A Defiant Advent // Defiant Presence // Kate Murphy

This week includes a day for rejoicing—because the Lord has come to live with and for us! This is a day for rejoicing, because God has kept all his promises!

This is a day for rejoicing, because the one born in weakness is strong to save us. And we need saving. This beautiful, broken world cries out for a savior and—good news—Jesus wasn’t just born for those with joyful hearts and vibrant faith. 

The coming of Christ is especially for you if your heart is broken this Christmas, if your life has been shattered by violence or injustice.  

This Sunday, we’ll ponder this part of the Christmas story that we usually skip. I promise, it’s not because I want to steal your joy. It’s because there is no part of our reality that the miracle of incarnation doesn’t redeem.

This tragedy belongs in the Christmas story because tragedy is a part of reality on this side of eternity, and we who trust Jesus don’t have to pretend otherwise. 

I hope you will listen in to this hard but really necessary message, because Christmas is only beginning and it’s better than we’ve dared to imagine.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Love // Kate Murphy

Tucked away in the very middle of the book of Psalms, you’ll find my very favorite verse of scripture. Psalm 85 describes what it will be like when God’s salvation reigns on the new earth. The tenth verse says that in those days, ‘”love and justice meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

Sometimes it feels like we have to choose, doesn’t it? Between peace and righteousness, between love and justice. But that is only because we’ve become accustomed to watered-down, inauthentic versions—peace-keeping instead of peace-making, vengeance instead of justice, comfort instead of love, self-righteousness instead of God’s righteousness. In the Kingdom of God, love, justice, righteousness, and peace need no reconciliation.

And the dawn of salvation, of course, is the story we are so eagerly anticipating in this season—the birth of Christ. The coming of our savior is a story of mercy, of forgiveness, of love, and of righteousness. And, it is also, always, a story of justice. That’s why when Mary is ready to rejoice, she sings a song of the coming of holy justice. Her magnificat  celebrates that with the birth of her son, God is establishing a kingdom where righteousness and peace kiss—where all are fed, all are healed, all are reconciled in God’s great love.

One of the things Mary knew is that God’s love looks like justice and God’s justice feels like love. I hope you will listen in to this message as we let Mary teach us the true meaning of Christmas.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Joy // Kate Murphy

Years ago, on the third Sunday of Advent when we lit the joy candle, I had a terrible experience leading worship. I was newly ordained and it was one of the first times I served communion. When I went to break the loaf of bread, I discovered one of the elders had unintentionally bought a thickly buttered loaf of garlic bread.

Instantly, this sacred moment that I had anticipated for years turned into an embarrassing disaster. The people in the congregation understood, some even found it humorous. But, for me, it was anything but joyful.

All these years later, though, it’s become a defining moment of my ministry, and an experience that I treasure. That loaf of garlic bread helped me to learn that what we do on Sunday mornings isn’t a performance. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be real. Our unavoidable human failures can never empty God’s sacred gifts of their power. All these years later, this story does bring me joy.

Friends, the truth is that no matter how many years pass, much of the very real suffering and loss of this pandemic will never bring us joy. And, there is no real comparison to my story of garlic bread and what we are all enduring now. But, still I wonder—will some of the things that most challenge and disturb us now come to be memories we’ll someday treasure? Will some of the pain we feel now birth a wisdom and maturity that we might come to rejoice over in time?

Maybe this is the year we receive sacred joy—a defiant joy that springs up, even as we grieve and are afraid. Maybe this is the year we find the joy that Mary found when she discovered the astonishing truth that God was with her and that no word of God would ever fail.

I hope, especially if you are overwhelmed and angry and mourning and scared, that you’ll listen in to this message about joy. Even on your own you can light a candle for joy—together, we’ll discover that what God is doing is greater and stronger than anything that threatens us in these hard days.

A Defiant Advent // Defiant Peace // Kate Murphy

This Sunday we light the candle of peace and rejoice that our savior is the Prince of Peace. But like everything else about Jesus, this peace doesn’t look the way we expect it to look. Jesus’ approach to peace is gloriously different than our own.

When we start thinking about peace, it doesn’t take long before we are cursing our enemies. After all, our peacelessness is their fault. If only the world were full of people like us, we would already have peace. We wouldn’t even need a savior.

The world, of course, is filled with people exactly like us, and so we desperately need a savior. 

And the glory of God comes down to show us a new way to peace, one that doesn’t require the participation or destruction of our enemies. It’s the path that John the baptist blazed through the wild spaces, far from the temple in Jerusalem—the word that drew all those seeking for more out into the desert. That word, that path, is repentance.

We hope you’ll listen in as we discover how the prophet’s call to our ancestors is for us as well. The way to peace still begins with repentance. This is the road that leads to new life in Christ.