Summary: A sermon for the 1st Sunday in Advent.
“Advent is Not about Waiting to Open Presents on Christmas”
By: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN www.gracumcsd.org
Our Old Testament Lesson for this morning is a lament from the community that raises the question of whether their waiting for God will ever end.
It’s actually part of a bigger lament that starts in Chapter 63:7 and ends at 64:12.
The people of Israel are disillusioned and they feel as if God has been absent from them for a long time.
In Chapter 63:11 the people ask God: “Where are you?
In 63:15 they lament: “Where is your salvation?”
In 63:17 they blame God for their wandering ways and hardened hearts.
And in Chapter 64:12 the people basically ask God: “Will you continue to keep silent and are we the people even salvageable?”
I would submit that these are the kinds of questions that people ask God or ask about God every day—to this day.
This passage of Scripture was written during some very dark days of the soul.
Most likely, it was while the people were in Babylonian exile.
They remembered how God was with them when they escaped Egypt.
They were kind of looking at the past through “rose-colored glasses.”
Verse 11 of Chapter 63 begins, “Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people—where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock?
Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown, who led them through the depths?”
And in 63:15 they beg and wonder: “Look down from heaven and see from your lofty throne, holy and glorious.
Where are your zeal and might?
Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us.”
These questions explore the dark side of life…the people are waiting for salvation, but they are faltering in their faith.
They are aware that they are wandering from God’s ways.
They beg God to appear to them and yet they ask: “O Lord, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?”
O, the guilt they must have felt!
O, the doom.
O, the gloom.
How many of you have ever felt like you were all alone in this life; how many have felt as if God had decided to leave you to your sins and punish you forever?
How many of you have felt as if, “It’s too late for me.”?
“God couldn’t possibly forgive me.”
“After all I’ve done, God couldn’t possibly forgive me.”
“God couldn’t possibly save me.”
God will never appear to me…
…my life will be an everlasting wait—in the darkness of the pain and the present loneliness of this life.”
I remember, when I was in college, I had a terribly painful period of time where I felt as if I had abandoned God, and therefore God had abandoned me forever.
I was depressed.
I was in the valley of doom and gloom.
As I walked across campus one day, focusing on my despair, I happened into the campus record store.
And through the speakers on the wall I heard Billy Joel singing: “I love you just the way you are.”