“There is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before. It is not possible to keep it from coming, because it will. That’s just how Advent works. What is possible is to not see it, to turn just as it brushes past you…”
With these words, Jan Richardson begins her book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas. These words summarize our curious intersection here at OPC today, where Advent and Stewardship meet.
I don’t know about you, but these past six months have left me almost breathless with anticipation. It all began with the feasibility study this summer, where an outpouring of energy and excitement led us to move forward quickly. Within a week, we had our campaign leadership in place, and our teams all hit the ground running. You have already seen the fruits of many of these labors: the theme and logo that pointed us in the right direction, the Jeremiah text and prayer that have grounded us, the multitude of events that gave us an opportunity for further conversation and discernment. You have probably heard from one of the campaign ambassadors already, making sure that you received your packet, and you will see the fruits of the children and youth working together with the thanks team to create beautiful tokens of appreciation for all who give. And I do invite you to watch the video after worship today: it summarizes well what is unique about this community. And lest I forget, we have to thank our amazing unsung heroes who have folded more newsletters than they probably care to remember!
What an amazing experience this whole process has been for me, and it has been a fantastic opportunity to be reminded of the amazing gifts and talents we have here in our congregation. And what we begin today, as we dedicate our commitments to both the capital campaign and the stewardship drive, is to become a part of what Jan Richardson describes, this thing that is on the horizon, the likes of which we have never seen before.
What we constantly need are those sentries, those folk who are positioned in such a way that they can see the horizon and report back to us. Otherwise, we are far too likely to get caught up in our own nonsense, to assume that the world is flat, that there is no horizon at all, that the soup pot is empty, that this is all there is. And so, the words of the prophets float down from their perches and remind us that there is far more to life than just what we can see.
If we listen carefully, we can hear the voice of Jeremiah calling down, this text that has anchored our campaign, where God promises us a future that is filled with hope. It may be beyond what we can see right now, but it’s truly there. And we don’t even have to strain to hear John the Baptist shouting to anyone who might bother to listen: Prepare! Prepare the way! Prepare the way of the Lord!!!
You see, we get so bound up in worlds of our own making that we forget how much more there is out there. It is truly strange how we fail both to learn from history and to plan for tomorrow. There is here; and there is now. And all else is pushed just beyond our peripheral vision.
Let’s put it this way: we are the horizon for those who came before us. If we are just talking about here at Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church, there were decades of folks who heard the voices calling down from their watchtowers, reminding them that so much more was still on the way, encouraging them to share their gifts to help build something that was far bigger than just them. And we are the inheritors of those faithful!
Think about it: Because someone was fielding phone calls from neighbors living on the financial edge, our Food Pantry has fed the hungry for more than forty years. Because someone left the church in their will, we have weathered serious economic crises time and time again. Because someone saw the community’s growing need for childcare during the week, our Preschool has cared for thousands of children, and their families by extension.
Folks have taught Sunday School, have paid for organs and roof repairs, have cleared brush and hauled cinder blocks and cleaned gutters and made bread and delivered groceries and priced trinkets and hosted dinners…in short, people have brought their gifts to bear for the sake of God’s desires here in Brookhaven.
And the whole time, we were beyond their horizon! We are the ones who have sensed God’s call in our lives because of the space that was carved out by our ancestors in faith. There are those who have come to know that they are called to professional ministry; those whose calling is lived out each and every day in subtle and glorious ways; those whose lives have been forever transformed by what they have learned from our preachers and teachers and fellowship and care and worship and service. The service and giving, both small and grand, of this community, has come together in ways that those who came before could never have imagined in their wildest dreams!
For all of the memories it houses, this building is nothing more than a vessel. It is the gifts that go into the vessel that makes the feast which will feed thousands.
And now, we are the ones who are being invited to bring what we have to offer, to listen to the prophets, to build and serve and give for the sake of the horizon beyond which we cannot see. And we have no idea what is coming. But…that’s not our concern! If the promise of Jeremiah is true, if there is a future filled with hope awaiting us and those who come after, and if that future is in God’s hands, then who are we to be anxious?
In this season of Advent, we re-live those moments of ancient faith when the promised Messiah came as an infant born to a family of meager means in a chaotic time. Who could have seen that coming? And in these days of modern Advent, we are reminded time and time again that what is to come will shatter all of our expectations with hope and grace and glory beyond our wildest imaginations!
Listen again to Jan Richardson’s words:
The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before. It is not possible to keep it from coming, because it will. That’s just how Advent works. What is possible is to not see it, to turn just as it brushes past you…So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon.