Lectionary Year B
December 8, 2002
Second Sunday in Advent
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Contemporary Address


This is a rough draft and starting point for a Sermon that will be preached for the First Presbyterian Church of Navasota, Texas. Communion will follow. The church is in a small town of 7000 or so, very near College Station, TX, and one hour northwest of downtown Houston. Congregation usually has about 100 in worship, ranging from very young all across the spectrum to very old.
(Part of an Advent Series, "The First Christmas Carols")



Many of the best-loved Christmas carols call up beautiful images in the heart and mind. The "little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay"; angels, "sweetly singing o'er the plains"; the "three kings of orient". One can just see them all, brought from melody to life in warm, pastel colors on a Hallmark greeting card. Psalm 85 is another of our "early carols", and it too calls up a powerful image...

But, has anyone here ever seen a card with "righteousness and peace" kissing? Or "love and faithfulness" meeting together?

"Love and faithfulness" are popular words in the Old Testament. They are tied to God's ways with Israel. In pure grace, God chose one family, later one small nation tucked in a corner of the globe, and offered the rich blessing of His love and presence. In love, God offered Abraham the son he ached for, and freedom for Israel, and a throne for David. In faithfulness, God held Israel accountable to the demands of the Covenant, even when their actions brought on pain and exile and suffering. It could be that the words of this Psalm were chanted or sung sometime during that long period when God's people were adrift in a strange land, painfully aware that they had broken their end of the tie... but longing for a better day, a day of forgiveness, a day when they would again taste the nearness and see proof of the faithfulness of God.

They longed for the good news that we hear today. Mark's opens abruptly with John the Baptist preaching in the desert, calling for the people to open a path in the wildnerness and make a straight way, for God was coming at last!

We are, indeed, called to turn from our sins and our preoccupation with ourselves and be on watch for the Lord's coming. But we do not build that highway; God, in grace, builds it. God came to the world, in love.

Love that reached out to the world, even when the world would reject it and drive nails through it. Faithfulness that fulfilled the promises of the ages, made to Abraham, Israel, Moses, David, and the prophets. They met together in a tiny baby, born among animals and laid in a manger.

In that baby, righteousness and peace kissed. Jesus was God's righteousness with flesh, arms, and legs. Righteousness that breathed and spoke of forgivness and ate with sinners and healed the most crooked lines of the human heart.

And peace! The broken-hearted had the wounds within bound by words of healing. The conscience-burdened heard their sins forgiven. And at the end, God's Righteousness became our peace, going to the cross, dying for us, and rising again for us.

At this Table, righteousness and peace embrace and kiss. We remember the cost of our own lives, redeemed with the blood, sweat, and tears of God's beloved.

And we remember that righteousness and peace still kiss, after we leave this Table. Many people have shared the story about the memorial service after the collapse of the Aggie Bonfire: of how thousands of Christian "Aggies" linked shoulders in tears, grief, and solidarity, humming gently "Amazing Grace". That response of hope and faith in the very face of a terrible loss was also a "kiss"; the kiss of a "righteousness" of faith that flowed into a response giving peace to many who saw.

They still kiss when Christians not only hear the stories of Jesus, but also ache to go out and bring comfort to the sorrowing, food to the hungry, and peace to those who know no peace. (good illustration?)

They still kiss when the Spirit given by the One who was love and faithfulness itself, bears fruit in our lives for the blessing of the world.

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