November 30, 2014
Mark 13:24-37
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Isaiah 64:1-9

Mature thanksgiving faith
Thanksgiving

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David Coffin
It is Thanksgiving or any one of the winter holidays, and certain couples who have no children are considering where to spend their holiday. Shall they stay home, eat, watch television, and be alone? Shall they go to any one of the extended family gatherings, which will be at least an hour drive from home? This entails the commitment of bringing a dish as well as spending the day with relatives -- some who like to brag, others who drink a few too many beers and thus feel free to tell others their political views, kids running around the house, and bored teenagers trying to find a way to leave the family event. Despite the portrayal of the pilgrims and the Native Americans, and the huge home-cooked meal view of Thanksgiving -- this is not reality for some families....

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Anticipation
Advent 1

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Wayne Brouwer
A well-rounded biblical "Screw your courage to the sticking-place," says Lady Macbeth to her doomed husband in Shakespeare's tragedy, "and we'll not fail." But fail they do and no amount of courage in the world can save them or turn them into heroes.

Courage is a funny thing. It's a bit like happiness: the more you seek it, the more you demand it, the more you try to call it up, the less it shows its face.

Words can stir us to courage, but only when they are grounded in confident expectation and hitched to unshakable values or realities. Who would not rally around the "I have a dream..." speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., in which he paints the colors of freedom? Who would not feel stronger listening to the dogged determination of Winston Churchill in the dark days of 1940: "Let us... brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour!' "

Courage, as faith's activator, is the call in Jesus' words to us today. He sits with his shell-shocked disciples in the temple precincts, sensing the profound disturbance at his words that this marvelous place of holiness and beauty will soon lie in rubble, but pointing them to a larger cataclysm that will shake the whole earth as eternity finally sears into time.

We've been there with the disciples, haven't we? Famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl remembered a terrible day during WWII. He was on a work gang, just outside the fences that hid the horrors of Hitler's infamous Dachau death camp. "We were at work in a trench," wrote Frankl. "The dawn was gray around us; gray was the sky above; gray the snow in the pale light of dawn; gray rags in which my fellow prisoners were clad, and gray their faces."

Frankl tells how he was ready to die. It was as if the gray bleakness had claws and each moment they dug deeper and colder into his soul. Why go on? What could be the purpose in "living" if, indeed, he was even still alive at this moment? There was no heaven, no hell, no future, no past; only the clutching grayness of this miserable moment.

Suddenly, to his surprise, Frankl felt "a last violent protest" surging within himself. He sensed that even though his body had given up and his mind had accepted defeat, his inner spirit was taking flight. It was searching. It was looking. It was scanning the eternal horizons for the faintest glimmer that said his fleeting life had some divine purpose. It was looking for God.

In a single instant two things happened, says Frankl, that simply could not be mere coincidence. Within, he heard a powerful cry, piercing the gloom and tearing at the icy claws of death. The voice shouted "yes!" against the "no" of defeat and the gray "I don't know" of the moment.

At that exact second, "a light was lit in a distant farmhouse." Like a beacon it called attention to itself. It spoke of life and warmth and family and love. Frankl said that in that moment he began to believe. And in that moment he began to live again.

Advent often reminds us of our similar need. The grayness of our bleak days is stifling. The loneliness of the moment overwhelms us. Is there a reason to carry on? Is there meaning beyond the drudgery of today's repetitive struggles? Is there hope and is there God?

With David (Psalm 43:3), we shout, "Send forth your light and your truth!" Don't leave me alone. Give me some sign. Light a candle in the window and take me home.

Advent reminds us of the power in Jesus' words to his disciples. God never denies us the light we need. As Joyce Kilmer wrote:

Because the way was steep and long,
and through a strange and lonely land,
God placed upon my lips a song
and put a lantern in my hand.


Because we know the many pressures of life, there is something absolutely amazing about the strength and peace and confidence that are part of our return to Advent anticipations. We need to remember again the fundamental secret to living on the edge of cruelty and pain and spite and injury and death. We need to learn anew that only a God who has ultimate control over all these things can make life itself meaningful. Only a God who allows the miseries for a time -- as a parent might restrain a helping hand so that a child can grow through the struggles of development -- can finally bring all things into his larger plans for peace and joy and harmony....

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This Week
November 27, 2014
Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)
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November 30, 2014
Advent 1
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Looking Ahead
December 7, 2014
Advent 2
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December 14, 2014
Advent 3
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December 21, 2014
Advent 4
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December 24/25, 2014
Christmas Eve/Day
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