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.
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.