Today we begin a new year. Not a new calendar year, but a new church year launched by the season of Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas day. The Christian year doesn’t begin with accomplishment or with an event. Instead is starts where we all start: with yearning and preparation. This Advent Union Church is remembering the barriers that keep us and many people from the Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love God intends for us all. And we are using Advent as our meditation on the way God breaks through barriers, to literally “dwell among us” in the humanity of Jesus.
This year the art in the sanctuary is inspired by the occupation walls that the Israeli government has erected (in many cases illegally) around occupied Palestinian towns, towns like Bethlehem, the very birthplace of the Christian faith. Bethlehem and all her Christian and Muslim inhabitants are virtual prisoners behind concrete barrier walls 30′ tall, topped with barbed wire. If the shepherds and wise ones wanted to visit a Christ born there today, they would be unable. But God breaks in, no matter who or where we place the walls. This week we prayed about barriers to PEACE and here is the prayer offered by worship leader Maggie Park. May God erode the barriers to true peace in your life, and may you erode the barriers to true peace in the world.
Come Lord Jesus, we ask again. Come to rescue and release. Fervently, passionately, desperately we ask you to break through our barriers to the peace we seek. Help us be peace MAKERS; help us take and give responsibility in right measure. Surrounded by walls that divide and endanger, awaken us to our part to play in the chiseling and chipping that will turn them to dust. Come, Lord Jesus, come to our aching bodies and troubled minds. Beat the swords of our anxious hurts into plowshares fit for tilling a harvest of righteousness and peace. Come, Lord Jesus. Cross the barricades, bridge the gap, take down the wall, and find us awake and waiting. (Written by Rev. Kent H. Gilbert, Advent 1 2016)