Advent is a strange season in the life of the church, one that comes with an invitation. Advent listens backward to the voices of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Micah, even as it anticipates the birth of the Christ child. The words of the prophets echo in our ears as we prepare to welcome an unlikely messiah, one who from a distance of 2,000 years continues to call on us to be the body of Christ in the world. (This is the moment of invitation to you.)
How are we Christ to our neighbors? There are so many ways, large and small, that we do this through Plymouth. We offer tangible help through Faith Family Hospitality Network or and help the Jan family from Afghanistan to adjust to life in a new country. For the last 18 years, the youth of our congregation have slept out on our front lawn each December to raise funds and awareness to help prevent people in Fort Collins from becoming homeless. This year was no different, as they and youth from First Presbyterian Church gathered for a vigil and braved the cold during the sleepout last weekend at Plymouth. There are so many ways we extend a hand of friendship, sisterhood, and brotherhood here in Fort Collins. These are ways of being Christ to our neighbors.
But what about people in other parts of our nation or world whose help is desperately needed? People whose faces we may never see, whose names we may never learn, who stories we may never hear? They are every bit as important as people assisted in Fort Collins. Your gifts to Plymouth enable us to contribute to Our Church’s Wider Mission, which helps fund all our international mission work, as well as the work of justice and supporting the mission of the UCC. What about the young children in Ethiopia who enjoy early childhood education because of your gifts to Lango Kindergarten started by Bob and Nancy Sturtevant in our congregation? What about the young women who have been educated by schools run by the Congregational Church of Angola and founded by Tom and Paula Dille and the Dille-Dunbar Foundation? What about refugees in Hungary who have fled war-torn Ukraine, supported by your generosity to the UCC? Even if you don’t know their names or see their faces, you are helping!
There are so many more examples that I cannot list them all here. Together, we at Plymouth have formed a movement that aims to heal God’s world, a concept our Jewish siblings call “tikkun olam.” How are you hearing the call to follow Christ to spread healing to God’s world? How are you following Jesus and being Christ to your neighbors? What can you do by joining hand-in-hand with your siblings in the faith at Plymouth? (Together, we are mightier than you might imagine!)
Advent is a season of contemplation and action. It is a season of anticipation and hope. It is a season of listening to prophets and preparing for God’s reign of peace. It is a season when we remind ourselves that Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are the aim of our faith, and that it is our job to help embody Christ in the world today.
Together, may we make straight in the desert a highway for self-giving love and peace. May we lower the hills and level the playing field of God’s world to spread the realm of justice far and wide. And as we approach Christmas together, may we all sense the glory of God as together we live out our faith.
P.S. If you are not able to attend tonight’s sabbatical celebration in person, you can join the presentation via Zoom around 6:45. Just click on this link to register for the Zoom call.