First Sunday Advent
"Jesus is coming, When?"
1 Corinthians 1
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,
5 that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge--
6 even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you--
7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ;
8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
24 ¶ "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 ¶ "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come.
34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
35 Watch therefore--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning--
36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
37 And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the coming Messiah. Amen
"In a ’Peanuts’ cartoon, Lucy announces,’ Boy do I feel crabby!’ Linus tries to help her feel better, and gives her his chair in front of the TV besides fixing her a sandwich, some chocolate cookies and milk.
As he gives the sandwich to her, he asks, ’Now, is there anything else I can get you? Is there anything I haven’t thought of?’
To which ~Lucy replies, ’ Yes, there’s one thing that you haven’t thought of and with a sound that bowls him over she yells, ’I DON’T WANNA FEEL BETTER!!!
A story from Mark Twain.
"Once Mark Twain called on a certain young lady in Hannibal, Missouri. He was late getting off work, and by the time he got to the livery stable to get. a horse and buggy the only animal that was left was a very old, bony, swayback, scraggy, bedraggled-looking horse. He arrived at the young lady’s home later than he had anticipated. She was furious because of the delay.
Although he was late, she made him wait 35 minutes.
When she finally appeared, she glanced out the window, saw the old horse and said,’Is that the best you could do?’
Mark Twain went to the window, gasped, and said, ’I can’t believe it! When I got here that was a spry, young colt!"
Those two stories tell us something about this new season of the church we are beginning today, the season of Advent. Advent is the season of hope, the season of waiting, the season of changing, of repentance, of turning one’s life around. It is the season of waiting, of anticipation for Jesus coming into our lives. It is the time of waiting for Christmas, and Jesus’ arrival on earth. During this season of Advent we recall Jesus’ first coming, we learn what it means to live in the present, in this in-between time; and we wait for Jesus’ second coming.
This morning we are briefly going to look at the period of the during the Advent season.
First we will recall Jesus’ first coming, the event that will be celebrating in a few short days, the Christmas event. For this season of Advent we wait, we live again the greatest event in the history of human kind, the event that God loved us so much that he decided to come to earth and be like us, we live again. We wait for the glorious birth in the manager, the birth of Jesus. That one event has changed the course of the history of the world, because in that event, God declared that you and I are worth something very special, we count, you and I are worth saving from the brokenness of sin death.
A pastor tells the following story:
"A few years ago, on the day before Christmas, . a woman was delivering large boxes of food, clothing and toys to the homes of the poverty-stricken sick in the blighted area of Chicago. She stood with her large boxes in the vestibule of a 20 story building, a high-rise slum.
As she was trying to figure out how she would find the apartment to where she was to deliver her box, she noticed a little black boy standing next to her staring at the food and the toys. "Gee," he gasped. ’Where you taking that to my house?’
"No,’ replied the woman, ’this is for Mary Smith.’
"Oh,’ replied the boy,’I know where she lives. She’s in my class.’
Quickly he led her to the elevator, and as they rode up together, he asked, ’How come Mary gets all this stuff?’
"Well’, Mary has been very sick.’
"I had measles last week, does that that make me count?’
’No, I’m afraid not.’
Dutifully, he led the ’woman down the hall to Mary’s house, said good-bye and left. But a moment later, his little black face reappeared around the corner, and he called out: ’Hey, nurse!!! If you decide that I count, remember that I live in 107.’"
We wait, we celebrate Christmas because in that event, God does declared that everyone counts no one is, left out of God’s salvation plan. No one. No matter what you have done, no matter what you haven’t done, no matter how you feel about yourself, no matter how you feel about others, no matter how others feel about you, God says you count. In all the brokenness, grief, suffering, pain, loneliness, hurt, despair, heartache of. the world, God declares in the Christmas event loud and clear that you and I count. We count not because we deserve it, nor because we have earned it, but God declares it so, God makes it so because of his great love for us. It is our worthiness before God that we celebrate during this season and the Christmas season. It is our special place in God’s heart that we cherish, we rejoice upon this time of year.
Then that brings us to the present time. Advent reminds us that we live in the in-between time. In-between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming into our lives. It is in this time that Jesus and Paul are speaking about in our lessons this morning. This is a time for making ready, to be on the watch. it is the time of dutifully fulfilling the responsibilities that Jesus had commanded us, to love god and love our neighbor. But as we have seen in the two stories at the beginning of this sermons, this a a difficult time, because first like Lucy we don’t want to change. We like staying the way we are.
