Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.
~ Philippians 2:14-15 (NRSV)
Can you believe that Advent starts next week? That means we begin our journey to Bethlehem, remembering the story of the baby that was born there more than two thousand years ago and the star that shone in the sky to show everyone the way.
Now it is very easy, during Advent, to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Schedules get busy with parties and concerts and celebrations, and our to-do lists are long, buying and wrapping gifts and decorating our homes.
Well, here in Oldtown we’ve already started working on Advent! Our chimes have been practicing, and in Household Huddle this morning, our huddlers helped to decorate stars. Because not only did the star in the sky mark the place where Jesus was born, but it taught us something very important. As Nolan read to us from scripture this morning, we are called to be like stars shining in the world! Can you imagine, all of us are called to be like stars.
Now, I just want to be clear. We are not called to be movie stars or people who need to be in the spotlight. On the contrary, we are called to be like that star in the sky at Christmas that led the people to Jesus, a light in the darkness, shining brightly so that others might see. Next week, we will be hearing the words of Isaiah that remind us that, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” Now during Advent, we are called to wait for that light, the light of Christ to come. But as followers of Jesus, we have already been taught how to be a light for others, haven’t we?
I was given a special gift at my ordination. You may have seen it on the bookshelf in my office, a sparkle nightlight. It came with a note that read: “Never forget that as you go forward in ministry, no matter where you go and no matter what situation you find yourself in, it’s your job to reflect the light of Christ and to SHINE for others.” And believe me, it has been a good reminder for me on days when I am feeling a little frustrated or a little less than kind. Now though I was given this on my ordination day, those words don’t apply only to ordained people. Remember what it says on the front cover of our bulletin? The ministers here in Oldtown are “ALL of our Members and Friends.” So, my friends, the same is true for you whether you are two or a hundred and two. As you go forward in YOUR ministry no matter where you go, whether you are in the grocery store or on the school bus, at work or at the bank or on the playground, and no matter what situation you find yourself in, whether other people are being nice, or whether they are grumbling and complaining, it’s your job to reflect the light of Christ and to SHINE for others. Be a good example, like Jesus was for us. Don’t be bossy and tell people what to do. Instead, show them! They may not get it at first, but just keep shining your light and they will eventually be drawn to the warmth of your kindness, like shining stars in the world.
Friends, I wonder, have you ever met someone who seems to shine from the inside out? They have a special sparkle in their eyes. Their presence seems to draw people in, and just being around them is uplifting and invigorating. They are the kind of people that you usually want to follow, aren’t they? Well, my friends, I believe that WE can be those kinds of people. But what would we need to do? Well, scripture tells us to begin by not complaining and grumbling. But I know that none of you complain or grumble, right? Does anyone have any other ideas as to what we could do to be a shining light for others? Maybe we could smile? Say nice words? Help people in need? Be a good listener?
Well, friends, I think it all comes down to living out our faith. It’s about having a relationship with God and doing what Jesus taught us to do, not because we want to impress someone else or because we think we need to fit into a certain denominational box, but because we know in our hearts that God has always been there to listen when we need someone to talk to. Through reading and reflecting on scripture, we’ve found guidance along life’s journey, because we’ve found a welcoming family and a safe place to call home here in Oldtown, and we know deep in our hearts that all of this is not something to hide from the world and keep for ourselves. It’s something that we need to tell others about.
My friends, our stories are such an important part of who and whose we are—stories about our lives, stories about this church, and stories about God who loves us unconditionally. When we share our stories with others, we sparkle and shine. There is another word that we sometimes use that means sharing stories about our faith and our church and God. A word that we don’t often like to talk about, and that word is, “evangelize.” Can you all say it? “Evangelize!”
Many of us are afraid of the “E-word”, evangelism, because we think that evangelism means that we need to ask people if they have been saved, or we need to tell others what to believe. Sometimes we are afraid that we need to have all the answers and that it will sound like we are putting ourselves higher than others, but that is just not true. Evangelism is simply sharing our faith story. It’s being a bright and shining star that shows people the way to Jesus!
Friends, when we share the stories about things that we love, stories about our lives, about our families, about places we’ve been and things we’ve done, stories about this church, things that have happened here in it’s past, things that are happening here now, and things that we dream about its future, stories about glimpses of God that we’ve have experienced in our lives, lessons that we have learned through the encouragement of scripture and the movement of the holy spirit in our lives that assure us of God’s unconditional love for each and every one of us. It’s when we share stories like these that we begin to shine ourselves. We get that sparkle in our eyes and we become a beacon of light for others.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead and out into the upcoming season of Advent, take some time to think about that star in the Bethlehem sky and how you might be about to shine for the people around you. Think about what you might be able to do to bring a little light to your corner of the world, and perhaps even be a guiding light for someone who is lost or struggling. For as we all know here in Oldtown, the best way to share God’s love and to shine the light of Christ for others to see is by simply being you!
Friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God! Amen!