Sermon by Pastor Ben Cieslik

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior who was and is and is to come, Amen.

Happy Advent!

This is without a doubt one of my two favorite times of the church year.  It’s basically a coin flip between advent and lent, lent and advent.  I love acknowledging the darkness, telling the truth about our lives.  I kind of dig the penitential nature of the season.  I love the mopey, angsty feeling of it all.  I love the build up.  The preparation.  Something big is coming.  Jesus, God in flesh!

But for all build up, and all the preparation, what really what are we getting?  And what does it mean.  And though it pains the purist in me, we’re going to be spending some time looking at what Christmas means this season of advent, before Christmas actually gets here

We spend weeks and in some cases months getting ready for Christmas.  And then it’s over in a hot minute.  The present are unwrapped, the egg nog is drunk and the Christmas dinner is annihilated and there’s this feeling of what just happened.  And it’s on to new years resolutions.

But if we want to make the claim that Christmas, the coming of God in flesh, the incarnation changes everything, then what exactly is different?

So over the course of the next few weeks, between now and Christmas, we’re going to unpack exactly what it is that we get for Christmas.

And make no mistake about it.  You do get something for Christmas.  Don’t be led astray by all those remember the reason for the season campaigns that crop up every year.  Or those people who snidely remind you that it’s really Jesus’ birthday, so celebrate him.  No for Christmas, you get something.  You get a gift, actually a lot of gifts, but we only have four weeks in Advent, so we had to pick four gifts.

This week it’s power.  You get power.

All right, admittedly, power is a little abstract, as far as gifts go.  And obviously, I don’t mean power like electricity.

But even if you can’t plug it in, it’s a pretty cool gift none the less.  Power can make stuff happen.  Power can move people, inspire people, compel people.  I mean think about it.  Think about the most powerful person you know.  Wow.  Aren’t they impressive?  No doubt they have lots of cool toys, all kinds of influence, perhaps they run something – you know government, corporation, the world.  Little things like that.  Power is the stuff that makes world go around.

Of course power has a shadow side that we all know too well.  There are those who become power hungry.  Those who use power to subjugate and abuse others.  Those who employ their power to get whatever they want, whatever the cost.

Power is a tool.  It’s neither good or bad, but it’s the use that it’s put to that determines whether it’s been used for good or ill.

In our gospel reading this morning/evening we are treated to some of the most beautiful poetry in all of scripture, at least I think so.

I love John’s gospel, and I love the prologue of John’s gospel even more.  But working with it this past week, I encountered something that hadn’t caught my attention before in the same way as it did this time.

He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

God’s gift to you and to me, indeed to all of creation is the power, the ability to live as the children of God.  Which is to say, to live as children of the light, children of life.

Brothers and sisters, what you have been given, what is yours in and through the God who takes on human form is power to be light and life in a world that so desperately needs it.  In that sense, Christmas is all about you, being reborn as a child of God, living shaped by the light that darkness cannot overcome.

Last week was another ugly week.  It was another dark week.

Another shooting, another shooting, this one at a planned parenthood clinic in Colorado and three people were killed.  You begin to wonder if it’s safe to go anywhere these days, it’s scary out there.

On the northside here people brought guns to the rally at the 4th precinct.  Protestors were shot, fortunately no one was hurt, but still in no uncertain terms it illustrated that racism is alive and well even in this quaint northern city.  It’s dark out there.

Fear mongering persists on the political scene.  Day after day we’re told to be afraid of those who look differently than we do, think differently than we do, live differently than we do.  Our supposed leaders appeal to the worst in us, instead of calling from us our best.  It’s bad out there.

But as bad as it is,

as dark as it is,

as scary as it is out there in the world, you’re out there too.

And you are a child of the light, a child of life, you have been given the power to live as a child of God.  Because of what God has given to you, you have been reborn, you have power to live differently, to love differently to be different.

You carry the light of God with you, and it’s a light that the darkest night can never overcome.

You have power.  You have power to help those around you thrive.  You have power to give of yourself so that things in this world are different.

You have power, godly power, to be God’s agent – God’s representative here and now.  You have the power of light.

Listen, I get it.  It’s hard.  I struggle too, it’s easy to feel like what can I do.  I’m just one person.

But you are more than just one person.  You have been given the power to become a child of God.  You, me, we just need to reminded of that gift over and again, week in and week out, day after day.

It’s one of the reason that each household is invited to take home and use the devotions that are in your bulletin as well as some advent candles you can pick up in the gallery.  During this season as the days grow ever shorter and it can seem as though the world is growing ever darker, take some time each day to pray and engage with the bible.

Just five minutes, will help to remind of the gift you’ve been given, power.

Oh and don’t worry, if that’s not enough, there’s still four more gifts to come.