This special liturgy for the first week of Advent was originally given on December 3rd, 2017, at Central City Campus.
By Chelsea Gerlach
We have entered the season of advent. The next few weeks we will be moving towards the celebration of the birth of the Son of God. We rejoice because Jesus has come, we remember that God is with us, and we wait with anticipation for Him to come again.
The sermon theme this year is Here in Anticipation. We are living between the already and the not yet, between the ancient story of the birth of a savior and the final showdown when Christ triumphs over evil.
We don’t have to look very far to see evil at work in the world today.
There have been 397 mass shootings in the US so far this year.
In America, 1 in 6 women are survivors of rape,
and every day in this country 5 children die from abuse and neglect.
We know that there is evil in the world. Woe to the earth because the devil has come down to us. The red dragon is filled with fury and wages war against us. We read about it in the news. We bleed from it in the battle of our daily lives. And we hear it inside our heads, that ancient serpent who leads the whole world astray and accuses us, brothers and sisters, before God day and night.
We come here today knowing that we can’t protect ourselves. We need the authority of the Messiah to come with salvation and power to reign over all nations forever.
We walk through these doors seeking refuge in a world that seems overcome by the dragon- out there and in here.
We come to this place seeking to experience of the kingdom of God.
But the things that we carry come with us.
We carry pain in our bodies. Anger. Stress. Anxiety. Shame. We feel the shadow of the dragon hanging over us.
I recently moved into the neighborhood and walked here this morning. I love having that time to transition, slowing down to the pace of human feet, shifting my sense of scale under the panorama of the heavens.
I walked across the freeway where there is a cluster of homes made from tents and tarps. I walked pass vacant lots and construction sites. Closed bars and pawn shops.
Even during the day, clothed by the light of the sun, when I walk alone I’m aware of the fragility of my body. Tiny fists clenched in my pockets, weak biceps unable to fend off an attacker. I scan for possible threats, making note of escape routes, ready to run.
Unconsciously, I try to project confidence, make myself look bigger. But my too-fast beating heart reveals the truth- I feel small and vulnerable. I feel the dragon pursing me.
This body makes me vulnerable. When I arrived here this morning, seeking to experience the kingdom of God, this body was carrying fear.
I came through these doors under the authority of the Messiah who comes with salvation and power to reign forever, but I still feel the shadow of the dragon lurking to devour.
I still carry the lies of the accuser in my head- shame, doubt, condemnation. The lie that this body is a liability- damaged, unworthy.
But God says, “I have knitted you together in your mother’s womb.” It was through a body, just like this one, that salvation came into the world. The Word says I carry the image of God.
God says over and over, the most often repeated command in the Bible,
“Do not be afraid.”
The Word says that the Holy Spirit will come upon me, and that by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony we, brothers and sisters, will triumph over the dragon.We carry the Truth of the gospel. And no Word of God will ever fail. We may feel hounded by the dragon but we are invited to a place that has been prepared by God under the protection of the Son of the Most High.
Will we accept that invitation this morning?
Before we enter into worship, I invite you to take a moment to transition. Take a moment to reflect on what you might have carried in with you when you arrived.
Maybe it’s not fear. Maybe for you this morning the dragon pressing in on you feels like anger. Or worry. Or shame. Maybe it’s the heaviness of a situation in your life that feels hopeless.
Where is the battle in your own life right now?
What are the lies that the accuser is whispering to you?
Let’s take a moment to remember that God is with us. With you.
Unclench your fists, allow yourself to be comforted by the Spirit, open your hearts for the Truth that Christ wants to offer you this morning.
Let us rejoice, brothers and sisters, because the dragon-slayer has come.
Today we light the candle of faith. The dragon will be defeated. Christ is with us.
Come, come, Emmanuel.