2023-12-10 - 2. Advent - (EN) - Pfarrerin Nicole Otte-Kempf

( Revelation of John 3, 7-13 ) - [ Deutsch ]

It was three o'clock in the morning when Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, published the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". It was to be the "common ideal to be achieved by all peoples and nations".

This happened on 10 December 1948, exactly 75 years ago today. The aim of the declaration was to enable all people to live in dignity without fear. The Commission based this on respect for life and belief in the value of every human being. The inalienable human rights include: the right to life, liberty and security; the prohibition of slavery and torture; freedom of thought and belief; the right to freedom of expression, education, labour, health and well-being - and more.

The result is a comprehensive description of what human life should ideally be like. This declaration of human rights has only one major disadvantage: it is not associated with the powerful realisation of the ideals demanded. On the contrary - often enough this declaration seems helpless when you have to watch dictators oppressing their people or wars being waged against a civilian population. And one wonders: what is such declaration worth if they cannot be enforced?

The church in Philadelphia also had the question of strength and how to assert its own faith. At any rate, this is how I interpret the message addressed to this church from the Revelation of John:

Reading the text

7 To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “This is the message from the one who is holy and true. He has the key that belonged to David, and when he opens a door, no one can close it, and when he closes it, no one can open it.

8 I know what you do; I know that you have a little power; you have followed my teaching and have been faithful to me. I have opened a door in front of you, which no one can close.

Listen! As for that group that belongs to Satan, those liars who claim that they are Jews but are not, I will make them come and bow down at your feet. They will all know that I love you.

10 Because you have kept my command to endure, I will also keep you safe from the time of trouble which is coming upon the world to test all the people on earth.

11 I am coming soon. Keep safe what you have, so that no one will rob you of your victory prize. 

12 I will make those who are victorious pillars in the temple of my God, and they will never leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of

heaven from my God. I will also write on them my new name.

13 “If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!

The church with the beautiful name Philadelphia, which roughly translates as "brotherly love", was in a chaotic situation at the time. On the one hand, teachers appeared, "false teachers". It was no longer clear what the Christian message actually was. "Who are we actually as a Christian community?" This question was in the air.

On the other hand, the community was also threatened from outside. The fact that the Christians did not worship the Roman emperor made them suspicious to the Roman occupiers. The author of Revelation is concerned that the cult of the emperor could now spread among the Christians. In this situation, the Revelation of John appears as a comforting and admonishing word for the future path of the churches.

When I take a closer look at this sermon text, there are two sentences that particularly concern me. The first sentencereads (3:8): "Behold, I have opened a door before you that no one can shut." Opening doors has something to do with power. And the sentence "I have opened a door before you" means that the church has someone behind it who strengthens it on its way. Someone who opens doors that seemed closed.

Advent has a special relationship with doors, because it is also a time for opening doors. Last week, we reflected intensively on these door-opening experiences, including the famous Advent carol "Open wide the door", which is 400 years old this year. And the question in this Advent season is also whether we expect something to come. That a door will be opened to a new world. That there really will be "peace on earth". The attitude with which we approach the coming festivities alone can open doors - for us and for others.

The other sentence that really speaks to me is (v 8): "You have a little strength."

You could hear the sentence like this: you haven't achieved much. You don't even need to try. But you can also read it like this: yes, you have a little strength, but it's there. You can achieve something with it.

I often think: people who have a hard time could be encouraged so much if you look at what is possible for them and not always just at the problems and burdens they bring with them. The sentence in John goes even further: "You have a little strength and have kept my word." God's word was preserved, and that gave us strength.

Perhaps this is a perspective for the Advent season: lower your expectations, but don't give up! Every year, we wish for each other that there would be great contemplation. Although everyone knows that this usually doesn't

materialise. On the contrary, Advent is often even more stressful than usual. It is precisely in a situation like this that you should hold on to your small strength. What can that look like? I imagine directing the glance towards my neighbours. I will be able to give a little help. Have a conversation, pay a visit, take a hand and hold it. It won't save the world, but it will set an example. And if I can help others and experience the gratitude for it, then my small power becomes even greater.

Open doors, small power:

This could be our message for this Advent season. Firstly: Look for open doors! Perhaps you have been longing for a change in your life, for a new beginning. If you have even a little strength and feel carried by God's word, then go for it! Advent not only means arrival, but also departure to the one who is arriving.

Let me come back to the Declaration of Human Rights 75 years ago. They opened a door, they have only a small power. And yet it is impossible to imagine our world without them.

The greatest success of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that it has become an integral part of people's consciousness. There are around 1000 groups worldwide that are committed to human rights.

I would like to end with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which answers the question: "Where do human rights begin?" She writes: "In the little places, close to home. So close and so small that these places cannot be found on

any map of the world. And yet these places are the world of the individual: The neighbourhood where he lives, the school or university he attends, the factory, the farm or the office where he works. These are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal rights, equal opportunities and equal dignity without discrimination. As long as these rights do not apply there, they are not relevant anywhere else."

This is the small force of human rights that has an impact on this world.

Is it really small? We all decide this by adopting our attitude, by opening doors and trying to achieve something big with a small force. God comes into this world with mercy and love. It is up to us to pass this on to the people in this world.


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