"A Letter From Jesus"
Sermon Preached by Gregory Knox Jones
December 19, 2010


Dr. Jones has a tradition of sharing a communication from Jesus on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  After studying Advent lectionary texts, praying and attempting to discern God's message to us at this moment in history, Dr. Jones imagines what Jesus would say if he wrote a letter to us today.


After days of watching, I had nothing to show.  I kept checking my mailbox to see if Jesus would write again this year, but there was no special letter.  Then, as I struggled to catch up on my emails, there it was; waiting in my Inbox.  I printed it off because it is addressed to all of us.

He writes:        Dear Children, It has been a trying year for many of you.  Some of you lost loved ones.  The ongoing economic recession has extracted a heavy personal toll.  It saddens me when you suffer.  Some hurt by the financial doldrums were victims of their own foolishness, but many have been injured by the foibles of others.  As you know from my tirade in the Temple when I tossed out the money changers, I find it hard to control my anger in the face of injustice.  Greed can extract a severe price.

God's natural world also sustained quite a blow this year.  The oil spill in the Gulf polluted one of the richest fishing grounds on earth.  Sadly, you will be feeling the repercussions of human carelessness for years to come.

Your current state of affairs is puzzling.  Some days I can do nothing but shake my head in amazement at the ironies that abound.  With the click of a mouse you can access gigabytes of information, yet wisdom is scarce.  Millions consume rich diets, but their souls are starved.  People immersed in abundance lack gratitude.  Those with Global Positioning Systems wander through life lost.  Many who talk about virtue are the foremost hypocrites.  People who thirst for meaning regularly pursue the trivial.

It is hardly a coincidence that your society has become increasingly divisive.  In addition to the economic recession, you are in the throes of a kindness recession.  There has been a decline in respect and a downturn in manners.  People are quick on the draw to impugn the motives of others and, as distrust festers, it gives rise to intolerance.

I witness far too much boasting and smugness.  Many are so certain that they are right when they articulate their opinions that they cannot admit they might have blind spots.  Remember what I said about pointing out the speck in your neighbor's eye and overlooking the log in your own eye?  Keep in mind you do not know what you do not know, so be humble in your pronouncements.  You could find yourself embarrassed one day in the future.

You can ratchet down the harsh rhetoric and lower a lot of people's blood pressures if you will remember how the Apostle Paul described love.  It is patient and kind, and does not insist on getting its own way.  I don't expect you to agree on every issue.  You still have much to learn.  If all of my children held the same opinion, imagine the boredom and the loss of zest for learning.  However, I do expect my followers to disagree in a spirit of love.  The world is starving for good examples of how to respect others who hold contrary opinions.  You could nudge mindsets in the right direction if you show others how you treat people when you view each individual as a child of God.

Fear about the direction of your country and frustration provoked by the polarizing culture wars has prompted many to tune out the serious issues confronting you.  Do not allow the rancor to push you to the sidelines.  Your media seem determined to aim at the lowest common denominator, to produce endless hours of mindless entertainment, pausing occasionally to toss out little more than caricatures of complex issues.  Your society continues to be awash in superficiality, not to mention silliness.  I love to see you smile and I am thrilled when you laugh and enjoy life, but if you dodge matters of substance, your soul will become a desert.

It is important to read, hear and wrestle with time-tested truths.  The wisdom of the Scriptures is powerful and provocative, and can help chart your course through the minefield of problems you are facing.  Just promise me this: You will not let my teachings harden into dogmatic straightjackets.  I want you to engage serious issues, but be careful not to take yourself too seriously.  Humility - the virtue most trampled upon today - will keep your mind receptive to new discoveries and deeper understandings.

There are injustices in your world that are preventing people from living full lives.  Look beyond yourself to people who are being mistreated and do what you can to help.  If you exert yourself for justice and strive to become a tenacious peacemaker, you will be blessed in ways you cannot imagine.

At this time of year, when you focus on my birth, it gives me great joy to see your celebrations.  This is the only time I get to hear some of you sing!

But I should tell you that I get a little worried when you act as if the stories of my birth are simply ancient history.  Matthew and Luke were not reporters simply documenting the details of what happened.  They were doing their best to unveil the meanings of my birth - how it impacted the lives of people back then and what it means to people in every generation and in every land.

It thrills me when you grapple with what my birth means to you and the world today.  Of course you cannot reduce it to merely one thing.  There are multiple messages to glean from the stories Matthew and Luke tell.  For one, I did not come only for a select few who were already doing a commendable job of living virtuous lives.  I came to reveal that God is interested in every single person and creature of God's creation.  I came to tell you that there is a special place in God's heart for those who are hurting.  That's why it is essential for you to reach out to others in love and to treat them as you want to be treated.  I came to liberate you from past mistakes and to give you a second chance.  Some of you really need to let go and move on.  I came to guide you away from destructive paths and to show you roads that lead to health and wholeness.  Most of all, as you ponder my birth, I hope you will remember that God wants to find a home in your heart, to be the driving force in your mind and to take up permanent residence in your soul.

If you dare to let God's Spirit fill you, the preposterous claims of Scripture will seem less like embellished fantasies and more like goals for which to strive - the hungry fed, all children cared for, justice and peace for every person and nation.  You can tilt the world toward harshness or kindness, greed or generosity.  If you will check in with me daily and commit to my way, joy will take root and hope will abound.

The upcoming year will provide you with a number of opportunities to share my love. Never forget my Spirit will be with you, to encourage you and to strengthen you.  Please, Please, Please give it your best!  I'm counting on you.