Der Vasken's Sermon on December 9, 2018

Dec 12, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 "By now, I'm sure, we have all created our Christmas lists. So, what are the people in your family hoping to find under the tree this year?

It's a popular question we hear asked quite a bit during this time of year.  I heard this question asked on a radio station the other day.  It was asked on a station that plays Christmas music from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day.  Many of us by now have begun creating our Christmas lists for this year--things we have to do and things we have to buy.  And I know that some of us have already begun purchasing those gifts, which means large crowds to push through and parking spots to locate and argue over and Christmas cards to write and send.  And during all of this, some of us play with the idea of rethinking how we are going to approach Christmas overall.

Today, our Church Fathers point our attention to the "gift" of Advent.  This is a special gift which isn't purchased at a mall or online.  This is a gift that the Church gives us.  This gift is given to us to be used in a very personal way. The Church's Advent gift to us involves creating a place in your life that only God is allowed to enter.  It's the gift of looking inward and spending time with God.

So, let's look at what Advent is.  In Armenian, Advent is called Hees-nag.  Today is the third Sunday of Hees-nag.  Hees-nag is a time to prepare ourselves, to prepare our hearts and thoughts and to put our spiritual life in order.  There always seems to be a happier spirit among people during the Season of Advent.  People tend to feel a special joy during this time of year, even when the stress of the season--the shopping, the decorating, the cooking takes over.  They still feel that "special something" that they look forward to all year long.  And with this "special something", things begin to change within them.  God's love starts growing within them and they like the feeling.  They feel empowered by it and begin to think that:

  • Possibly this Christmas Season, they will be stronger when they feel like giving up;
  • Possibly this Christmas Season, they will be grateful even when they feel lost;
  • Possibly this Christmas Season, they will stay positive even when negativity surrounds them;
  • Possibly this Christmas Season, they will remain hopeful even if they have reason to doubt;
  • Possibly this Christmas Season, they will feel peace even if the world around them argues on;
  • And possibly this Christmas Season, they can experience a fresh start in life because, and this is important, our God is the God of second chances and we can all use a second chance when we mess up or make a mistake.
Advent is a special time of the year.  The Bible describes Advent as that place far removed from the politics of our everyday lives and that place away from the misunderstandings that surround us all year long.  Advent is a time to carve out space to be with our God--to refocus our vision and keep perspective.  It's the time where we prepare ourselves, like we do during Great Lent in the weeks before Easter.  We prepare by saying a prayer--a small prayer, a daily prayer.  We prepare through reading the Bible--five minutes a day, the story of Jesus' Birth.  And in those five minutes we turn off the Hallmark Channel and instead of watching a Christmas story, we read the Story of Christmas.  And we prepare through receiving Holy Communion right here at our Altar.  We make it a priority to commune with our Lord the way He told us to.  We prepare so that we "ready" a place in our heart where God can speak with us, embrace us and strengthen us.

Every day we prepare our work to successfully conduct our business and every day we prepare our homes where we will raise our families and live life.  So, Advent is a time to prepare the place where we will meet God and that's mainly done through prayer.  We know that God can speak above the noise of our lives, but it's only in the quiet times of prayer that we learn to recognize His voice while living in a noise-filled world.

And finally, Advent is a time of Light.  Think about our Christmas trees and houses adorned in colorful lights this time of year.  The symbol of Light is important.  Advent is a time to look beyond the glitter of the season and see the true light in our soul and the light that our spiritual life reflects. It calls us to adjust our lives.  It calls us to adjust our schedules and invest in our spiritual life by following the Light and the Teachings of God.

So, Advent is the time to return to God, to open our heart so God may enter and to welcome God's Light as our guide in life.  These are the gifts that keep giving.  As we think ahead to the gifts of Christmas and as we start checking off items from our Christmas lists, let's not forget about ourselves. We all deserve a gift at Christmas.  The gift of Advent is that Gift! And let's ask ourselves:  How will my life benefit if I open this gift?  Advent is a gift to us from God.  How our lives will benefit if we open His Gift will only be known if we try.  The choice is ours. 

Something we should all take time to think about.

Amen.