God Works for those who wait for Him

Lord, we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on these things, open our hearts and our minds to hear you. Amen As I mentioned in my very first sermon, I attended a Catholic Convent school from kindergarten through high school. The nuns impressed upon us the importance of a speaker capturing the attention of the audience immediately, at the delivery of a message. One way of doing this is to provide a brief historical content of your message. Bring everyone to the same level of understanding. Do not assume what people know or don’t know. Liberian people would say we are “lecturing.” So, let’s lecture a bit before I get to my message. Look at the top front cover of your service bulletin – It reads ” The First Sunday of Advent.” Okay, what does Advent mean and how does it fit into our liturgy? Well, a brief explanation: The word “Advent” comes from Latin, which means “coming” or “visit.” Advent represents the coming of Jesus into the world. This is the time of watching, waiting, preparing, keeping alert, and praying. Advent is also the beginning of the Christian year. Today begins Year B of the three-year cycle, A, B, & C. Advent lasts for about four weeks. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Also, notice that there is an Advent Crown; a form of four candles on the outside and one big one on the inside of a wreath of greenery. The candles are lit incrementally on each Sunday to the countdown to Christmas Eve. The large candle will be lit on Christmas Day to represent Jesus Christ. Remember what I have explained. There will be a test after the service, Hello!! Now that I have given you a brief synopsis of Advent. Now let’s get on with my message. My sermon focuses on today’s Gospel, and it is titled “God Works for those who wait for Him” (Is 64:4) Advent calls us to meditate on the three “comings” of Christ: His birth in Bethlehem, His second coming at the end of time, and His coming into our lives today. One of the blessings of Advent is that it counteracts the hype of the commercial Christmas madness, inviting us to a deeper and more fruitful spiritual renewal. Look around you, do you see any Christmas decorations or colored lights around here? NO!! Not until Christmas Eve. While the rest of the world is busy hanging the greens, we Episcopalians, of the Early Western Church “deck the halls” with purple and blue Advent Candles. We may seem out of step as usual, unable, or perhaps unwilling, to catch the spirit of the holidays. That is far from the truth. While the commercial world wants brightly colored lights and jingle bells, we get out our 1982 Hymnal and sing about how lost we are and seeking forgiveness. Removed from all the jingle bells, Advent begins not on a note of joy but with a searching inventory of our deep uneasiness and aching need. We dare not rush to Bethlehem and kneel at the manger, singing We three Kings or Silent Night until we spend some time here, in a purple-hung church, admitting that we do, in fact, need redemption. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that the season of Advent denies the celebration of Christmas. Instead the true meaning of Advent wants us to be awake, prepared, and watching for the coming of our Lord into our lives, and to embrace Jesus’ words “In those days, after that suffering, 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”. Wow, what is Jesus talking about? We should be preparing to shop and wrap gifts, and He’s telling us about darkness! But wait a minute, aha!! Jesus is telling us that Advent is about the realities of our own lives, the highs, and the lows. The catastrophic and gut-wrenching events expected or unexpected that happened in our lives resulting in drastic change. It could be the loss of a child, parent, sister, brother, or any love one, or It could be divorce, loss of employment, terminal illness, etc., When these things happened, our world is turned upside down. We are flipped. Life is never the same. These are the Advents of our lives; the “those days” when there seems to be only the change from light to darkness. During these dark moments, because we want to escape that deep pain, we start thinking of all kinds of ways to lessen our suffering, even sometimes blaming ourselves for something we had no control of. Oh, if only it were yesterday, or if I had been there to prevent this from happening. We want to fix it, bring it back to where it was before. The Jesus of Advent does not allow that. We can never go back to the way it was before the darkness came. Jesus does not undo our life. Jesus redeems our life. Advent is not so much about the losses as it is about the hope and coming of what will be – the coming of Jesus the Christ, The Son of God. Be prepared! Be awake! The presence of Christ is the ultimate answer to every prayer, to every loss, to every Advent of our life. Advent reminds us that we do not know everything. We do not know all the possibilities. We can neither predict nor control anything. We are not in charge. Advent challenges us to let go of our know-it-all attitude, and questions our tunnel vision. Advent invites us to receive Christ who comes to us in the darkness of life. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the fig tree. “When its branch becomes tender and it puts forth leaves you know summer is near.” So also, when the darkness overtakes our life know that the Jesus is near. During the dark and messy parts of our life, the presence, healing, and salvation of our Lord are always taking place. We have not and never will be abandoned to the darkness. I’m sure you have read the beautiful poem called “Footprints.” Although the author is unknown, it appears to me that the author must have been in an Advent state of mind while penning that piece of literature. Jesus commands us to “Keep awake.”. Do not allow the darkness to deceive us into believing there is nothing worth waiting or watching for. Let the light shine not only around us but within us, a light that can never be extinguished. Share your Advent story; a story of change, a story of loss, a story of love, a story of darkness, and a story of light. Then slow down. Make room in your life for Jesus. Be quiet! Listen! Wait! Watch! Pray! Its Advent! Why? Because God “works for those who wait for him” (Is. 64:4). Enid Cole Sunday, December 3, 2017 First Sunday of Advent