Sermon: Advent I (c)

PATRICK ALLEN on December 4, 2012



Advent I (c)
December 2, 2012
Lk 21.25-26
Fr. Dow Sanderson

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The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn.

There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations at the roaring seas and the waves…

In the beginning, when there was nothing but God, he spoke, and the heavens trembled… and from the shapeless void through the cosmic birth pangs came forth this world and all that therein is.  And God was present with his creatures, and walked with them in the Garden in the cool of the day.

In Bethlehem, in the darkness of night, with no sound but the wind blowing through the cracks in the walls and the bleating of sheep. After exhaustion, humiliation and agony, the young woman delivered her child, and wrapped him as best she could against the cold of the night, and nestled him in the hay.  For unto you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

On Golgotha, on that awful Friday, when he had groaned in agony and had breathed his last, a spear was thrust in his blessed side, and there poured forth from him, the Holy Blood of the Eucharist, and the water of Baptism… and through his sacrifice, the Church was born. O saving victim, opening wide, the gate of heaven to man below…

And at the appointed hour, the creator and redeemer of all things shall speak the word, and the trumpet will sound, and the angels will herald the news, and the heavens will be torn like the curtain in the Temple, and the earth will shudder and shake in one final death rattle, and the savior shall come.  Every eye shall now behold him, Robed in dreadful majesty…deeply wailing, deeply wailing shall the true Messiah see.

These are the “essentials” of our Faith. I have just attempted to describe them somewhat poetically, but we recite them more prosaically Sunday by Sunday in the Creed:  That the World was created by God, that he was born to live in it, that he died to redeem it, and that he shall come again to reclaim it.

It seems to me as if we have fully embraced all of these save for the last.

We believe in God.  We believe in the Incarnation.  We even believe that Christ truly died and rose again.

But we have a great deal of difficulty wrapping our minds around the truth that he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

It has been, after all, two millennia, and we haven’t even heard the chirp of a Kazoo, much less the blast of a trumpet.

It all seems too much, too abstract, too long delayed to register among our highest priorities….  We have gifts to buy and menus to prepare, and packages to get through the torturously long line in the post office.  Who has time to think of such things?

The sun will come up in the morning, the alarm clock will awaken us, we will get up and go about our business.  This Coming of Christ stuff is our little Christian Inconvenient Truth… We will live our lives- thank you very much- and let future generations of Christians worry about such things.

Ah, But the Season of Advent won’t quite let us get away with it!

We even had a preview two weeks ago, when the Gospel was from Mark 13. In fact, all of the lessons for the last two or three weeks have been previews of Advent…

Today, we are again reminded that as surely as the world had a beginning, it shall have an end.

And as surely as God was present at the beginning, he shall be present at the end.

And we need to recognize this, and live our lives accordingly.

For some of us, it may be that we decide to get up from the breakfast table and walk to get the paper… but our heart will stop before we get there.

So whether it is in our private advents, or in a dazzling display of angels and heavenly hosts… the Lord will come.  And our work will be done, and the fever of life will be over, and this busy world will be hushed.

What the Gospel and our Christian Faith require of us, therefore, is that we live each day in ordinary holiness.

Yes, it requires discipline and perseverance. It is not easy living in ambiguity.  So many of us like things planned, neat, organized and tidy.  God has given us a very detailed history of the past in Holy Scripture, and many of us would like an equally detailed blueprint for the present and the future.  But our ancient Hebrew ancestors often lived through long periods of seeming silence…and great hardships… and the believed in God even when they did not hear him… because he had always been faithful in the past.

As the Book of Hebrews reminds us… faith the assurance of things unseen… We believe in God’s future faithfulness… because we have such abundant assurance of his continual faithfulness throughout all times…

And so the Advent alarm clock has gone off…  It is another day…  And we are called to be about the work of preparing for His Kingdom.

To do daily with joy the ordinary things that God commands:

To love Him with our heart, mind and soul…

To love our neighbors as ourselves…

To treat our families like the great blessing and gift that they are…

To fall in love again with the Lord as we meet him in the liturgy… and to make Sunday and daily mass attendance our great delight.

To keep a discipline of daily prayer and scripture reading, so that we can be shaped and formed by God’s truth.

And in the insane commercialism and consumerism of our culture, to remember that giving of ourselves is more precious than anything we can wrap and put under the tree.

Lo, He comes with Clouds descending, once for our salvation slain…

The Lord has come.  The Lord shall come. And in eagerness and joy, we make our hearts ready… one simple day at a time.