A Message for the Advent Season

“People who walk in the darkness have seen great light”
Isaiah 9:2
Sunday November 19th, 2023
Sermon by: Fr. George H. Shalhoub

“We have stepped into the great season of Advent, walking step by step with the shepherds to behold the Star of Bethlehem.”

My Dearly Beloved,

It is the Lord that gives strength to his people. We have recently witnessed crises at home and war raging in our holy land. During this time, we must remember the words of Isaiah 9:2; “those who walk in the darkness have seen a great light.” Now, as we step into the Advent season and the nativity fast, we walk step by step with the shepherds to behold Christ, the Lord birth in Bethlehem. The message of the Holy Church in this turbulent time of war and political instability is to follow the light of the star before us and await the celebration of hope and peace that is Christmas.

Our Holy Orthodox Church has been deeply affected by the storm of war in Russia, Ukraine and most of all in our holy land. In the mist of these conflicts, which are centuries old, and have left deep scars in our memories, we look forward, once again, to Advent, the season of hope. Isaiah tells us, “Those who sit in great darkness shall see great light” and St. Paul in Ephesian 2:14-22 tells us “Christ is our peace”. The economic, political and spiritual battles that the church faced during the time of St. Paul is no different than today. Therefore, carve the message of “Christ is our peace” into your hearts, place it in your mind, put it in your hand to hold firm forever.

The conflicts we face in life whether of persecution, homeless, abandonment, war; in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, America or in your heart, we are never abandoned by Christ and his Holy Church. His Holy Church gives us the guidance to draw strength as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ on Christmas day. God is always the source of hope in times of turmoil, despair, war and peace. Even in the darkest of times the message of the prophet Isaiah ring out through the night saying, “People that walked in darkness, have seen a great light; and those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them shall shine the Star of Bethlehem.”

Young people who talk to me are so stressed out over social media and ask, “Is the end of the world?” They see every preacher, podcast and pundit declaring this as the end of times. They want to know what the Holy Church, who gave us scripture and the Christian faith to the whole world interprets these resent events. We first acknowledge that, “If God is with no one can be against us.” Then we also admit that no one know when the end of time because Christ Himself states in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” What we can do until then is pray, pray with fervent supplication for peace. Peace in our world, peace in our heart and mind. So when the Lord comes, we welcome Him.

We will not stop living, we will not stop working, we will not stop praying and worshiping every day and especially on our holy Sunday. We will say, “Lord come!” We have a prayer that says, “Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight and blessed is the person who is watchful.” So do not be full of anxiety, just be watchful.

Yes, my dearly beloved, Christ is our peace and we can only find peace in the Prince of Peace. St. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” St. Paul also tells us in Philippians 4:7, “7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” So let God rule in your heart and He will guard your hearts and minds. Therefore, despite the tragedies of the world, despite the wars, despite the violence in this country’ pray for peace again and again. Pray for your families, and declare that Christ is our peace in whom we trust and that He holds the whole world in his hands.

Let us open our eyes and hearts to behold the star leading the shepherds and wise men to where Christ was born. Let us open our ears and hearts to hear the angels sing, “Glory to Thee Oh, God, Glory to Thee”. Be not filled with anxiety, fear or despair during this season of prayer, fasting and watchfulness. Rather remember what the angel told the shepherds long ago, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

May you always be grateful, may you always be thankful, may always be full of joy to say, “Christ is my peace and peace be upon you”.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

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