The Island of Serenity

November 28, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Psalm 122: 6-9

"
"…May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers. For the sake of my relatives and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. "

 

 

I have an Advent wish for you today, this first Sunday of the Advent season. Doesn't it seem as though Advent is the shortest and the sweetest season of the church year?

 

This time before Christmas can also be the craziest time of the year. It can be filled with so much busyness, so much chaos and so much activity, that we can lose the original spirit of the season. My wish for you is that you don’t lose the original spirit, that you have in your heart a special place that is yours alone, that you can retreat to. An island that you can go to anytime that you want to, in order to enjoy the peace and presence of God.

 

My wish for you is the island of serenity.

 

When things get crazy, when demands reach a peak, when you are hoping for perfection but life is short of it, when you are expecting too much of yourself and you feel torn in a dozen different directions, just say within your heart, I am going to my island of serenity.  I believe that is what God wants for you.

 

On Christmas Eve there will be that special moment when we are all gathered in this place. The entire room will be candlelit and the sparkle of candles will reflect in the skylight above. We will hold up our candles and will remember that it is Christmas. We will listen to the words of the Prophet Isaiah: Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,…And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Let us remember that it is the Prince of Peace whom we are celebrating. We all need the Prince of Peace in our hearts especially during this very busy Christmas time.

 

There is a beautiful prayer about serenity, many of you may know the first part, but may be unfamiliar with the second.

 

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that Jesus will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Friend, I wish you the island of serenity. Let’s look at three things that we find on the island of serenity: simplicity, softness and stillness. Here are three memory keys to remember them.

 

Simplicity - think of your favorite cup
Softness - think of your favorite chair
Stillness - think of a single candle glowing in the dark.

 

  There is simplicity on the island of serenity. We can make Christmas really big and complicated. As Jesus once said, only one thing is needful; we need to keep things simple.

 

When I drive up the parkway, I see a spectacular house around exit 150.  There we see a house decorated for Christmas, and I do mean decorated - it seems as though there is not an inch of this house that does not have an electric light on it. It screams right out at you-Seasons Greetings, Seasons Greetings- the roof is all lit up and there are Santas jumping everywhere. That is a lot of fun, but maybe there is also beauty in the simplicity of a single candle in a window. Allow yourself the luxury of simplicity.  Allow yourself simple joys this Christmas season, joys that can bring you to the island of serenity.

 

Softness. Softness in words and spirit is important too. I have a spiritual discipline that I am trying to follow and that I have been trying to follow for years. Sometimes I slip, but I try. I invite you to join me in this. The spiritual goal is this: I will not criticize, condemn or complain. If we can make this a spiritual discipline in our lives, we will be much happier. If we can take on this attitude, we will become the type of person that others want to be around. If we agree to take on softness of spirit and softness of words then our serenity will be communicated to others and the world will be a better place. I heard a prayer a while ago that I think is very effective in remembering not to criticize, condemn or complain.

 

Oh Lord, grant that my words today may be soft and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them! (congregation laughs) There is softness in the island of serenity.

 

Stillness. Won’t you give yourself the blessing of taking time to be still this Christmas time? Taking time in your favorite chair, listening to the gentle music of Christmas, perhaps before your fireplace or simply a single candle. Taking time to be still, and listening for God’s voice in the stillness.  His voice saying your name and then saying, “You are my beloved child and I am well pleased. I surround you with my love and my light. I forgive you. I believe in you. I love you just as you are.” You can only hear this in the stillness of your time with God. The world has so much noise that it throws at us, maybe you want more peace in your home so that you can hear the Lord speak to you. Let’s remember that the season we are celebrating is the season of the Prince of Peace.

My wish for you is enough excitement and busyness to keep you happy and enough stillness to bring you a sense of peace.

 God loves you, Friend. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.

 

2010 Anthony J. Godlefski