Are you anticipating Christmas yet? Certainly the world is. It seems to me that they started even earlier this year. I saw as you probably did Christmas decorations and items for sale even before Halloween. The commercialism of Christmas continues to grow. In this time of anticipating Christmas, it is easy to be lured into a world view that what counts is how well the merchants do. The challenge is to remember the reason for the season and wait for the joy that will come as we hear again the stories of Advent, remembering God suffers with us and celebrates with us in the fullness of all that life is – good and bad, joyful and painful,
Advent tells “In those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken,” Mark 13:24. These are the images of judgment. But then the passage comes to its climax with the vision of the coming “Son of man”—”Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory” (13:26). These are the words of hope we long to see. But when, we ask, will we see it?
Note if you will, God’s final judgment is not all doom and gloom that frightens us, but it is also a reminder of the beginning of God’s faithful relationship with us made possible through Jesus being the Christ. The church can speak and should speak the word of a God who does not shy away from sin and death, or the issues we face like war, violence, and the many social issues. God is coming. He has not forgotten us. God is Immanuel come to be with us infusing Himself in all that comes into our day.
The treasure of this season is to see the new beginnings created by Jesus. I see it this way: “Humanity is not always going to be successful and in control of things, but it is a humanity that can reach out its hand from the depths of chaos, to be touched by the hand of God.” And from that touch comes new beginnings.
This first Sunday of Advent then comes to us as a new beginning with an invitation to wake up and “keep alert” for the coming of Christ, not just as a baby in twenty-two days but also as the one who tears open the heavens, shows up in the messiness of our lives, puts us flawed disciples in charge of sharing the good news of the gospel, and the one who is mysteriously hidden, yet also truly present in our faithfulness.
This First Sunday of Advent is about and for us. Paul reminds us that we are not only restored but gifted by God with all of the tools needed for the tasks of the kingdom though we may not believe it is so. The first gift we have been given is the gift of the Holy Spirit by His Word in the waters of our baptism. Therefore we can dream big and act boldly for the Lord our God is with us and within us. .
The first Sunday of Advent is about visions of what is yet to come. Paul offers us a vision for this New Year. Our job is to believe Paul’s amazing words. Can we, on this Christian New Year’s Day, believe our church community has all the resources we need to dream big and act boldly? Can we do great and magnificent things? As humans, we tend to see what we do not have and all of the things that hold us back. Paul’s thoughts here are not of the church’s deficits, but of God’s bounty of gifts.
Paul reminds us, we are not called by others, but by Jesus Christ. Paul calls on us to believe in our community as much as God believes in us and to dare to dream bigger than we have in the past.
Advent puts hope into the fear that this is not the world we had hoped for. Advent does not begin with words of glowing hope, cheery optimism, or cute manger scenes, but with God’s people at the end of their patience, wondering when in the world God will act, and accusing God not only of failing to fix the mess, but of causing the mess in the first place. We, too, long for God to shake things up, to make things right, to fix all that is wrong. Advent is full of tensions, conflicts and uncertainties. But most of all Advent is a time of hope the Faithful One who alone can, will bring salvation.
Throughout history the people of God have longed for it. They have lived through fears and terror and many a disappointment. But it did not come as they expected. It is in many ways amazing that Christianity has continued and grown in the face of all that seems to have gone wrong, is wrong and when it seems no one, nothing is fixing it. When will the Good News come? Still the disciples, from the first ones to now us, are told to keep on waiting, watching, longing, hoping, and staying alert. And yet we are told God is faithful, that evil will be judged and suffering will end. “Be alert! Watch! He is coming”
But maybe the gem of Advent is seeing it is the waiting that is important. Maybe it is in the waiting that we begin to look for the kingdom of God. Maybe it is while waiting that we begin trying to live as the people God, as those who put the kingdom of God first and its ways of mercy, peace, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Maybe while waiting we realize we are loved and we to can love our neighbors as ourselves. Like children on Christmas Eve, we can neither hasten nor delay the coming of the day we await. What we can do is be about the work we have been given to do.
In the long life that most of us are blessed to enjoy, all our relationships, including our relationship with God, will have their ups and downs. There will be dark nights of the soul searching for God. And there will be ecstatic highs as well, and through it all, the Bible says, “Don’t give up.” Keep watching and waiting; God will appear, God will redeem, just as God has promised.
When you come in glory, Jesus, to gather your elect (Mark 13:26-27), by your grace and love may I be counted among them. Amen.
A blessed Advent to all! Welcome to worship as we prepare for Jesus’ birth and second coming.
Happy Birthday to Jim Smith, born on December 9th and to Walter Wittorff, born on December 11th.
Join us for our 5th Sunday potluck immediately following worship today. There will be food and drinks a plenty!
The Ladies Christmas Luncheon will be on Wednesday, December 13th. All ladies of Trinity and their guests are welcome. There will be a gift exchange not to exceed $10.00.
Also Trinity will be ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on Dec. 6 at Walmart.
Council will meet next Sunday following worship.