Thursday, December 2, 2010

candles in the darkness . . .

8:00ers joked with me this morning that you can apparently take the man out of the broker but you can’t take the broker out of the man. They were laughing at my Friday observations and my use of them during the sermon this morning. As I shared with them this morning, I was reminded this week just how counter-cultural we are called to be in our daily lives and work. What set off the observation was a series of interviews that I watched on Friday.

As I freely confessed, I still pay attention to what’s going on in the world. I may not know which movie star is sleeping with which movie star or which studio voice is the new darling of the month, but I do try to stay up on important events. Black Friday this year certainly qualified as important. Now, truthfully, I could care less who is buying what. But, in an age of Quantitative Easing and TARP, the strength of the overall economy is of some significant importance, whether we recognize it or not. Anyway, as I was flipping channels between CNBC, MSNBC, FOX, and any other station for that matter, there were interviews with retail workers—lots and lots of interviews. As I flipped from one to another, I was struck by the shared observations of many of these mostly female workers. To a lady, each said that they were very busy Friday. Each talked about how the “door buster” deals had gotten people in their doors as planned and had helped boost overall sales versus a year ago. But what struck me as truly interesting was their identical responses regarding Thursday’s sales.

When each were asked whether the Thursday hours and deals had helped, each, to a lady, responded that the Thursday deals had helped. But none stopped there. Each went on to predict that, in the days to come, when we as a society have forgotten the reason behind the day, Black Friday will have become Black Thursday. Each predicted that, as a result of this year’s results, their respective companies would extend the hours and the sales next year. Eventually, they said, they wondered whether people will be able to eat a Thanksgiving Meal. “We will add hours and hours and deals to pack people in. And if we do that, who will do the cooking? And who will remember why we even celebrate the day to begin with? That’s how it works in our business. The hours get longer. The competition for foot traffic gets that much more fierce. Workers work more hours. That’s just how it is.”

That’s just how it is – has there ever been a bigger need for messengers from God. These ladies, none of whom were corporate muckity-mucks, already know their fate and ours. The competition will devour each other. The hours worked will get longer. And people, because they are so busy elbowing their way into stores or down isles, will quit making meals, and the reason for Thanksgiving, as it has been for Christmas with much of society, will be forgotten. To them, the hopeless future is in plain view. They shrug their shoulders and admit defeat – that’s just how it is. Truly the works of darkness are closing in on and around us.

Yet we as a group gather together to celebrate a new church year as the rest of the world engages in its frantic race to the finish line. While the world around us is trying to squeeze every last dime, every last second, every last whatever it is out of the year, you and I are called together to remind ourselves of our past and of our certain future. You and I gather this first day of Advent with an eye to the past. In four weeks time we will celebrate that the Lord of Heaven and earth became human. For love’s sake, our Father in Heaven came down to show us how much He loved us, how much He knew our hurt, and how much we truly needed Him. The world looks at the season like a deadline, and you and I are called to remember it is a celebration of THE Lifeline, Jesus Christ.

But, even as we look back, we do so with an eye to the future. While clerks and others trapped in the darkness lament their fate, while they have forgotten or perhaps never known the joy of promised eternal salvation, you and I are called to remember that these things around us are already passing away. At some point in the future, maybe a few seconds, maybe a few minutes, maybe a few hours, maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, maybe a few years, maybe a few centuries, He will return to judge and call His beloved disciples home and to the promised feast! And because the one who promised is the one who was raised that Easter morning, you and I can slog through the darkness as little candles of hope and joy. While the rest of the world sees no way out, you and I can face life’s trials and tribulations with expectant trust. Whatever happens to us, whatever befalls us, will be redeemed by the One who saved us! And so, we pray to our Lord this day to give us His armor of light, to place our feet upon His path, and to send us forth as heralds of His Gospel, His promise, and His joy!



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