You may remember that the theme for this Advent is “Welcome Home for Christmas.” To welcome us home, we have been looking to see what the Holy Spirits of Christmas have been doing in our lives. Last week, we looked at the Holy Spirit of Christmas Past. We looked at the wonderful things of past Christmases of our own lives and in the life of the congregation. We also contemplated some of the not so wonderful things of past Christmases and looked to see what gifts may have been hiding in these not so wonderful events and what we could learn from them.
This week, we move on. We move beyond the Holy Spirit of Christmas Past and move to the Holy Spirit of Christmas Present. We look to see what the Holy Spirit has been about in our personal lives and in the life of this congregation. We look to see what gifts the Holy Spirit may have waiting for us, just waiting for us to unwrap and to use.
We started the year with a congregational meeting and a full vestry. We were one of the few churches in the area to do that! We may be small, but we have the David Syndrome; just because we are smaller than some doesn’t mean we need to be counted out. No way!
We’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work through other events that have occurred over the year. We have gathered together to reach out to help the needy of our community through our rummage sale. We worked to increase our presence in Mason through our craft Bazaar. We have reached out in Christian love to a family in need with food for Thanksgiving and with food and gifts for Christmas. We have gathered to thank God for the life and Ministry of Fr. Jake; for the path that he had prepared and the path that we continue to walk today.
We have been blessed with the gift of music for our worship and the gathered voices to put words to that music. We have been blessed with loving, caring congregation that is quick to volunteer when volunteers are needed, and quick to reach out when someone needs support. The Holy Spirit of Christmas Present has been quite busy here at St. Swithin’s this past year!
And today we continue to see and celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit. Today we say “Thank you!” to The Ven. Lisa McMahn for all that she has done for us and all she has been for us. Lisa has been a gift to our congregation. She has acted as a lens to show us Christ’s love at work and she has been a catalyst to put that love into action. She has believed in us when we found it hard to believe in ourselves. God sent Lisa to us as a sign that we are more than just a congregation of Christmas Past; God sent Lisa to us to lead us into Christmas Present and give us hope for Christmases yet to come.
I also want to reiterate that we are not saying “Good-bye” to Lisa! Lisa is fading into the background, but she is not going away. God has other things in store for her! She will be focusing her time and her gifts to other congregations that need her help.
But even saying “Good-bye” to Lisa is a sign to us that the Holy Spirit is at work in our midst. We, as a congregation, need to hear the Spirit saying, “You are ready to fly!” or maybe, “I’m taking the training wheels off!” We need to see this as a God telling us that we are ready to go out into the world!
The Holy Spirit of Christmas Present is here, now!
And still, we are in the time of Advent, in the time of waiting. This time of waiting is a feeling we as Christians should be quite familiar with. We constantly find ourselves in this place. We know Jesus has been born, but yet we wait. We know the Reign of God is among us, but yet we wait for its coming. We know that we have received Christ’s forgiveness, but yet we still live in a world of sin and pain. We as Christians are familiar with this feeling.
If we look at the world at the time of Christ’s birth, things were pretty chaotic. The people were oppressed by both the Roman government and by their own religious leaders. There were huge taxes, and the practice of their religion had become filled with requirements and actions that had little, if any, basis in God’s plan. It was into this mix that God came, as a baby in an obscure, little, manger; a baby who would grow up to restore hope to a world in need. He was the fulfillment of centuries of prophecy – the fulfillment of the past in their present. Even at the time of Christ’s birth, their past was preparing them for that very point in time.
I hope we can see how our past has prepared us, bringing us to this point in time. I hope we can see how Christ’s love has helped us through the difficult times and will continue to help, support, and guide us into the future. I hope we can see how the Christ in each of us is here to give birth to the plans and dreams of our lives and of this congregation. It is my belief that God has plans for us and that God ain’t done with us yet!
Last week we looked at how the Holy Spirit was at work in our Christmases of the Past, and today we have seen how the Holy Spirit of Christmas Present has been preparing us for the changes that are occurring within our midst. Next week, we will encounter the Holy Spirit of Christmas Future, the one that everyone seems to fear. But I don’t think we need to fear. I KNOW we don’t need to fear. The Holy Spirit that has called us home in the past, and calls us home today in the present, will be there to welcome us home in the future. The future may be something that many dread, but because we have Christ, we can look to our future with anticipation!