Christmas Eve Message

Christmas Eve Sermon
Rev. Leonard Oakes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
In what sense would this be the most wonderful time of the year if we don’t put our lives into perspective?

We have been waiting, preparing, quietly listening and yearning for the birth of the promised one. Our Lord Jesus Christ is about to come again in our hearts and lives, but would the Child Jesus find our hearts clean enough to welcome him? Or is it still filled with clutters, of bitterness and emptiness, without love and forgiveness?

One more day, one more meaningful day is given to us to repent and be of unity with one another and put things into perspective.

How do we do that?

There was a wonderful athlete, Leroy, at this college that everyone loved. Leroy was sociable, helpful, caring, always trying to help others … but was not the brightest person.

Everyone – faculty, coaches, students – came to the Dean of the college and said: “You have to find a way to let Leroy graduate!” So, the Dean got people together and designed a special “graduation exam” for this special person.

He called Leroy into his office, explained that he can only graduate if he can answer three questions.
Leroy agreed and the Dean asked him the 3 questions on the exam:

1. How many seconds are there in a year?
Leroy replied: Difficult, means lots of math, figuring – I will tell you the answer tomorrow?
Dean said: ​OK (since didn’t have agreement on time)
2. How many days of the week start with “T”?
Leroy: Difficult, spelling and letters – I’ll tell you tomorrow?
Dean:​OK
3. How many “ds” are there in Rudolph?
Leroy: Difficult – music and math .. tomorrow?
Dean:​OK

Next day, Leroy returns and the Dean asked the same questions:
1. How many seconds are there in a year?
Leroy: ​12.
Dean:​​How get that?
Leroy: ​January 2nd, Feb. 2nd …
Dean:​Guess you are right – pass

2. How many days of the week start with “T”? Now you may guess here?
Leroy said: ​2.
Dean:​That’s correct. But how did you come to that?
Leroy: ​Today and Tomorrow.

3. How many “ds” are there in Rudolph?
Leroy: Most difficult ? – kept coming up with different numbers; going over and over it. But I decided that answer is: 274.
Dean:​274?! How did you come up with that?
Leroy: Started counting … sings “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” song: DDDDDDDDDDDD

Tonight is the night when we must put everything in our lives into perspective. We may not arrive there with the same answer but we are resolved that we will move on to the next level, to a New Year without being stuck in the mud. No more hatred, no more hurting, no more selfishness, but only love and forgiveness. For The Lord is upon us. He is here to wipe all our tears, carries us through these difficult times, if we only allow him to dwell among us. Prepare God a room in your hearts, just as you clean up your houses for an expected visitors, let us clean up our hearts and minds for The Lord is here to dwell in our lives and in our hearts.

Tonight is the night where we must put everything in our lives into perspective.

We have grown stronger for the year 2013. let there be no reasons for us to go back to where we once stumbled but instead move forward, for there is no time to waste, the end is coming and it is near.
God has shown us numerous miracles in this place, with all the programs we all came to support.

We have learned that we are called in this place for a purpose, not only for this community, but also to our neighbors, our country and the world. We are being woven by God to become a beautiful tapestry. Do you feel it? Do you see what I see? Open your hearts, just try to open it with no hesitations. Let God come in to plant a seed of love in your lives tonight and let God grow that love until it is brightly shown in your smiles and in your dwelling together in unity.

Let go, let go of the bitter past, let live, let live of that what is growing inside which God has sown so that His Son Jesus Christ may come in into that room you prepared for Him where Love dwells forever.

Receive Christ now by sharing peace to each other.

The Peace of Lord be always with you! (And I deserve a response in return)
Let us all get up and move around and share God’s peace to each other. Amen

Be patient in waiting and stay on the right track

3rd Sunday of Advent sermon

The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

I like the theme from the letter to St. James read this morning: “Be patient until the coming of The Lord.” Let me read this again to you.

James 5:7-10

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

This letter reminds us of how we should prepare ourselves for the coming of The Lord. But we learn today that part of our preparation, we need patience, like that of a farmer who patiently waits for his crops to yield fruits and seeds, being nurtured morning and afternoon without complaining. This letter tells us to do the same in our relationship together as we prepare for the coming of The Lord in our hearts, by being patient to one another, by not grumbling against one another so that we may not be judged when The Lord of hosts come.

There is a need then, my brothers and sisters, to maintain a healthy relationships among ourselves as followers of Christ. We need to learn how to keep the bitter conflict out of our lives. God made each of us as a unique individual. We have different personalities and temperaments, we approach issues in different ways, so we really shouldn’t be surprised when we grumble against one another occasionally. Too often, though,if someone doesn’t agree with our opinion or doings, or see eye to eye with us on some matter, we get bent out of shape and allow violent disagreement to provoke and grow to bitterness. I have discovered that just because somebody is not exactly like me or doesn’t do things the way I do them, doesn’t necessarily mean I am right and the other person is wrong. We’re just different, and our differences can cause friction.

It takes maturity to get along with somebody who is different from you. It takes patience not to start a dispute over minor issues of become easily offended. If we’re going to keep the bitterness out of our lives, then we must learn how to give people the benefit of the doubt.

We will also need to overlook some things. Every person has faults; we all have weaknesses. We should not expect the people with whom we are in relationships to be perfect. No matter how great someone may be, no matter how much you love him or her, if you are around that person long enough, you will have an opportunity to be offended. I know some people who have been friends for many years, at times they didn’t talk to each other for months, the next time I know, they are back together. I know people who don’t see each other eye to eye because of personality issues and power struggle, the other accuse the other of lacking leadership and is not fit for the work, while the other accuse the other of being uncooperative. If we are putting unrealistic expectations on people, expecting them to be perfect, that is not fair to them, and it will be a source of frustrations for us. We’re always going to be disappointed. Some people live with the attitude, “I will love you as long as you never hurt me or as long as you never make a mistake. I’ll be your friend as long as you treat me just right. As long as you do things my way, then I’ll accept you, and I’ll be happy.” But that is extremely unfair and place too much pressure on that other person. St. James tells us to be patient to each other, mending our relationship to each other, forgiving each other, until The Lord of Host will come at his second coming. That we should make allowances for people’s weaknesses for Love covers a person’s faults. We should then quit demanding perfection out of each other, your spouse, your children, or other people with whom you are in a relationship, and learn to show mercy and forgiveness.

I couldn’t find a better wife than Haidee. She is extremely loving, caring, generous person, and yet there are some things I have to overlook, some things for which I have to make allowances. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with her; she’s just human. Times like when we go shopping and it takes hours to be at the mall just to buy a pair of Christmas stockings. Or when we go to an event and it’s taking her so long and I’m getting anxious being late especially if I am the one giving the invocation. I learned how to be patient in all those. I still love her no matter what. I know that if I were a critical faultfinder, keeping an account of everything she did wrong, then our relationship would suffer. Before long, we’d be at odds with each other, arguing and fighting. Instead, we make allowances for each other’s weaknesses. We’ve learned not to wear our feelings on our sleeves and not to be easily offended.

Few things are worse than living with a touchy, overly sensitive person. If somebody offends you or does you wrong, learn to shake if off and move on. Remember that love believes the best in people. Love covers a fault. Rather than criticizing and condemning, give the person the benefit of the doubt and believe the best in that person.

I hope that I have given you something to ponder in this season of preparation and waiting for the coming of the birth of Christ. Live life fruitfully to its fullest. Do not spend the remaining days of your life hurting and destroying each other, for life is precious that we should always take care with great service to each other. Let’s get back to track where we were rightly walking and get those things we are called to serve done with a smile.

Amen.

