The Seasons of the Church Year were crafted in the Northern Hemisphere, in Europe … which is why Christmas is celebrated in December.
We don’t know when Jesus was born.
But the church choose December.
There were pagan festivals that time of the year - festivals that celebrated the turn of the season, the coming of springtime, the renewal of life, the birth of hope.
What better time to celebrate the birth of the messiah?
In the coldest and darkest time of the year … but if we pay attention, we’ll see that the darkest and coldest day of all is a prelude to the coming of the light!
The Celebration of the Christ Mass, Christmas - Jesus born in the darkest time of the year, when the weather is cold and mean … when nothing lives, all is dormant - then, the dawn of a new age.
The Savior is born … the light of the world appears in the darkness … the fragrance of hope in the air.
The Season of Lent - from an old English word that means “lengthen” - because the days are lengthening, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.
Lent is a promise: we’ve made it through the worst of times - spring is its way … brighter are the days … the earth warms, trees bud, birds sing.
2 more minutes of sunlight in the morning, and two more minutes of sunlight in the evening.
The Season of Lent.
A time to learn:
God at work in all things, and in all things, God at work.
When it’s dark and cold, God at work.
When things can’t get any worse, God at work.
When all seems lost, God at work.
The work of love… a great love … a love willing to go the last mile, and then some.
God’s life on the line for our sake … to be with us when it’s dark and cold, to be with us in our temptations and sorrows, rejection, denial and betrayal … to die with us … that we might live with God!
In a late-night movie this week, Barbara Stanwyck, 1933 film, portrays an American missionary to China in a time of civil war and unrest.
“The Bitter Tea of General Yen” … General Yen discoveries that his servant-girl has betrayed him to his enemies; he has the young girl arrested and sentenced to death.
Barbara Stanwyck pleads with General Yen to be merciful to the young girl.
General Yen challenges her to take on the young servant-girl and watch over her … and should the servant girl betray General Yen again, the missionary will forfeit her own life.
Stanwyck hesitates … General Yen contemptuously says, “You missionaries are all alike - it’s all just words. You don’t believe any of it any more than I do.”
The General’s words caught my attention … I have no idea what I would do in such a moment … would I put my life on the line for someone else? Really … put my life on the line?
In order to find out what happened, you’ll have to see the movie … but the point remains, the question … but not about you and me this time, but God …
Would God put God’s life on the line for us?
Just how far would God go to save us?
The Devil in the Wilderness says to Jesus:
Feed them, stuff their bellies with bread.
Dazzle them with tricks of the trade.
Bow down and worship me, and I’ll give it all to you - it won’t cost you a dime, not a drop of blood.
They’re called “temptations,” because that’s what there are - temptations to save his own skin - the Devil plays to the weakness of the flesh, a weakness we all share, a weakness that even the Son of God knows in his bones …
Yet in those awful moments of temptation, the Son of God reaches deep into Scripture … deep into the heart of love.
To do the work needed.
Not to save his own skin, but to save a dying and broken world.
Putting his life on the line.
The highest expression of love the world has ever know.
The righteous for the unrighteous.
The pure for the impure.
The just for the unjust.
The sinless for the sinful.
The Son of God for you and for me.
The Lamb of God for the whole wide world.
Jesus the all-in-all:
Jesus the perfect Lamb of God.
Jesus - the High Priest.
Jesus - the Temple.
Jesus - the Alpha and the Omega.
The beginning and the end.
Jesus, our all-in-all.
A cross for a throne.
A wreath of thorns for a crown.
The Great God Almighty reaches down to lift us up!
The writer of Hebrews [10.22-23] says it well:
Let us draw near with a genuine heart.
With the certainty that our faith gives us.
Since our hearts are sprinkled clean.
From an evil conscience.
And our bodies are washed with pure water.
Let us hold to the confession of our hope.
Because the one who made the promise is reliable.
Lent is a time for us to renew our promises to God.
Review our life.
Set aside the lesser things that occupy too much.
Embrace again the love of Jesus.
Renew our efforts to live the Gospel-Way.
The Way of Jesus … who calls us to follow him.
Last week, I shared some questions with you [there in the bulletin this week] … questions I heard in a podcast lecture … questions that impacted me … questions to guide us into the work and life of Jesus, as we seek to follow him.
Have we learned to forgive?
Have we learned to be the first to seek reconciliation when a relationship goes wrong?
Have we learned to have a generous and grateful relationship with money and material possessions?
Have we learned to overcome our greed and live a life of simplicity?
Have we learned to love people who are different than we are, and maybe don’t even like us, and bless them and pray for them?
Have we learned to turn the other cheek, to love each other as Jesus loves us?
Have we learned to cross boundaries of race, class, culture, to be in relationship with others? [From Podcast, “Homebrewed Christianity,” January 19, 2012]
Lent is a time to learn the power of the gospel!
The time has come.
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.”
Jesus said: As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.
May it be so … our lives determined by the light.
We’re not perfect.
None of us are … and we don’t need to be!
But we can be channels for the light of Christ … we can be compassionate, we can be wise … if not all the time, at least some of the time, and maybe, even much of the time!
To the glory of God, and the healing of the nations.
Amen and Amen!