We cry like Lucy ’I DON’T WANNA FEEL BETTER!!! or I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE MY LIFE, THAT’S TOO HARD
And we are like Mark Twain and his friend, we get tired of waiting. We want Jesus to come now, and as we become tired of waiting, we begin to think is it worth it, do I have to do what Jesus asks?
We have experienced God’s love in the Christmas even, but not all of it. In this in-between time, we wait for God to finish the work He began in the Christmas story. We wait. We wonder. We live as tiny light in a world of darkness, in a world of despair, in a world of sin and we wonder is keeping our light lite, is that really important?
William Willomon says in his book Between Two Advents "Paul is simply recognizing the Corinthians haven’t arrived yet, but they were on the way. They still made fools of themselves at times, but they knew who they were and whose they were. The church had been born, but it wasn’t finished. The kingdom had come, but it had not come."
He continues, "Wait, God is not finished with us. There is still more glory to be revealed, more surprises in store for us, more birthing to be done. We have not yet arrived. We are between the now and the not yet, stretched between what has happened and what is to come. It means that the changes are not yet finished. His world is not yet what He intended it to be. He still has some creating to do in the world and in you and me. He has come to us and He is forever coming to us, in spite of us, because of us, for us. He will not stop until our salvation is complete...to us who live in our own dark corner of the world and waver between thinking that we have seen as much as there is to see and thinking that we have not seen anything; who find out the hard way that even after the joy of Christmas, there is still to come Egypt to go through, and some cross to bear, still some waiting to do, still the need for hope...We who impatiently, groaningly, sometimes despairingly, sometimes hopefully, faithfully wait for his coming, for his continuing daily advent among us."
Yes, this in-between time is a time to make ready. It is a time to be on guard, a time to be about the work of the kingdom, knowing full well, we will fail, we will succeed, we will sin, we will be forgiven, knowing all the while that we are redeemed children of the Lord, redeemed by his action, his merit his mercy.
As Advent begins we are caught up in the present, caught up waiting for the future, caught up looking back to the first coming of Christ in the Christmas event.
This closing story sums up this mood of Advent :
"A mother is thinking to herself. ’Here it is the first Sunday of Advent and I still have kindergarten Indians and pilgrims plastered to the windows of my house. It couldn’t be time for the candles and the first whispered hope, already. But here I am out in the dark cutting a few evergreen sprigs for our Advent wreath.
But it doesn’t feel like a time for hope for me. Still another friend is dying of cancer. Another strong and beautiful body is wasting away. It is obscene; I could hardly bear to remember the faces anymore, the eyes big and glittering with pain.
I went into the house with these thoughts and my 8 year old daughter was caught up in the excitement, so I went upstairs to find the wooden manger. Why not put it out now instead of waiting until later?? So, I arranged the wise men and their camel around the table centerpiece and left the rest until later.
My daughter remarked how nice, the wise men are already starting on their long journey, but I thought they are searching. But they seem to be going in circles, as I have been for so long. Why, Lord, why does such evil and pain exist in such a beautiful world? Why does time whiz by so fast---no time to do what we really want to do.
We had dinner and then came the time for the Advent Wreath. My Betsy struggled through reading a passage from Jeremiah, the poem that followed proved beyond her as well. I hadn’t taken the time to write it in her own words. We decided to sing since the moments of learning were fast slipping by. We sang, "Angels we have heard on High" and "Away in a Manger". My youngest Mike knew those words so he sang out real well.
Then he asked a question about heaven, "Is this were we are going, where little Lord Jesus is leading us?"
"Yes, I said, and my shocked voice stopped in awe at the way revelation breaks upon us. "and that’s what the wise men and their camels are looking for, too."
And I thought that, that is what Sammie and Betty and Ernie and I are looking for, and I pray are finding in their agony of dying.
The children raced out to the other room to put the figurines around the simple creshe. With much laughing and fun the donkey, the shepherds were put into place. Then came the stricken cry, "Where’s baby Jesus? He’s not in the bag."
All 3 children got on their knees and looked through the tissue paper on the floor. There He was, the tiny wooden figure so small so easily hidden in the chaos, but without him the whole scene was empty, the celebration meaningless.
Betsy placed Him gently in the tiny wooden crib. Mike the youngest appeared with his own figurine, a figure of Santa.
"That doesn’t belong" yelled the other children.
"Yes, it does, said Mike, "because we found the little Lord Jesus and ( his face broke into a beautiful smile ) because Christmas is coming.
"Yes, Jesus is coming. Yes, on tip toe, pell mell and in spite of human pain and human clumsiness, in the most marvelous and unexpected way, Jesus is coming. Even so, come Lord Jesus."
Written by Pastor Tim Zingale November 21, 2005