I love fire!
I love making fires, and tending fires.
I was once given the privilege of being the ‘fire keeper’ at a weekend prayer vigil.
It meant that I was to keep the fire burning all day.
I had to keep the fire burning ... until the last person left the area, at night....
and the fire was to be lit before the first people returned to prepare for the day.
It was an honour to ‘keep the fire’.
I am not a pyromaniac, but I will take every chance offered, to build and tend a fire.
Ancient Refiners, understood the power and presence of fire.
Not only did they understand that power, they invited it.
They did everything possible to make sure
that when they did their work with metals
that the best fire and the perfect heat were present.
They even invented new ways to make the fire hotter and hotter.
Archaeologists have discovered that the average temperature
that these ancient refiners were able to generate was somewhere near 1850 degree (F). That is just a little cooler than molten lava.
Our passage in the book of Malachi this morning
refers to the work of cleaning, refining and making things shiny.
Of course it is not talking about gold or silver or some brass bed.
It is talking about one's relationship with God and one's own spiritual life,
a spiritual cleaning.
And who has better skill to refine us than God's Holy Spirit?
We must allow the Holy Spirit to be in our lives
- convicting, cleaning, leading and guiding.
The prophet Malachi calls us to a deep kind of preparation
as we anticipate the coming of Christ, again at Christmas...
a serious spiritual preparation.
Advent is about waiting... waiting and preparation.
Waiting in Advent is all about awareness and anticipation
Robert Fulghum... American author, Minister in the Unitarian Church,
has written some wonderfully creative books.
One of his most famous is titled,
‘All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten’.
Perhaps you remember the list....
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
In his second book, he re-tells a story, he once read,
that gave him the title for his book.
“The firefighters responded to an apartment fire and found a bed on fire.
They questioned the tenant as to how the fire started.
‘I don't know,’ he said, ‘it was on fire when I lay down on it.’ ”
Now I am sure you each have an opinion of that person.
Who would lie down on a bed that was on fire??
I wonder though, if this is perhaps, just what Advent is all about?
Perhaps... this second Sunday in Advent,
in the glow of the candle of Hope....when we light the candle of Peace...
perhaps we should all be laying down on fire.
The Prophet Malachi would agree.
And if we are laying on a bed that is on fire,
I certainly hope that we would notice the fire and do something about it.
Our Lesson from Luke, is Zechariah’s prophecy,
about his newly born son John -- who would be one day know as John the Baptist.
John was to ‘prepare the way’ for Jesus.... to make his paths straight…
... to proclaim goodness for all people
...to Baptize and call people to repentance.
... to prepare us for the coming of Jesus the peace-maker.
Zechariah’s prophecy for his own child, must have been both scary and wonderful.
We don’t really know if he ever heard his son’s
proclamations of repentance and baptism.
I have met John the Baptist….
She didn’t look much like you’d imagine John the Baptist would look,
but she had the same crazy intensity about paying attention, being kinder and
intentional… and that attitude that we better start doing things differently.
I saw all that ...
-when my Gram looked at her roses, and praised the Creator...
-when she dropped off her famous shortbread cookies secretly at a friend’s door,
-when she fell to her knees every night and answered a nine year olds question with …
‘it might not matter to you, Hilde but it matters to me,
and God is delighted to see that you love me enough
to wait here beside me while I pray’.
-and when she talked about Jesus as the peace-Maker and the Prince of Peace...
and sounded like she knew him personally.
Gram would have echoed John’s words of God’s amazing love for everyone,
and God’s desire to set us all free.
On this second Sunday in Advent, this Sunday of Peace....
when we look around our world... we must be honest though …
do we really think that peace has a chance?
This world of ours is filled with lonely, forgotten people.
There is enough food to go around, and still people are hungry.
13 million people in Yemen are starving
in the worst famine in 100 years... so says the United Nations.
There are too many acts of violence, too much talk of war and threats every day.
Peace and peaceful living.... does it seem possible at all?
Hopefully some of us have witnessed peaceful acts,
or even met a person or three, who seem full of genuine peace.
But are we ready to depend on it?
Can we really believe that Jesus was a peace-maker,
AND if so... that was then...not today – right?
Yet, here we are again this year, we are telling the story, lighting the candles,
singing the hymns and carols, ready to imagine a peace once more.
Again we talk about the birth... ordinary, yet not so ordinary.
a star shone and led the way for strangers from other lands,
common shepherds were the first to hear the news of peace on earth.
The good news, at the birth of this not so ordinary baby, is about light, and love, and hope and peace. Light that can disperse all darkness.
Love that is unconditional and eternal.
We come back to a hope that is crazy ... and about divine and Holy things,
with mystery and substance. And peace...
the peace of God that passes all understanding.
In this story of birth and wonder, we begin to recognize that something new is breaking through. Something that will refine us like gold and silver.
In Jesus, God has kept promises of love, and hope and truth and peace.
So Advent begins the wonderings and Christmas finishes the story.
God can indeed be trusted to bring a peace that will endure.
Following the ways of Jesus will create a peace that is everlasting.
As the season of Advent moves us forward, perhaps we shall do well by resting in the stories, and to wait... wait and let the truth of Advent and Christmas seep into our hearts and souls.
The Prince of Peace has come!
The love of God has broken in... in a new way, and is among us still.
Fear and violence is not the end of the story.
Hopelessness and despair is not the end of the story.
God can be found ... and God wants to be found... so God comes near.
As we linger with the shepherds and listen to the Angels sing...
as we kneel beside the manger being warmed by gentle animals...
as we dare to reach out and have our finger be grasped by the babies hand...
God’s light shines in every darkness, and disperses every shadow,
and scatters the stars so that we can see, and see again.
The truth of peace that passes all understanding,
and the Prince of Peace who comes again and again….
is the bed on fire.... and we are invited to lay down.
To lay down long enough to be inspired by the fire...
the Holy Spirit alive in us all.
To lay down long enough for our spirits to be nurtured
and ignited once again.
To lay down .... and to jump back up, ready to be active peacemakers,
who love justice and lead with compassion.
The candles name is Peace.
And there will be ...peace on earth.