texts for this week:
- Isaiah 64:1-9
- Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
- 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
- Mark 13:24-37
Advent is blue.
Isn’t this beautiful? I love what our Liturgical Arts team does. I love the fact that the church calendar is color coded. Seriously, as we move through the seasons of the church calendar and relive the life of Jesus year after year, the colors help to set the mood and create a space for us to meditate on God and think about the particular message that each season holds for us.
We begin the season of Advent. Do you know what Advent means? Anybody?
It comes from the latin word adventus which is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which means coming. Advent is a season of ending and beginning. We begin the new season by joining Israel in the Old Testament as they waited for the coming of their Messiah and we anticipate the celebration of Christmas on the 25th. It is also a season of ending. Last week we finished up the church year with Christ the King and now we wait for the second coming of the King when Jesus will return and make everything right.
It is a season of waiting, and it is blue.
I’ve been thinking a lot about blue over the past couple weeks as I’ve been thinking about this sermon. This is a big day. It is the first Sunday of the new church year. It is the first Sunday of Advent. It is also the first Sunday of a new habit.
All year we are looking at the seven habits of Spiritual Formation. We’ve looked at Worship and Service so far. Today we begin a three week series on Prayer. You can see this picture of a guy hanging on for dear life. Today we look at the prayer of Endurance.
So, I’ve been thinking, how do I pull advent and prayer together? I kept coming back to this idea of the color blue.
There are three shades of blue from the texts this week. I’d like us to look at each of these shades of blue and talk about how we should pray in response to them.
Blue is sad.
[blues riff] what do we call that kind of music? The blues. For you Veggie Tales fans, we remember Madam Blueberry’s song, “I’m so blu-hoo-hoo blu-hoo-hoo…” Or maybe you remember this one, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.”
Our culture associates blue with sadness.
I think it is important that we start here today. The holiday season is usually associated with happiness and family and warmth. But there is a colder, bluer reality to the holidays for many people.
For many this is a time of sadness. Maybe this past Thursday it was the first time there was an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table and the words of thanks got stuck in your throat. Maybe this is the first Christmas where you are going to have to choose between mom or dad’s house because they just split up, and you’re going to have to share the holiday with step siblings. Or, maybe your spouse or parent is serving overseas and you’ll be apart this holiday. Or, maybe you got the news and the cancer is back, again.
There is a cold shade of blue cast over this season for many people.
The people of Israel knew sadness in their waiting. Our texts this week are dripping with sadness and regret. In our text from Isaiah we see that the people were sad over their sin. Maybe that’s another reason that you are sad this season. There is that one habit that constantly nags at you. You thought you could beat it, but it drags you down again and again. You’re too proud to tell anyone about it, so you carry it around with you and it eats away at your soul. You can cry out with Isaiah.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
You can join in with the Psalmist in
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
The question for us is how do we pray in the blue of sadness?
Our prayer should be honest to God.
If you are sad, cry to God. If you are angry, scream at God. If you are confused, question God.
Prayer is simply talking to God, your father, who loves you and invites you to bring all that you are to him.
When we pray together as a church it tends to be on the formal side. The prayers are written out. That’s good for a large group because it keeps us on task. But don’t think that is what all prayer is supposed to be like. You can pray anywhere, anytime, any way. God wants to hear from you.
I want to offer you one practical suggestion—especially if you are dealing with sadness right now. Keep a prayer journal. Write out your prayers. Be brutally honest. Spew out your emotions every day. This type of prayer discipline has a cathartic effect on the soul. As you externalize those emotions and present them to God, you’ll see that God can bring healing.
Blue is sad, so pray honestly.
Blue has another shade. It is not only sad,
Blue is slow.
Blue is one of those colors that has a calming effect on us. We go to the beach to see the blue sky and the blue water and we breath a little deeper.
I heard on the radio the other day that studies have shown that if you eat off of a blue plate it can help you eat less. Or if you paint your kitchen blue it will curb your appetite. Did anybody eat off of a blue plate on Thursday? I know I didn’t.
As an artist, I know that blue is a cool color. It is a color that makes things seem distant.
That’s what I mean by slow.
