The Art UMC will be helping hand out food boxes next week on December 9th – 11th, 3-5 p.m. Also, remember that a group of folks gather each Tuesday at the Food Bank prayer room about 3 p.m. to pray for our community. All are welcome.
The Art UMC has been invited to “ring the Salvation Army bell” on Friday December 6th, and Saturday Dec 7th. All funds collected remain in Mason County, and are administered by the Mason County Ministerial Alliance. You can sign up online at SignUpGenius, or you can all Pastor Cliff and sign up. We will be ringing from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., in one hour shifts.
Next Tuesday, December 10th, at noon, the UMW invites everyone to join them for a Christmas gathering and meal at the Community Building in Castell. This building is located directly behind Trinity UMC, and is the old Castell school building. Join us for this special event.
Pray for Stuart & Julia Jordan. A Christmas card sent to a deployed service person is always a blessing: Stuart Jordan receives mail at: 451 EMSG, 451 ELRS VO, APO, AE 09347.
These are the words of Pastor Cliff on the First Sunday of Advent.
The Advent reading (Isaiah 2:1-5) is from the prophet Isaiah. The “context” for this reading is: Israel [in this time called the Northern Kingdom], Judah [southern Israel today] Egypt, and Syria are having trouble among Israel, Egypt and Syria. Sound familiar? The time is the 8th century, or about 800 years before Jesus was born. In 722, Israel [Northern Kingdom] had been totally conquered by Syria, and all those who survived were deported. So, the “question of the times” for Judah, the southern Kingdom, was: should we sign a treaty with Egypt, or Syria? Who should we line up with? In other words, they are not considering whether they should believe that they are God’s people. They are ready to strike a deal with anyone who would protect them from also being conquered and plundered like their neighbors in the Northern Kingdom.
This is a vision that Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all -- the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; His word will go out from Jerusalem. The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD!
Does that help you understand “Advent”? Can you begin to imagine how comforting and reassuring these Words of God, through Isaiah, would have been for the people of God in the 8th century? For the people who had seen the northern half of their country conquered by Syria? These would indeed be comforting words from God. And I suspect, when they gathered for a meal, right after worship when they heard Isaiah speak those words for the first time, I am going to venture a guess about what they talked about during the meal. How about: “When? When, Lord, when will these last days that you spoke of through Isaiah come? When? How long, O Lord?”
Advent was a journey of waiting and listening for them, and it is a journey of waiting and listening for us.
There is much in this text. I have only read 5 verses to you from the book of Isaiah. One very important idea I must point out to you is the danger of: “our god” is on “our side” and we know this by decisive victories against our “enemies”. Such a view can and does lead to dangerous notions of pride and judgment of others. Isaiah points this out in this text, and such pride itself is perhaps the greatest stumbling block to faith and obedience to God.
Like us today, sometimes our Hebrew brothers and sisters had some pride issues that God had to deal about with them. Through the prophet Isaiah, God has proclaimed that a radical transformation of His creation is necessary: From nationalism and conflict to unity and peace. The people of God, hearing this vision of peace, are invited to become peacemakers. And Advent is a good time to stay grounded in the notion that peace seems not humanly possible. In our humanness, Darfur happens: genocide. In our humanness, Syria happens. In our humanness, we give some people the “silent treatment”. In our humanness, we sometimes withhold our love and forgiveness because they “don’t deserve it”. Sometimes our pride prevents us from asking “please forgive me”.
Advent is a good time to remember that God did send His Son, and since His Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, apartheid has ended. In the reign of God, we now produce enough food for everyone on the planet. We just have a very human distribution issue now. Advent is a good time to remember that without us, God won’t. And without God, we can’t. Without God, our brokenness takes over, and we fall silent while the innocent suffer, and the poor go hungry. Can you “get there” with your faith? In your belief that God is in control despite all of the things we see that seems contrary to this. Advent is remembering that we are on a journey of waiting and listening and placing our trust in God. Advent is a good time to remember that peace and the reign of God begins in our families, and with our neighbors. Advent is a good time to remember that as Citizens of Heaven, living in the Kingdom of God on earth, the only two “rights” we have are to LOVE and to FORGIVE. Pride, sometimes, trumps our call by God to love and to forgive.
Advent is a good time to remember the 11 words to bring in the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in Heaven: “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank You. I love you”. How would each of our families be changed if these 11 words became our “new” Advent & Thanksgiving tradition? How would our community be changed if these 11 words became the “new” tradition of Mason County? I think you can see where this is going: How would Texas be changed if we became the state of the 11 words? How would our US Congress be changed? Peace, it seems, begins with me. And when I take the time to “Advent” or to “remember” God’s promises, I can be thankful that although it begins with me, it’s not humanly possible. It is possible, however, with God. Placing my faith in God and trusting His promises, without knowing how or when, is what Advent is about. I invite you to try out the 11 words between now and Christmas.