Sermon For December 21, 2014 ~ Advent 4 ~ Love

Micah 5:2-5a & Luke 2:8-12

“While Shepherds Watched: The Bethlehem Shepherds”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher ~ E-Mail:

Twitter: @FranklinCircle ~ Pastor’s Blog:

To see a video of this sermon, go online to:


Where do you find love? Well, this week this one is easy… especially when you ask dear friends and devoted colleagues for help. After bumbling through hope, scouring for peace, and begging for joy… love, the theme of the fourth Sunday of Advent, comes pouring forth.


Love is found when a dozen church faithful weather the blistering cold and slick sidewalks to photo 3-1take packages of hot chocolate, dog treats, bubbles, and holiday invitations out into the neighborhood door by door, both learning about the world in our backyard and showing a real presence in the midst of the people we serve.


photo 5Love is found when someone from the congregation, who isn’t currently serving as an Elder this year, still chooses to cook food and take it to a grieving member and spend hours sharing stories and tears and laughter and love.


Love is found when a teacher rushes to a hospital emergency room to be with a student from her school who has been shot and waits well into the wee hours of the morning anxiously and hopefully with a family in shock, even when that student was not in her class, and then grieves with the family and community when the news is shared that the young man has died.


photo 4Love is found when members of the congregation gather to make beautiful a sanctuary and a church building of which they have grown so fond, so that others can celebrate with us the beauty of the season, and when new and creative ideas about how to draw attention to this dynamic urban community of faith are offered and carried out, to bring light to the night and hope to the seeker.


Love is found when a delightful and diverse group of folks gather weekly for hours at a time to pour over musical scores, follow the lead of the section leader, and hone their vocal skills, and who laugh with and love each other like their lives depended upon it, in order to give glory to God and share the gift of music that has transformed their own lives and spiritual journeys.


Love is found when a devoted daughter and a committed partner visit their loved one day in and day out, no matter what health care institution she is staying in, and who oversees dozens and dozens of details for her care and medical needs even when there seems to be no hope in site.


Love is found when cards are written to dozens and dozens of folks related to this congregation, from longtime members who we haven’t seen in years, to folks we’ve just been missing for a while, to others who are ill or injured, to people who’ve just visited us recently… stacks of cards from youth group members and from individual deacons and from so many other caring individuals.


Love is found when a senior member of the congregation goes into hospice and visits come from young and old alike, cards are sent and calls are made, and his beloved family, his church buddies, and of course his girlfriend remain dedicated to caring for him, hearing his latest plans and schemes for the future, and praying for him madly, regardless of what the future may hold.


photo 1 Love is found when we gather to mourn the death of someone we loved so dearly while at the very same time celebrating the existence of one who’s life was well lived, whether it be through stories told and memories shared, or the magical mixture of mariachi music and organ playing!


Love is found when one of our hardest working members has to pull back in order to focus on her photo 3own health and healing, and so many people step forward to ensure the vital ministries of this congregation continue, from adding days to their regular work schedule to adding hours to their volunteer duties, to calling her to ensure her it will be done exactly – exactly as she planned!

photo 2

Love is found when my musician friends choose to again spend enormous time, energy, and passion to bring almost a hundred young people across the boundaries of city, county, and society to sing with our own choir and play music that unites us and shows the very best of what our world can be.


Love is found when people respond to the call to cook food or bake cookies, and hearts are poured into the task, love made real in stuffed cabbage, savory meatballs, pounds of shortbread, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies.


Love is everywhere my beloved congregation. And this list – culled only from the last month of this congregation’s life – doesn’t even begin to do justice to all the love that pours from this church, and from you as individuals serving God and caring for God’s people out in the world where you live and sleep and work and serve.


Here is the truth I’ve learned this Christmas: Christ came into our lives not so that hope would be easy, not so that peace would be plain and simple, not so that joy would be made obvious, and certainly not so that love would be cheap or common. Jesus Christ came into our world so that hope, peace, joy, and love would be made real: real in all their gritty, honest, day-in-and-day-out truth.


All too often I get waylaid by the glitz and glamour of the holiday traditions and begin to think that the faith that I follow should be as easy to find as the sentiment on a greeting card on the store shelf or the muzak playing in the mall. Faith is never that easy. However, faith is always simple… it just requires our all. Everything we are and all that we have. That’s why we celebrate the season with a savior who became one of us, lived and laughed, taught, listened, and healed, walked, prayed, and fell to his knees, loved and died just like one of us. If the shepherds of the faith taught us anything, it is that when God comes to us, life gets much more complicated, much more real, much more amazing, much more transforming. But we will have to watch for it!


Love is found when we stop looking for Christmas in a package, and simply begin to live it. Love made real in the acts of service, devotion, dedication, compassion, solidarity, and love you offer to one another, to the world around us, and to God. And for that love, I am eternally grateful.