Advent is a time of waiting. Have you ever felt like God wasn’t there? Or that God was just silent? You’ve tried to pray. You’ve tried to get worked up in worship, but the emotions just aren’t there. It feels like prayers bounce off the ceiling and you’re talking to yourself.
You hear people talk about God’s love and that God is at work in the world, but then you look around and you see the pain and injustice and greed and selfishness and you think, where is God in all of this?
We see this in our texts today as well. The nation of Israel had to wait over 400 years for their Messiah to come. It has been 2,000 years since Jesus said he would return.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
We can often feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 80:4 and cry out how long?
I had a conversation with one of our high school students a couple weeks ago and he was saying that he just wants to hear God’s voice. First of all, I was really impressed at how deeply he longed for God’s presence in his life. But, I also felt the pain and longing.
As he spoke I was reminded of Moses. It hit me right then, that Moses was 80 years old before he encountered God in the burning bush. 80 years is a long time.
One of the hard realities that we need to deal with is that God’s time table is much slower than ours. We live in a microwave society where we can Google anything in the world and have an answer in seconds. We don’t have time to wait around for God.
So how should we pray in the slow blue space?
Our prayer should be a discipline of silence.
We want to give you a gift this advent season. The culture around us tells us, demands of us, that we get super busy. We have to go shopping and plan parties and send Christmas cards and stress out about not forgetting anybody and getting just the perfect thing and making the house look amazing and baking everything, and on, and on. It’s like a crazy train, or a merry-go-round spinning out of control.
We want to give you a gift. We want to remember that Advent is slow. Advent is a time of reflection and waiting. It doesn’t have to be an empty time, rather it can be a time for silent reflection. When you pray, get into a quiet space. Empty your thoughts.
There is a discipline called the breath prayer. You simply breath deeply and repeat a phrase like, ‘Abba, Father” or “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me” or “come, Lord Jesus” And let your mind and body settle.
When I get up in the morning, I get up early enough so that I can sit in the chair in the corning of my living room, in the dark, in the quiet, and let my mind settle. I live a busy life like you do, and by practicing this discipline of silent prayer, it helps me be more calm and slow during the day.
Advent is slow in a season of fast. There is one more shade of blue that we need to look at.
Blue is faithful.
We say that she is “True Blue.” Dark blue is the color of loyalty and fidelity. It is the most often used color in company logos that want to exhibit an image of dependability and stability.
As we look at these texts we’ve seen a lot of honest human emotion. There is sadness over loss and sin. There is fear and anxiety over the uncertainty of the world and God’s slowness in responding. It is good and right for us to be honest with our messed up human condition, and God meets us there. But, if that is where we left it, then the blue of Advent would turn into the blackness of outer space and we would be lost in the void forever.
There is a deeper shade of blue that arches over these texts and over our lives. Paul says it well in
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful.
Jesus reminds us in
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The good news of the Bible stories is that even though Israel constantly sinned and found themselves in slavery to their enemies, and even though we constantly mess up and struggle with our own sin and fear, God is faithful.
During our times of sadness, God is our comforter. He has broad shoulders and an infinite supply of Kleenex.
During our times of waiting and wondering, God is silently at work all around us, working in ways that we may never see.
And ultimately, God shows up in amazing ways.
The Messiah did come. God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus showed us God in action. He died on the cross to remove our sin and he rose from the dead to conquer the fear of death.
Jesus promised that he would be with us to the end of the age. Not just show up at the end.
The Holy Spirit is present with us every moment of our lives, walking with us through the highs and lows.
Again and again God demonstrated his faithfulness to Israel and he will and does demonstrate his faithfulness to us.
So, how should we pray during this shade of blue? Our prayer should be expectation.
No matter how much it may feel like it, God has not abandoned us. God is at work in the world. We can pray boldly and bring our requests to God and pray with expectation that God hears our prayers. We may not get the answers we want, in the timing we want, but we can cling to the promise that he will never leave us or forsake us.
Advent is blue. Advent is a time of prayer and waiting. When we are sad, we pray honestly to God. In a season when the world is running at an exhausting pace, we step off the treadmill and pray a prayer of silence. And as we wait and long for Jesus to return we rest in God’s faithfulness and pray with expectation that God fulfills his promises.
When you take all these shades of blue and blend them together, it forms one word. Hope.
Advent is a season of enduring hope.