- November 27, 2016
The Rev. Robert P. Travis
1st Sunday Advent Sermon – 5pm 8, 10:00am Church of the Ascension Wakefield
RCL Year A 11/27/2016
Scripture Text: Isaiah 2:1-5
Happy New Year!
What time is it?
It is the new year for Christians,
When we begin a new cycle of readings,
This is year A.
But it is interesting that it begins
Four weeks before Christmas,
And five weeks before the astronomical year.
What time is it?
You know what time it is,
We spend most of our adult lives knowing rather precisely.
And we know what the time is both in relation
To when we expect the next thing to happen,
As well as what is going on right now,
And to what just happened.
So it is strange to hear Paul say,
“you know what time it is,”
When the message of this first Sunday of Advent
Also contains the fact that no one knows
When Jesus will return,
Not even he knows,
But only the father.
But Paul is correct,
We do know what time it is,
And in a way Advent is all about
Knowing the time.
It is the season in which we recognize
Most clearly the in-between time in which we live.
Some have called it the time of the already
And the not yet.
In terms of Christmas
We know that Jesus was already born,
But as every child knows,
We’re not yet there to the annual celebration
Of his birth.
For us as followers of Jesus,
We know that Jesus already lived among us,
Already died and defeated the enemy
Already rose from the grave,
But has not yet come again, to make
Everything right, to finally put all evil away.
Some have likened this time in which we live,
To the time between D-Day in World War II
And the final day of victory in Europe.
D-Day was decisive in winning the war,
But there were still serious battles
To fight before the war was over.
Much as I don’t like war,
That image rather accurately describes
Why Advent is such a hopeful season.
We live in the time of the
already, and the not yet.
And our new year as Christians,
Starts before we celebrate
The birth of our Lord,
Precisely because we live as a people of hope.
Our new year begins,
And it may seem rather strangely,
With the focus on the end of time,
When Jesus will return.
Precisely because we live as a people of hope.
We focus our attention,
At the beginning of our year,
On the end of all things,
Because that is what it means to be awake,
Which both Jesus and Paul call us to
In these readings,
To be awake, not just to what is going on around us
But to what is yet to come.
Looking at the prophecy from Isaiah
It may seem absurd.
To think that the mountain of the Lord,
Also known as the temple mount,
Or mount Zion would be the greatest,
When it was “never the most prominent mountain
Even if one only considers nearby peaks.
The nations have never streamed to Jerusalem
To learn divine teaching;
God has yet to play the role of international
And the waging of warfare continues to afflict creation
To this very day.
Whatever realities this text speaks of,
They exist primarily in the realm of promise and hope.”
(Michael J. Chan @ workingpreacher.org)
Similarly, the prophecies about Jesus’
Second coming which we pray with longing for
During this season,
Could seem absurd.
That truth will defeat falsehood, (Rev. 19:11-21)
The dead will rise (Rev. 20:1-6)
That the Church will be revealed spotless and pure
as the bride of Christ.
All of these things are hidden right now,
Behind the tragedies of history,
Hidden behind the complexities
And uncertainties of today.
Both of these cases point to the necessity
Of Hope, for being people of faith.
We pray in faith, for the hope to hold on to,
That all these things will come to pass.
So then Jesus’ message about the suddenness
Of his second coming,
Is not a fearful thing,
Not a thing to worry about,
As in, “will I be the one left behind, or the one taken.”
That was a worry a few years back,
Made popular by the “left-behind” series.
That’s not what Jesus is talking about
In these parables of the end.
They’re just about the suddenness of his coming,
And he explains it also in the context of Noah,
Which should help us all.
For Jesus points out,
That at that time
everyone was going about their business.
And though he doesn’t mention it,
We know from the story,
That their everyday business was pretty sinful
At that time,
Until Noah closed the door
And the flood began.
Notice something else about this,
How absurd it must have seemed to everyone,
That Noah was building that big ark,
Right up until the flood began,
How absurd that he would do something like that.
But that absurd faith,
And the Hope in God
That it displayed,
Was Noah’s salvation.
Just like that,
It may seem absurd to those
That we would pour so much of our lives,
Our resources, our efforts,
Into this Church,
Into following Jesus.
But we know that hope is based
On something, or rather on someone
the person of Jesus,
Who is not absurd at all.
So we hope in what seems absurd,
And look for his coming again,
Suddenly, with power and great glory.
We put this hope,
At the beginning of our Church year,
Before we even celebrate his birth,
To emphasize the critical nature,
Of being Christians who live our lives in hope.
Because we know what time it is,
That it is the time to be awake,
And to look for his second coming,
With hope and anticipation.
So how do we live with Advent hope?
How do we stay awake for Jesus return?
Sundays are good reminders,
But after reading the parable about the thief
and the master of the house,
I would bet that his return won’t be on a Sunday,
When we’re all ready and on our best behavior.
Paul talks about putting on Christ,
About putting on the armor of light.
How do we put on the armor of light during the week.
How do we keep hope alive in between Sundays?
Some of us make wreaths,
And light advent candles every evening.
In the midst of the darkest time of year,
That does something physical,
Which awakens hope in our spirits.
My family sings O Come, O Come Emmanuel
As our grace at each family dinner.
Some of you do special advent devotional readings
My most important practice, to keep hope alive,
Is spending time in silent prayer,
Centering Prayer every day.
What do you do to keep hope alive,
To put on Christ?
Whatever it is, keep doing it,
If you haven’t started some daily practice,
Try this Advent and see
How it awakens you to the hope
Of Jesus return.
As a suggestion I have printed
A few of these advent calendars
And put them on the table in the narthex.
They have some scripture and a suggestion
For each day of the season.
Do you remember the hopeful anticipation
We had for Christmas coming
When we were children?
When it seemed like each Christmas
Was so far away, and couldn’t come quickly enough?
That is the kind of hopeful anticipation,
That we need to have for Jesus second coming.
It may seem so far away,
But it can’t come quickly enough.
And yet He will come back, when we least expect it.