Welcome to the Season of Advent…that wonderful time leading up to Christmas Day, and the celebration of the Christ Presence within each and every one of us.
I would like to thank you for last Sunday…for the love, the fun, the fellowship we experienced. I felt a shift in energy as I watched you all enjoying the Message, the music and the shared companionship with each other…oh, and the wonderful food too.
I hope you felt even a fraction of the love I felt as I observed you all.
And now, to today’s Message…. Advent – Hope & Faith
Metaphysically what we celebrate each Christmas is … the birth of Christ awareness. What Jesus brought to us was a spark of new light, new possibility—light that shines through the darkness of human confusion and illuminates the spiritual truth of who we are.
Has it ever occurred to you that a candle does not lose any of its power and brilliance by lighting another candle? Its ability to share its brilliance is limited only by the length of time it can stay lit. When Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” he did so with the knowledge that we have an unlimited source of light—our inner Christ.
Like a burning candle, each one of us can touch untold numbers of others with our unique light. We can keep touching and touching many other people with our love and our light, without diminishing our own source in any way.
We frequently are unaware when we bring light to another soul. Some simple, casual word or gesture can serve to brighten someone else’s life when we least expect it. No, we never lose even a bit of our light by passing it to another. The Source of your light is unlimited and eternal. When you allow God’s light to shine through you freely and unconditionally, you are truly “the light of the world.”
That light that you are bringing to others is hope.
It is also a time to celebrate the Spiritual Gifts that are a part of this Season. So, each week we will be looking at the gifts of Advent….this week, Hope and Faith. Next week, Peace, the third week, Love and The Gift of Being Present with Pam Whitman. The 4th week of Advent is all about the Gift of Joy.
And Christmas Eve we will present the 7 Gifts of the Christ Child in our Candlelight Service. I hope to see you at 7 PM, Christmas Eve.
The real value of a gift is not determined by how much you pay for it, but by what you invest of yourself in it. A relatively inexpensive gift that has been blessed by your love and thoughtfulness will bring joy and lasting inspiration to the one who receives it.
That is part of what we are doing to these toys, investing a part of ourselves as we love them up during Service, to those who will receive them.
Eric Butterworth told us: “Whatever may be your perception of the greatest story ever told, one thing is certain: It is the story of the greatest gift ever given. … It is important to keep centered in the conviction that the kingdom of God is within you. The health you seek is within you. The substance that is the root of the prosperity you seek is within you. The love that you hunger for is within you. The golden road to receiving is in the kingdom of giving.”
So, the gifts of Hope and Faith for this first Sunday of Advent. We light the first candle of our Advent Wreath.
Christmas, for the followers of Jesus’ Teachings, is filled with hope and faith.
The telling and re-telling of this story gives hope to all who believe and follow these teachings.
We can define Hope as an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”
The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.”
So, think for a moment of what some of your hopes are for this Christmas Season…. (any sharing?)
And Faith is the ability to believe and perceive. What do you have faith in?
Our faith is at the heart of Hope.
Consider what faith would be without hope and what hope would be without faith. They go hand-in-hand.
We look at Christmas differently at this age than we did as a child. Or at least some of us do. Others of us still look at this Season with stars in our eyes and tingling through our bodies, just like when we were kids.
Our hopes then were for simpler things for most of us. If you grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, maybe you waited anxiously for the Christmas Catalogs to come from the various department stores to peruse for items to place on your Christmas Wish List.
I still remember waiting for JC Penny’s and the SEARS Catalogs. Keep in mind, with a house full of siblings, those catalogs were passed around from child to child, the pages had corners turned so we all could go back to look at the items of our dreams.
We made up lists of hopes and dreams that could never be fulfilled completely.
They were more like HOPE lists, you hoped that you could find some prized wished-for item to be under the tree come Christmas morning. And depending on the financial status of your family, it might be there….or it might not.
Christmas at our house when I was a child was filled with a mix of gleeful anticipation and unsure anxiety. Christmas was the one time my parents went a bit overboard. So we knew we were getting gifts. And with 6 kids, there were plenty of them. The down- side was, we never knew how my Father would be…sober or not.
We learned when to be kids and be excited and when to shrink back away from the anger with fear.
I always had hope that it would be a good Season, with no outbursts, no anger-only the excitement and joy of being a kid.
Hope is a spiritual muscle. And like all muscles, it must be exercised just to survive. Unused muscles atrophy. Use it or lose it.
That’s one reason why each year we have this season of Hope, which we call Advent. Though our society has made it a season of indulgence, it is meant to be a season of training. It’s time to blow on the spark of spiritual desire within us till it bursts into flame. Christmas lights are nice, but it is we who are supposed to be the light of the world.
Hope, belief and faith are not the same…hope is emotional, belief is intellectual, faith is spiritual.
Rev. Michael Jamison tells us, “Hope is focused on what we desire, and it can take the form of worrisome begging. When we are stuck in hope, we only wait. Hope pleads for a right outworking.
Belief can become passive acceptance. The mental state of belief is haphazard, as belief has the potential to be either true or false. Belief presumes a right outworking.
Faith is characterized by solid assurance. The spiritual state of faith is secure, for faith is of Spirit. Faith guarantees a right outworking.
Think of it this way: Things might work out favorably with hope. Things could work out favorably with belief. Things will work out favorably with faith, if we faithfully surrender our will to Spirit.
We all have faith, it’s where we are putting our faith that is the question. We must choose what it is we want, set our intention, develop a clear mental picture, and then walk by faith, not by sight
The birth of our Christ Consciousness is a journey to our true nature, it begins with the gift of true faith
Remember, we ALL have faith. Look within yourselves to check where you are placing that faith. Unlock the door that is holding back that faith and let it flow forth.
Where is your faith directed? Do you have faith in yourself? In your work? Your gifts?
Do you have faith in Unity and what we are doing here in this place? In this area?
If you do, if you believe in Unity and what we profess as our standards of integrity—our Mission, Vision and Values, then have you made any kind of commitment to Unity?
I have committed another 5 years to Unity…what have you committed to?
Maybe volunteering to do something….Greet, work in our outreach activities, even attending on a more regular way. Can you commit to tithing every Sunday, even those you miss?
Committing to something shows you have faith in that something, you are giving of yourself to help that something, to be a part of it and watch it grow and be successful.
Our faith is a gift to us all. And we all have that same gift. We need to unlock that door to our hearts and let it out, let it guide us to the blessings that are waiting for us to accept.
When I close my eyes and look back to the excitement of a child waiting for Christmas to come, I find that same excitement looking out at all of you. I get excited when someone gets it…understands that they are not a sinner, that they weren’t born in sin, that they are the light of the world and that they have a say in their life.
I get excited when we hear stories like Susan shared with us last week how prayer and blessing others works. It reinforces my faith, my hopes that coming here to start Unity was the right thing to do.
So welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. I hope, no I have FAITH that it is just the beginning of a powerful month for us all, with many blessings for all of us too. And the return of the childlike wonder that the Season should bring to us all. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the virgin birth and the stories from antiquity or not. What matters is our belief, our faith in the teaching of Jesus, teaching of love and joy and peace that are our gifts to share with everyone.