November 29, 2015
First Sunday of Advent
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
“There have been many losses,” writes Janice Jean Springer, reflecting on the days following her diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Among these losses, she counts the erosion of her “self-image as a strong and vibrant woman … ” By contrast, the struggle to keep her balance, to not fall, seems unpleasantly familiar.
She has lost other things as well, but perhaps the most painful loss of all she shares is this, “I’ve lost my illusions. I’ve lost the illusion that I am exempt from the losses and limits that besiege other people.”
She writes that each of us will be confronted by losses that make us wrestle with the question, “[How] can I be faithful in my new circumstances?”
How can I be faithful in my new circumstances?
A few years back I was visiting with someone whose life had dramatically changed. They wondered what the future would bring and how to move forward with family and loved ones dealing with a new health concern. We talked about how to adjust to a “new normal.” In essence, we were asking the same question, How can I or how can my family and I be faithful in our new circumstances?
It’s not just a new normal anymore, is it? Our lives our constantly changing and as soon as we think we’ve got things under control, something shifts, and we have to adjust and continue on.
This is something that Luke touches upon in our Gospel lesson for today.
Luke lived with the fact that Jerusalem had fallen, but ten or fifteen years later, the Son of Man had not come. He held to the faith that it would happen. There would be a rescue. That is Luke's great insight and hope. When the signs are clear, don't be afraid. They are good news! "When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Be alert!
John Petty writes, “The apocalypse is not some future event, but a present one. Everyone lives in a situation of impending doom—apocalypse—all the time. … At one time or another, for every person on earth, everything that used to feel solid and sure will start to come apart. Paul Tillich called this "the shaking of the foundations." Jesus said to expect it: "For it will come upon all the ones dwelling on the face of all the earth."
Did you hear that? The apocalypse is not some future event….but a present one. I concur that everyone lives in a situation of impending doom – an apocalypse all the time.
Okay, it may not be as apocalyptic as zombies surrounding our community and taking over the world or some other horror movie situation. But we do all live our lives with situations that change our lives and bring in a sense of fear or foreboding, or a wonder as to what the future will be like and how we will live our lives in this constantly new and changing world.
I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the TV series that was on in the 90s. For those who don’t know Buffy was the chosen one, a high school sophomore sent to Sunnydale, California to fight off demons and vampires and all sorts of nasty creatures, but no one was to know that she was the slayer, least of all her mother.
Well, one night, she knows she needs to go out and fight the forces of evil to prevent an apocalypse, but her mother is worried about her grades and her behavior, so Buffy is grounded. Buffy says, mom, I need to go out! Her mom replies, no you don’t, it’s not the end of the world! (Little does her mom know that it actually could be the end of the world.)
So maybe we’re not Buffy and we don’t need to fight off evil to prevent an apocalypse, but we do need to get up every day and live in a world that is sometimes frightening and is constantly changing. And we do so walking in the light of Christ.
Each week in this season of Advent, the lights will get brighter and brighter as we light more candles on the Advent wreath.
Each week, we will listen to scripture about how hope Christ continues to carry us and hold us through the dark times that surround us.
Each week we are continually reminded that even though there will be signs of changes to come we are called to raise our heads up, to see Christ already in our midst and to prepare to celebrate his birth among us.
The texts that we hear during the season of Advent kind of remind me of a choose your own adventure book. Did any of you ever read one of those? You would read a story and as you got into it, you got to decide how the story went. If you want to enter the castle and fight the dragon, turn to page 52. If you would rather wait outside for back up, turn to page 45.
Advent seems to present us with texts that may challenge or frighten us and that gives us an opportunity to respond. As I talked about last week, we have the opportunity to respond out of love or out of fear.
When we respond out of love, the light of Christ in the world shines brighter and brighter.
Take a moment to watch this: Good Life Anthem
I know it’s a commercial, but given the fear and danger in the world, we are still called to live our lives. As we celebrate a baptism at the late service this weekend, we will hear the words, Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.
Living our lives….for good…is letting that light shine.
Living our lives…for good….is walking with others as they mourn and grieve.
Living our lives…for good….is listening to someone when they need to share how they are feeling.
Living our lives…for good…is seeing beyond our own needs and giving our time, our talents and our treasure in a way that benefits the community and world around us.
The world is a dangerous place.
But we will continue to live our lives each and every day, knowing that we walk in the light of Christ, and that light will shine into the darkness and light a path for all of God’s children.
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.