1st Sunday of Advent—A—December 1, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
How many of you went Black Friday shopping? (or at least some footage on the news?)
Did you wait in long lines, or get pushed in big crowds?
Did you notice that every year stores open earlier and earlier, now even on Thanksgiving night?
The holiday season, especially Black Friday, is the perfect illustration of humanity’s impatience. We can’t seem to wait to get the latest greatest gadget or eat a whole lot of food. We just do not wait well.
That is except when it comes to the 2nd coming of Jesus. As mainline Protestants, we seem not to really talk about it or change our behavior in any because of it. Is it simply a reaction to grace? We don’t have to build our own ark, earn our own salvation, follow any specific set of rules to survive, so we just sit back, relax, and wait for it to happen?
Throughout the church year we hear any number of apocalyptic texts, but they are easily ignored we say because they weren’t written for our context, for us, times have changed.
But then Advent comes, year after year and we again are confronted head on with the three comings of Christ: as a baby 2000 years ago, in and among us now, and the long awaited 2nd coming.
You see, Advent is not a count down to Christmas, it is a reminder that Christ came, comes, and will come. And this first week of Advent focuses most directly on the future, the will come part.
In the texts today, we hear all these great promises of what things are going to be like at that time…so I wonder why don’t we embrace Jesus’ advent in us more right now today and work with God towards bringing the kingdom to life? Wouldn’t you like to live in a world full of light, marked by peace, not war, and endless prosperity? As Matthew tells us, we cannot know when the hour, we cannot know which is the true believer and which is not, which will be taken and which will be left, but we do know what it will be like, as the promises have told us. We know we have to wait, but what if waiting included excited expectation instead of just sideline waiting?
Please do not hear this sermon as a Black Friday bash…for years, Black Friday has been a big part of my Thanksgiving tradition…but I simply point out the disconnect of a way of saying…think about how awesome the world would be if we were as enthusiastic about waiting for Jesus to come again, living into God’s promises, as we were as we waited to eat a grand dinner or get that great deal.
Imagine the world if everyone focused on the light shining in the darkness…the way the Bereaved Family Circle does. While staying on the Mount of Olives, my travel group had the opportunity to gather with a Palestinian Widow and an Israeli, whose daughter had been killed by a car bomb, to hear their vision of forgiveness, reconciliation, the beating of “swords into plowshares” and “spears into pruning hooks.” Even in the darkness of their despair, they see the light of the promise that there will be a time when “nation shall not lift sword against nation” and no one will “learn war any more.”
Just like we do not know when Christ will come again or exactly what it will be like, they do not know when again there will be “peace within [Jerusalem’s] walls and quietness within [its] towers,” but they trust it will happen one day. We know Jesus came once in the form of a baby, we experience Jesus coming in our midst, and we trust that Jesus will come again, bringing in God’s kingdom fully. They live and act in anticipation of peace in Israel/Palestine. We too are called to live and act in anticipation of God’s promises being in-fleshed, made incarnate.
Just like Noah and the people of his time did not know when the rains were coming, we do not know when Jesus’ second advent will occur. However, Noah actively waited, unlike the others. We too can actively wait…not by building the means of our salvation, for Jesus already supplied that, but by helping with the in-breaking if the kingdom of God into our world right now…getting everyone used to a different, less selfish, less violent, more peaceful and just way of living.
God has made us some big promises, many that we hear reiterated today, but does not tell us when any of them will happen. The not knowing can be scary, but we always have the promises to hold on to, to conquer the fear. The season of Advent reminds us that promises were en-fleshed 2 millenia ago in Bethlehem, and will come about at the end of time, but they also are en-fleshed in us every day. God works through you to end war, bring peace, enact justice, spread love, and proclaim the good news of Advent throughout the world. Amen.