saying. "Pastor Nelson," he exclaimed, "I need to see you right away. You won't be sorry."

When I walked into his room he was beaming from ear to ear. "I have just won $1,000,000," he exclaimed, "And I am going to give $500,000 to the church." He showed me his letter from Publishing House Sweepstakes and sure enough, it declared him to be a winner. In his excitement, though, he had not read the small print that began with the word "if."

He believed that he was a rich man. Yet he didn't dream about indulging himself but rather, that he now had the means, his dream was to be God's partner in the world. In the language of the text, he would be God's partner in executing justice and righteousness in the land. I'll bet Santa never read such a request on any of his lists.

Come, Lord Jesus, and enable me to be your partner in executing justice and righteousness. Amen. Hub Nelson

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV)

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."

Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25-36
The year was 1924. Ingvald said good-bye to Bertha and his two preschool-aged sons, and set sail from Norway to America. It was the land of promise. Life was bleak for Ingvald and his young family if they stayed in Norway.

Ingvald promised Bertha and their two sons that when he found a job and a home in America, he would send for them. It was a tearful departure and the next year was most difficult for Bertha and the boys. The cupboards were often bare, but mostly they were lonesome for their husband and father. They waited day after day and month after month for Ingvald to send for them.

They did not despair, however. They waited with a sure and certain hope. They trusted Ingvald to keep his promises. The letter they were waiting for came in late 1925. Ingvald arranged for them to come to the land of promise and once again be united. It was a joyful celebration. Life was not easy, but it was good.

The story of Bertha and Ingvald is a window to our text for today. You and I wait for our Lord to return and, in the language of one our liturgies, we wait with a sure and certain hope.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen!

Luke 21:25-36 (NRSV)

25 [Jesus said:] "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

26 "People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

27 "Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.

28 "Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

30 "as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.

31 "So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,

35 "like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.

36 "Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

This is My Father’s World

This is My Father's World

My father nearly died a few weeks ago and is stable now only because medical technology has advanced so far in the last few years. As I write, our family is waiting to hear what is next. We do not know what the future holds for him or for us.

That is, I suppose, the way that it always is. We think we know what is going to happen next week, next month, next year. But we don't, do we? I know exactly as much about the future now as I did last month, before his diagnosis—which is to say, nothing.

This is my father's world. My father, who taught me almost everything that I know about life, poetry, art and music, good wine, the beauty of the morning light. My father, who taught me to see the world with a sense of awe and wonder.

This is my Father's world. The One who gave me such a father, and who sustains him and me and all of our loved ones through this life of waiting, of soon and not yet. This is my Father's world; why should my heart be sad? The Lord is king, let heaven ring.

Father God, you give us everything that we need for this life. You provide us with parents and teachers to love us and teach us love. You decorate the world in the beauty of nature and give us the music of the spheres and the carols of the birds as our soundtrack. Grant us eyes that see you shine, ears that hear your feet pass, and hearts vulnerable to wonder at all that you have created. Amen.
Aimee Appell

This is My Father's World

1 This is my Father's world, and to my list'ning ears
all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world; I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

2 This is my Father's world; the birds their carols raise;
the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world; he shines in all that's fair.
In the rustling crass I hear him pass; he speaks to me ev'rywhere.

3 This is my Father's world; oh let me not forget
that, though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let heaven ring; God reigns, let earth be glad!

Crown Him with Many Crowns

Crown Him with Many Crowns

I get a little antsy when we sing songs like this. When Jesus starts wearing crowns, I'm afraid it's only a few steps away from draping him in flags and claiming him for one political faction or another. The only crown that Jesus wore in his lifetime was a crown of thorns, and the closest he came to being raised on a pedestal was being raised on a cross. However much we try—and we will try—Jesus is not a symbol of worldly domination or of worldly power. When we sing of Christ's crowns and glory, what we are really singing is his betrayal, humiliation and death.

But this is precisely why we crown him the Lord of Love, because he would suffer such betrayal for our sake. That's why we crown him the Lord of Life, because he overcame death and led us into new life. That's why we crown him the Lord of Years, because, as Jesus tells Pilate, his Kingdom is not from this world. It cannot be corrupted by our bigheaded grasping for control. God is in control, and what God glorifies is always surprising.

God of glory, you demonstrated your love by sending your Son to live among us, to be one of us, and to die for us. Give us the eyes to see your glory in the places we would rather not look. Give us the voices to sing your story of redemption. Give us the courage to crown love, life and creation, rather than power, wealth and destruction. Amen.

Crown Him with Many Crowns

1 Crown him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon his throne,
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless King
through all eternity.

2 Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o'er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save.
His glories now we sing,
who died, and rose on high,
who died, eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.

3 Crown him the Lord of peace,
whose power a scepter sways
from pole to pole, that wars may cease,
and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end,
and round his pierced feet
fair flowers of paradise extend
their fragrance ever sweet.

4 Crown him the Lord of love;
behold his hands and side,
those wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou hast died for me;
thy praise and glory shall not fail
throughout eternity.