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    Dec 18, 2016

    God Is With Us

    God Is With Us

    Speaker: The Rev. Becky Crites

    Category: Advent

    Keywords: hope, love, peace, will

    As we move from the season of Advent to the season of Christmas and into the New Year, remember, God is with us in all things and all ways. And because God is with us, new life is there. And because God is with us, enduring love is there. Hold this hope in your hearts, even when others and the world shows you something else.

    We all know someone who lives with some emotional wounds that cloud their vision of love and of God. And when we speak about God as one of peace and love those wounds have brought bitterness toward God that a comment or two cannot be heard nor go unchallenged. In those moments our hearts want to share what we have found but often our attempt is quickly refuted by the facts at hand.

    The news of the day still speaks of wars and famine. Natural disasters still happen. When we look at history and look at the world today, a case for God as the one who brings peace and love is a tough sell. When we hold an evidence based discussion, those whose lives have been wounded by others, especially us in the Church, we will not reveal God. For so much of what others learn about God is tied up in what we do and say. And so when we claim Christ as our savior and then act without love or speak with empty words, what do we convey about God? As Paul puts it we are a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” And too often what is remembered of us is a noisy gong.

    In tough situations our well-meaning thoughts and out-of-context scripture offer little comfort. Everything happens for a reason. God never gives us more than we can handle. It was God’s will. “It was God’s will” are words that cause my heart to sink for they are often spoken to someone who is experiencing great stress or loss. When we try to offer comfort, we want our words to mean something to the other. And when at a loss, “God’s will” may be spoken. But I rarely hear such words in times of joy or celebration. Would we say such to the one who has that winning lottery ticket?

    How this phrase came to be what we say at such times, we will never know. But it’s time to stop saying it. In such times the best we should offer is to hold a hand and sit with another. Let them lead the way of their breaking heart. And when speaking of God, why not say, I am here for you and God is with us? You know, Matthew begins and ends his gospel with such words. We hear this morning, “They shall call him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us” and ends with a promise – I will be with you always to the end of the age. Perhaps more than anything else, this is the truth Matthew wants to convey.

    As we move from the season of Advent to the season of Christmas, I offer those words. God is with you. God is with us. With 2017 looming, some may be anticipating great joyful change. Perhaps this is a season of graduation or a new birth is expected. Yet others may feel a great loss is possible. So hold onto what really is God’s will – to be with us.

    In all manner of things, God is with us. Sometimes this presence is strongly felt, sometimes not all. But God is with us. Sometimes we discover that presence alone and sometimes the presence of others reveal the way God is with us. Our Christian hope is based in this. Without such a vision human history seems pointless and the future just more of the same world conflicts and upheavals. But we claim something else – God has entered into our past and secured our future. When we hold that hope before us, or seek this from others when we falter, the vision of our hearts is turned to the great and lasting peace that God alone can bring. And we become the people of hope, presenting such hope to a longing world.

    I cannot argue with those who cannot find the logic of God. That won’t help the change their heart seeks. But I can be with them. I can be mindful that there are those around me who seek reconciliation, who seek a restoring friendship that points them to that great truth: In all manner of things, God is with us. My prayer for you – and for Epiphany is simply that – Remember, God is with us in all things and all ways. And because God is with us, new life is there. And because God is with us, enduring love is there. Hold this hope in your hearts, even when others and the world shows you something else. And may we become a community that let’s go of false truths to become a community that bears witness to this city of churches how God is with us.