Message Supplement for 18 December 2016–“Joyful Renewal”

Today’s Advent message is drawn from two selections of the Revised Common Lectionary, Psalm 80:1-7,17-19 and Romans 1:1-7. In the Psalms passage there’s an uplifting message of restoration. How fitting! Advent is a magnificent time, full of potential for individuals and churches. Psalms offers us timeless encouragement which is as relevant and helpful now as it was thousands of years ago. Why? Because humanity’s fundamental problems haven’t changed across the ages. Fear, hardship, discouragement and many more negativities remain entrenched in the human condition. This is why we need constant building-up through the power of God. Get ready for renewal through your faith in the God of love and life.
The psalmist’s plea for both earthly and spiritual restoration also reflects our needs. We, like the ancestral people of faith, need divine guidance as we navigate life’s dangers. Our mortal state is as frail and fraught with peril as is that of the ancient Hebrews pining away in the Holy Land. We also cry to God, who listens to our prayers and helps us overcome enemies, both of literal flesh and blood as much as from the paralyzing attitude of doom and gloom. Our earnest plea reflects our need for connection with God, to help us overcome all that would destroy us. Please find promises in scripture for which you can now claim fulfillment. You are worthy; you are blessed.
The next part of today’s message comes from Paul’s writing to the Christians at Rome, hence the letter’s title of “Romans.” Here we have one of Paul’s characteristic, positive introductions wherein he gives his credentials as a special messenger. As a servant of Jesus the Christ, Paul weaves his opening sentences with a summary of the basic Christian message. It is critical to review the foundation of our faith so that we can re-form our commitment. Churches and individual Christians can get so caught-up in other matters that it’s easy to forget what it’s all about. Paul’s greeting in Romans can serve as a metaphor for our Advent journey. We are all invited to welcome the spiritual re-birth of the Christ-child. Christmas is a time of reminder and renewal. Paul’s warm, gracious introduction is an encouraging start to what we can finish.
How can we weave both Psalms and Romans together? That blessed state of connection with God—the psalmist’s plea—is ours if we seek it. And the summary of Paul’s message is to build on the founding promises of our faith, the salvation and redemption brought by Jesus. What better time of year than now to embrace the hope of the Christ child in our hearts and minds. We can be as ready as ever to experience spiritual rebirth if we will accept it. Joyfully can we share God’s message with all living creatures. Also, the other Advent themes of peace, hope and love work together to promote an opening of our hearts and minds. As such, we can solidify our Christian commitment with the marvelous power of God’s Spirit.
Get ready for Christmas! Before you know it, 2017 will be here and another year will be whizzing past. Don’t get left behind by the tyranny of the calendar. Cultivate the hope that inspired both the psalmist and Paul. We, like they, are God’s children. We can expect restoration and revitalization as we yearn for it and partner with God for transformation. Embrace all that God wants for you and visualize holding the precious Christ-child. The beauty of that imagery and the goodwill empowering it makes our joy complete. God bless you all and glory to God in the highest. –Reverend Hoxey