The courage to forgive and allow God’s love to heal us

December 22, 2013
4th Advent
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes

A mother takes her 16-year-old daughter to the doctor. The doctor says, “What took you here today, Mrs. Rivera?” The mother says, “my daughter Jessica is having cravings, put on some weight and is sick most mornings.” The doctor gives Jessica a good examination then turns to the mother and says, “Well, I don’t know how to tell you this but your daughter Jessica is pregnant.” The mother says, “Pregnant?! She can’t be, she and I have always been together! Her daughter snapped, “I’ve never even kissed a man!” The doctor walked over to the window and just stares towards the heavens. About five minutes pass, the mother finally says, “Is there something wrong out there doctor?” The doctor replies, “No, not really, it’s just that the last time anything like this happened, a star appeared in the east and three wise men came over the hill. I’ll be a fool if I’m going to miss it this time!”

In the Old Testament reading, we learn about God giving a sign through the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz of Judah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” Biblical scholars tell us that Matthew presented Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies and that such prophecy is the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Mathew’s version of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem differs from that of Luke’s beloved story of a child born in a Bethlehem stable welcomed by humble shepherds and a choir of angels. Joseph is the central figure in this Mathew’s story. When Joseph learns that his fiancée is pregnant, he was alarmed because he knew that the law requires that Mary be stoned to death, because she would have been considered an unfaithful wife, and the baby would have been stoned to death with her. I wondered if how many will be stoned to death if that law applies here. During those times the penalty for adultery was death by stoning at the door of her father’s house as she had disgraced her father.

Since Joseph was a just man of great mercy, he offered to divorce Mary quietly so that he might not cause her unnecessary pain. Compassion enveloped his heart. And then in a dream Joseph learned that the child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that he was to be the foster-father of the Christ, claiming him by naming him, and then rearing him. Joseph, through trust and faith in God, accepted his mission as the foster-father of the Son of God.

On three occasions an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys. He doesn’t have a speaking part. And that’s why I don’t like the part of Joseph when it comes to Christmas pageant. Indeed, if it were not for the fact that we can hang a bathrobe on the quiet boy at church and throw him up in front of the church in the Christmas play to represent Joseph, the man would have no real purpose at all. If you will be here on Christmas Eve, December 24 at 7 PM, you will understand what i mean. This is also why Fr. Jurek once said jokingly: “My favorite saint is St. Joseph. I can identify with him because I have no voice in my family. It’s my wife who’s the ‘speaker of the house.’”

During these appearances, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife, then the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath, and finally the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel. After each of the three angelic apparitions in his dreams, Joseph obeys the angel’s commands without question or pause. Obedience, prompt, simple, and obedience are the attributes of Joseph.

We pause to ask ourselves today, how can we take on the role of Joseph this Christmas by bringing the compassion and forgiveness of God into a difficult and strained situation? Each of us is called to be Joseph – to welcome God in our minds. Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful. We are here in this church, three days before Christmas, because, like Joseph, we are faithful, and we trust in God, His power and His mercy. Although we may face financial problems, job insecurity, family problems and health concerns let us try to be trusting and faithful like St. Joseph. Instead of relying on our own schemes to get us through life, let us trust in God and be strengthened by talking to Him in fervent prayer and by listening to Him speaking through the Bible.

But let us not forget that we are also called to be like Mary, full of grace, obedient to the will of God to be the mother of God’s Son.

Joseph and Mary had much doubts and fears when they were told of God’s incredible plan, but, in faith, they obeyed. Their “yes” to the Father’s divine plan and will was total and unconditional. Against all odds, against all human logic, they just believed. How deep is our faith, our belief in God?

Let us remain faithful and prayerful, imitating Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy, and welcoming Jesus into our hearts and lives this Christmas. May it be our prayer my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may be given the courage to forgive those whom we felt strange or have guilt in our conscience and allow the love of God to heal us and dwell among us. Let doubts and pride be bygones, and let peace and love embrace us. Amen.