“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5, NRSV)
“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12, NRSV)
We continue our Advent journey that began with Hope, then we moved to Peace, and this week we take the progressive step toward Joy. In Hope, we started living as if the Kingdom of God were already in place here on earth. In Peace, we settled into the knowledge that no matter what is going on around us, there is God’s loving presence that provides security from life’s storms. And now, in Joy, we learn that our circumstances do not define us or determine our happiness. In trusting that the God who is near to us can redeem any situation, we find Joy.
“For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1, NRSV)
This Advent season we’re covering the four topics of hope, peace, joy, and love. These are defining qualities that we find in the prophecies about Jesus’ birth as he comes to save the world. Other words that are tied equally to Advent are words like prepare, wait, watch, and listen. During the season of Advent, we are to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus anew into our lives, and we prepare through waiting, watching, and listening.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:2, NRSV)
This Sunday begins the season of Advent. Advent is the season that begins the liturgical calendar that guides us through scripture and tradition through the life of Jesus Christ each Sunday when we gather. The goal is to cover the entirety of Jesus’ life and ministry every year. We are beginning a new Christian year with the first Sunday in Advent.
“As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7, NRSV)
We’re continuing our series on John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules, and this week we’re concluding the series with the third rule, “Stay in love with God.” In actuality, the way Wesley described this rule in the 18th Century was for the Methodists to “[attend] to all the ordinances of God.” These ordinances included worship, hearing the word of God read and preached, participating in the Lord’s Supper, holding family and private prayer, searching the scriptures, and fasting or abstinence. We refer to these ordinances today as spiritual disciplines that are designed to retrain our affections toward a greater love for God.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, NIV)
We’re in the midst of a sermon series on John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules: Do no harm; do good; stay in love with God. Last week we talked about “Do no harm.” This week the topic is “Do good,” as in, do all the good you can wherever you go. On November 26th, we’ll cover “Stay in love with God.”