Scripture    Psalm 25:1-10  To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust;   do not let me be put to shame;  do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;  let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.  Make me to know your ways, O Lord;   teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me,  for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,  for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;  according to your steadfast love remember me,  for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right,  and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

 Message      “You Are the God of My Salvation”        Rev. Renfrew

The Psalm declares it: “You are the God of my salvation”. It’s a song of praise by David, the long-ago king of ancient Israel. Long ago, but we read it this morning as a brand-new message: “You are the God of my salvation”. So let’s get real right from the start. Does God offer YOU salvation? And, if so, what does YOUR salvation look like?

A vital congregation is one that embraces salvation, celebrates salvation, and shares salvation. We declare good news about salvation in songs, prayers and preaching. We enjoy many stories of salvation among ourselves in Bible Study and conversations after the service in the Dining Room. Salvation is what we should be known for in the wider community. Salvation is not a closely-guarded secret for the few, it’s available to everybody. People come through the doors looking for salvation and we are eager to share it. Salvation here is something very tangible, very real, and offered in abundance. There’s plenty of salvation for everybody. Salvation is life-changing, it’s what connects the dots between what we are and what we are becoming in Jesus Christ. “You are the God of my salvation”. Does it feel good to speak these words? Is this the kind of church that we are? I hope so!

Salvation is our hope and joy. It is both a gift to the unworthy, and the fruit of the faithful life’s long journey. So, yes, we offer you Christ’s salvation if you just walked into our church for the first time this morning. And we also offer it to those who have been on board for many decades. That’s the radical grace of Jesus right there. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you got here. It doesn’t matter if you are a saint or a sinner, because salvation is offered to everyone in Jesus Christ. This is the radical grace of God.

I try to think of salvation in very concrete terms. Salvation means that God is protecting me from violence, hunger, homelessness, addiction and disease. Salvation is not warm fuzzies, salvation is all about incarnation, God comes into the world to change the world beginning with you and me. I think we have to understand salvation in just that way, because if we don’t, then salvation seems like fluff that doesn’t really help anyone.

I once saw a movie about horrible poverty in Guatemala in which a priest promised desperately poor and hungry people who were abused by their own government in a time of dictatorship that their reward awaited them in heaven.  I was offended by that because salvation must be part of our present moment if it is to have any meaning at all.  Salvation is not something we vaguely promise at the end of the journey, it’s here right now.

Even though offended, I still like thinking about salvation as an experience of eternity. Salvation is something to aim for, to strive for, to prepare for. It is more than right now. I think we have to understand salvation in this way, too. Salvation is more than facing today’s challenges and struggles; there is also a destination, a hope greater than our imagination.

So there it is in Psalm 25, “You are the God of my salvation”.  I think it is a perfect phrase to help us as we begin the season of Advent. We are not just decorating, not just going though the motions, not just singing some favorite songs, we are ready for salvation, so we tell each other, and so we tell the world.

“You are the God of my salvation”. When Charlotte and Elsie, Danielle and Brock, light the first candle, they are ready, we are ready, for Jesus to come into our lives, to touch us with the truth and power of salvation. When Larry and the choir sing they are not just performing for the congregation, they are offering us the sounds of salvation. For angels, shepherds, even animals in the barn, salvation is not a vague promise, it’s here, now, for you. When Mrs. Tyler and Mr. Sloat turn on the lights, it’s not just to make our sanctuary pretty, it’s to lead us through the doorway into salvation. When prayers are offered this morning and in our Prayer Chain during the week, it’s not a checklist that we need to complete, it’s to declare to ourselves, and to declare to the world, that even in the hardest times, even in the worst places, that God is ready to begin something very new. God calls it salvation.

As we get closer to Christmas Day, we will hear many more details about the Christmas story, about Mary and Joseph, about the baby Jesus, about shepherds, angels, about a star in the sky, about the magi far away who decided to see the baby for themselves.

But today, the first day, the beginning of Advent, is to embrace salvation. It’s what all of the Christmas stories lead to. It’s what God promises, it’s what all of us are looking for, and it is the vital message that we share with the world. The birth of Jesus is all about YOUR salvation.

Salvation is offered to people who are hurting right now. Salvation was offered when we entered the world. Salvation is offered to people near the end of their days. Salvation is offered to the lost and forgotten. Salvation is offered today, Salvation is offered to you.