This Is Our Season: Rev. Canon Leonard Hamlin
Won’t you join me in a word of prayer. Almighty God, it is once again that we find ourselves saying, “thank you” for your love towards us and your presence with us. We ask now that you would hold us, that you would cover us, keep us, and unite us. But most of all fill us, that we might be prepared for the places you are sending us. This we ask in your wonderful name. Amen. You may be seated.
I think most preachers wrestle with moments like this. On one hand, they are keenly aware of their limitations as well as their frailties but come to a moment like this in hopes of standing in the moment where united with the transcendent spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But as we come on this day, I just want to remind you right away that as we look around and take account of this world in which we live and the calendar in which we’re moving through, this is our season.
There are certainly many seasons and many moments that are high days within those who call themselves disciples and who walk as members of the faith and followers of Jesus Christ. But I want to tell you as we look with all that is going on, I will remind you again, that as we look at this moment, this truly is our season. For those that were listening to the sermon preached last week by Dean Hollerith, there was a significant statement and observation, and as well as a challenge and invitation all wrapped up into one, that he lifted as he reflected upon the life of John the Baptist.
In a paraphrase for us to live out what it really means to walk in the Christian faith, there will be moments when we will be seen as acting in ways that will be described as unreasonable. If there was ever a season to be seen as unreasonable, it is now. With all that you read in the headlines, with all that you see in the difficult moments, how can you find joy in a time like this? How can you smile when some folk are frowning? How can you see further than where you are with burdens on your back? I tell you today, there ought to be many of us in here today who are not just drawn to the season because chestnut are roasting on the open fire. Who are not just drawn to this season because lights are being hung in the window. This is our season because it reminds us of the life that we have been called to live.
Here we are finding ourselves moving through this season of Advent on our way to the day when we will reverence, remember, and celebrate our savior’s birth. If we walk in the spirit of the season and in the spirit of Christ every day of our lives, there will be those who will look at us and call us unreasonable. And our ways and our life will sometimes appear even irrational. But what I want to tell you and invite you to embrace on this day and every day, that no matter how it may appear, no matter what you read, no matter sometimes even what you’ve been through, as followers of Jesus Christ this is truly our season. When the true Christian witness is experienced and observed, we go through what many have described as these paradoxical predicaments. Think about it for a moment. As the writer of an article I read recently called Framing a Proper Expectation of Christian Faith tells the reader that you can read in Luke where Luke says, “we are worthless servants”, but then turn to the letters and read in Ephesians and hear the words that say “we are his workmanship”.
How do you put the two together? If that’s not enough hear for a moment that in the gospels we can hear “blessed are those who are hungry”. But then turn around and say, “no one who comes to me will ever be hungry”. Think about it for a moment that we walk in the midst of these paradoxical moments in life where when we can read in one gospel where it says, “take my yoke and learn of me”. But then go a little bit further and in the letters and it says, “don’t submit again to a yoke”. That’s not enough. We hear in the gospels, “my yoke is easy”, but then read a little bit further in the same gospel and it says “how difficult the road that leads to life”.
How do you walk through moments like that when you read about all the crisis in our land, crisis in our community, crisis in our families, crisis in the world, but yet still walk around as if I’ve got no burdens on my back. Walk around as if there’s a party going on, walk around as if as the old witness says, “up above my head, I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere”. It is the problem of the paradox that causes many of us to stumble as we come seeking comfort. But often what we receive instead is an invitation to go to work. To seek until we find, to get up, to speak up, to lift up, to make every effort to serve instead of looking to be served. To first transform ourselves before we seek to transform someone else. As the people of God and followers of Jesus Christ, we are invited on this day. We are invited in this season to remember every day that we are peculiar people, that someone in there going through can smile. That someone in there going through knows that I still have hope, that in someone in there going through can still remember that the Lord will make a way somehow.
Here we are in this highly noted seasonal moment, and the good news of liberty found in the text that was read this morning, rises out of a place of confinement. John the Baptist had been confined by Herod Antipas because of John’s commitment and willingness to tell the truth. John, whose voice had been crying in the wilderness, had become disturbing to the powers in the city. John the Baptist had already been seen as unreasonable in his attire because John was a peculiar person. I remind you for those in reading the Bible and listening and those who would study and look that John was a strange character. He was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He was ahead of his time because his organic diet was not on the menus of all the corner markets. You couldn’t find his favorite foods in the popular food chains and restaurants, as his go-to meal consisted of locusts and wild honey.
But it was not his clothes or his diet that was a major problem for many. It was his voice that was so disturbing. John’s preaching promoted problems for some, but others heard his message and they were filled with power and began to look at themselves. And as they looked at themselves, they began to see both potential and possibilities. This is our season to see when we look at ourselves potential and possibilities. This is our season to recognize that God has not forgotten about us. This is our season to see divinely what others are overlooking or refuse to acknowledge, that we have all been created in the image of God and there’s value in every one of us. It doesn’t matter who you’re sitting near, who you’re sitting next to, who you will greet, who you will talk to on your way in, as well as on your way out. You are meeting someone who is filled with potential and possibilities. Doesn’t matter whether you are in this place, watching online, moving through, hearing the sermon within the week. I’m here to remind you that this is our season.
The tables, when we look at this text, have been turned. The situation has been lifted. The voice who had been crying in the wilderness is now confined to a place under guard. The tables have been turned and the one who had been a witness of strength is now the one who is in need of strength. And I wanna remind all of us here, it doesn’t matter what the title is on your business card. It doesn’t matter what it says on your office, it doesn’t matter the letters in front of or behind your name. All of us will need help at some point. All of us will need a good word from those around us.
