November 30, 2014
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
So, here we are –the first Sunday in Advent. Happy new year! Yet as we begin a new church year, we don’t do so with the birth of Jesus, we spend time in the season of Advent and wait for the birth of Jesus that comes at Christmas.
In Advent, the texts we read have a two-fold thrust. They are texts that either anticipate the coming of the Word in human form; or they anticipate Christ’s second coming or the Great eschatological feast that we will all be a part of, as our reading from 1 Corinthians does and as we could also understand the other two readings to be doing as well. It is for this reason that Advent is often considered a period of “waiting.”
I remember being a little kid and how hard waiting for Christmas vacation was and then waiting for Christmas Eve so that we could open our presents was. Christmas Eve was the night that we opened our presents. And well, Christmas Eve was a very long day. As we got older it was a day with church at 7 and at 11. We usually had dinner and opened our presents between the two services. I guess this tradition started because on Christmas Day we would pile in the car and drive to Long Island, New York to celebrate Christmas with both sets of grandparents.
Sometimes the waiting got so hard that my sister and I my parents to let us open the gifts in our stockings before the first church service….we tended to be very anxious! December was a hard month, - whole month of waiting.
But in the grand scheme of things, a month isn’t that long to wait to open presents, I guess. Especially when one considers what I learned this week when I googled “waiting” to see what I came up with.
I learned that Americans spend approximately 15 minutes a day waiting in traffic. In fact, the average American spends between 45 and 62 minutes a day just waiting in lines at the store, waiting for web pages to download, or being put on hold.
We wait in lines: to purchase groceries, to be served at restaurants, to be attended to in a bank, at stop signs and traffic lights, waiting for our coffee to brew, or an email to arrive, we wait for rides at amusement parks, to see a play or a movie.
When this is all tallied up, it comes out to be between 3 and 5 years that each person spends in their life just waiting. Think about that.
That is about how much time is takes to go to college. Think about all of the stuff you could do in three to five years. Think about where you were 5 years ago and just imagine if you had done nothing but wait for all of that time.
This is why efficiency experts are recommending that people bring their computers or a book or something with them everywhere they go, so that all that time isn’t wasted. I found one web page that even claims that the time you spend waiting in life is enough time to learn a foreign language.
So, hopefully that helps put waiting for Christmas into a little bit of perspective. But it’s important to remember that Advent is not supposed to be a season that is just about waiting for Christmas.
Advent is not just a chance for us to pretend like we are excited that Jesus is about to be born.
The term Advent comes from the Latin word adventuswhich means “coming.” Advent is about the “coming” of Jesus into our lives now, just as communion is about us communing as the Body of Christ, with God, here and now. It’s not simply looking ahead to the afterlife or the end of time when, as Isaiah says, “the wolf shall lie down with the lamb and the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”
The whole point of Advent is that Christ is impacting our lives right now. It’s not that God is getting ready to transform us and the world; it’s that God has transformed and is transforming us and the world. And it’s not just about the fact that God will someday call us home to Heaven. The gift of that knowledge that comes through Jesus Christ is itself a call to be part of God’s mission and God’s plan, right here and right now.
So that’s where we find ourselves in this first week of Advent. While we wait for the celebration of Christmas, we see how Christ is impacting our world here and now. Yet at the same time, we wrestle with waiting for the celebration of Christmas. It’s a challenge isn’t it?
So often in the month of the December, the world cries out CHRISTMAS! And the church gathers in this space and says, no it’s ADVENT! How do we wrestle with that? How do we watch and wait both in this space and in the world around us? It’s not easy. Because part of the waiting is preparations…sending out Christmas cards, baking cookies, decorating the house and preparing it for company this season.
How do we wait and yet see Christ in our midst here and now?
It’s hard because we are a people and a society that is not very good at waiting. We record shows so we can fast forward through the commercials. We have multiple webpages open so we don’t have to wait for one to load. Many of us have access to a desktop computer, a laptop computer and a smart phone, so we can be the most efficient with the time we’re given, so we don’t have to wait.
Truth is, we are an impatient people.
Waiting is hard.
Yet there are some things we must wait for….
We must wait for flowers to grow and bloom,
for babies to be born,
for wounds to heal,
for bread to rise and cheese to age,
for children to mature,
for friends to call,
for love to deepen.
And while we wait for those things…we wait for celebration of the day when God broke into our world by the gift of Jesus Christ.
And as we wait, we will prepare.
We will hear Christmas music, we will sit in the quiet of the season,
we will pick out our tree, we will pray for those away from loved ones this season,
we will send greetings to family, friends and loved ones,
we will feast with our church family and take time to feed the hungry,
we will wrestle with injustices and how to speak to our brothers and sisters with integrity and love,
we will wait in the uncertainty of how loved ones diagnosed with cancer and other life threatening illnesses will respond to treatments,
we will pray for healing and wholeness for all of God’s people,
we will prepare for the holidays with new family dynamics due to marriages, divorces, deaths and births…
And in the midst of it all, we will seek out the Lord, Emmanuel (God with us here and now) in the pains of sickness, loneliness and suffering.
We will light candles and we will watch and wait…
And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, Amen.