Summary: A Sermon for Advent 1-C that calls us to be ready for the coming of Christ and not to be weighed down with the worries of this life.
“Away in Some Manger”
Sermon on Luke 21:25-36
December 3, 2006
Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.” -Luke 21:34
In this age of technology, a new medium for theological discussion has emerged. No…it’s not the internet. You’ve probably taken part in this new theological forum and not even realized it. Have you ever been minding your own business, driving down the road, when you see the bumper sticker on the car in front of you spouting some great theological message? I am particularly fond of the religious bumper stickers. I saw one the other day that said “Eve was framed!”
I frequently see bumper stickers aimed at the discussion on creationism vs. evolution. One I saw not too long ago said, “I believe in the Big Bang Theory…God said it, and Bang, it happened.” The Christian fish symbols on cars are not excluded from this new forum of debate either. Not long after it became fashionable to place an emblem of one’s faith on their car, those who decry creationism and view Darwin as their champion made another, very witty symbol. It was a fish, but the fish had legs and instead of the word Jesus or ICHTHUS being inside the fish it had the name DARWIN. I saw a license plate holder even that continued this theological car emblem argument. It had one of these Darwin fish with legs on it, but the fish was lying on its back, legs up as if it was dead and the caption beneath it read, “Survival of the forgiven.”
Well, the creationism/evolution debate as it pertains to automobiles is entertaining, but the best theological bumper stickers are those dealing with the return of Christ. The most popular of those is probably the one that says, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” Most of you have seen the car that I drive and you know that my grandmother gave it to me after she wore it out and wrecked it. So, I suppose it is only fitting that my absolute favorite bumper sticker dealing with Christ’s return reads, “Come the rapture, can I have your car?”
The return of Christ. The second coming. Apocalypticism. The End Times. These are just the words that come to mind during this time of the Christmas season, aren’t they? No? Brood of vipers. Chaff thrown into a raging fire. These are the images that come to mind just before Christmas, right? No? Well, welcome to Advent.
You might think that the images of Christ’s return and the images of the Christmas story have nothing in common and are even out of place during this time of the year. But think about it for a second. The two ideas share a very common theme…the advent of Christ into our world. The first advent, or “coming” as the word means, was about Christ’s birth and his coming to the earth. The second advent, is about Christ coming to the earth also to give his people and kingdom a new birth. It makes all kinds of sense that we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ in both ways. Life’s not all Christmas carols and frankincense! This time of year for us as Christians is not just about getting all the gifts bought for our friends and family. It’s about getting ready for the coming of Christ.
In one of the biggest movies of the year, Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell who plays the race car driver Ricky Bobby is at the table getting ready to eat. And when he asks the blessing, he prays to “the baby Jesus.” But in the middle of his prayer in which he returns thanks for the bountiful harvest from dominoes pizza and taco bell, his wife interrupts him and tells him how she doesn’t like the fact that he always prays to the baby Jesus. She says, “Jesus did grow up, you know? You don’t always have to call him baby!” To which Ricky Bobby responds, “I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m the one saying grace. When you say grace you can pray to grownup Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus or whichever Jesus you like.”
I think we all like the Christmas Jesus best. I mean, who among us doesn’t prefer the tiny infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying away in some manger to the Jesus that comes near us riding on the clouds ushering in his kingdom, coming upon the world like a trap?
The story from Luke’s gospel this morning is not a story of Christmas Jesus. It is a story of Advent Jesus. It is a story full of troubling and even confusing imagery. There are no cute little fuzzy sheep or shepherds watching their flocks by night in this lesson from Luke. Christmas trees are replaced by fig trees getting ready for the upcoming harvest. The forecast for a white Christmas is replaced by roaring waves and ominous signs in the sky. The eager anticipation that comes on Christmas morning before we open our presents is replaced by fear and foreboding and fainting.