But while in his confinement, John begins to assess his circumstance. And I’m certain that Herod concluded that the difficulty of John’s circumstance would destroy his witness. There are those and many of us who are here, we’ve got burdens on our back. We are dealing with family situations, sometimes quietly and not openly. Sometimes we look like we haven’t been through anything but going through some things. But in a moment, no matter what’s going on, don’t let the circumstances destroy our witness. Don’t worry about what’s the headline on the Washington Post, the New York Times, what we read on CNN and MSNBC and dare I say, Fox News. When we look at all of these different places, this is our season. A season that believers have good news, a season that believers can see a way out of no way. A season of knowing that God may not come when you want him, but he’s always right on time. The text states that when John heard in prison what the Messiah, what Jesus was doing, he sent word by his own disciples and said to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?”
I remind you, difficult circumstances will cause anyone to question. And if you’re honest in this moment, it’s when you’ve been between what the old witness says between a rock and a hard place. You’ve asked yourself, how will I get through this? How will I deal with this? Or perhaps, where will I find my hope and my strength even just to face this? It’s always helpful though, I remind you to have good friends. It’s always helpful to be around those who will help you in tough moments. So John huddled up with some of his disciples, huddled up with some of his friends, and here in this moment, as they were huddled together trying to get a game plan for the future, their focus was set on Jesus Christ. The focus did not start with Herod’s willingness to change his mind. The focus did not start with the appeal to influencers or those in government sectors to write new laws or different places. That would come later.
But even in this, they were not looking for people to weigh in on the situation. They were aware of the issues affecting them, but in this moment, their focus was not on political dysfunctions that allowed the poor to be burdened with unnecessary debt. Their focus was not on the legal systems that struggled with providing justice for all. They did not lift up even the story and the reality of corporations that were more concerned with profit than they are sometimes with people. Here it is, John refused though to allow the circumstances to shape his faith. But John was trying to strengthen his faith in order that his faith would shape his circumstances. In this moment, we are told that John had heard some things about Jesus, and I don’t know what John had heard, but what he wanted to know was, “are you the one or shall we look for another?” I’ll repeat that one more time. “Are you the one or shall we look for another?”
Just because you have heard about something, or someone doesn’t mean that you want to know more about something or someone. Just because you’ve heard about Jesus doesn’t mean that everyone’s trying to get to know Jesus. Just because you’ve read stories about Jesus doesn’t mean that you’ve embraced Jesus. And I remind you, this is our season to embrace Mary’s baby. This is our season to embrace the King of Kings. This is our season to embrace the reality that God loves us so much He sent his only son. But John in this moment sends his disciples to run to Jesus, to huddle with Jesus. And Jesus tells them, “Go and tell John what you hear and what you see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them.”
This is a moment when someone needs to hear what we have seen and what we’ve heard. I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve got some company in here that you’ve seen and heard of an answered prayer. You’ve seen and heard of the Lord making a way out of no way. You’ve seen sometimes those who have been sick get well. You have seen doors opened that someone has tried to close. I know in this place there’s a witness who in this season is ready to go and tell someone who needs it the most. And maybe I’m telling you that there’s good news because Jesus is the one we’re looking for. There’s good news because he is the one who shows up when we need him most. There is good news because this is our season.
This is a moment when someone needs to hear what you’ve seen and what you have heard, what we have seen and what we have heard. This is our moment. This is our season to tell the good news. This is our moment to tell believers and to declare to the truth that states Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus said, this is your season. Go and tell John, go and tell others. Don’t stay here standing around. Go. This is our time to do and follow God’s plan and what God has for us. Don’t stand here. Sit here. Just talking to me, talking to each other. Go and tell the ones who need it. So let me let you go this way. I’m a football fan. I’m a sports fan completely, but I love football. But like many, sometimes I’d rather watch the game on TV than go to the game, simply because the most frustrating moment and moments is when they stand around in the huddle.
Now, I’m not saying that the huddle is not necessary, but sometimes they’re standing and standing and then waiting on the commercial. They’re just huddling and talking. They’re talking and huddling. Here Jesus says, go and carry out the plan. Well I remind you, that’s the problem with the church sometimes. We stay too long in the huddle. There comes a time where we’ve gotta break the huddle and run the play. There comes a time where we’ve got to line up and take on the enemy. There comes a time where we’ve got to hear what our plan is. Go and tell somebody how good He’s been. Go and run your route to the left, to the right, to the places where nobody will go. I need some of you to run deep, but I need you to break the huddle and not stay in the same place. So I’m gonna call the play right now and tell you, go and tell somebody about Jesus.
I need you to go not just on the doorstep, but I need you to go to the other side of town, to the uttermost parts of the world. And when we run the play, we don’t run it on any number. We’re gonna break on three, one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit. We’re gonna break on three and run and tell the world how good He is. And so I need to know that you heard me, so I’m asking you just don’t be silent in this place. Can I get an amen for the Father? Amen. An amen for the Son? And an amen for the Holy Spirit? Don’t be afraid to lift your voice. Somebody ought to say thank you. You’ve been good to me. Thank you. You’ve been great to me. Thank you. You made a way for me. And so one more time, an amen for the Father. Amen. An amen for the Son. Amen. And amen for the Holy Spirit. Amen. This is our season.