1st Sun. in Advent
"Between two Comings !!"
A time of celebration is at hand. Yes, a time of celebration is at hand, a new year begins today!! But wait you say, Pastor, this isn’t January 1st, it is November 25th. Ah, true it is, but just the same, a new year begins today. The new church year begins today. Today begins the 1st Sun. in Advent and the season of Advent begins the church year. You will notice something else new this morning, new paraments on the altar, pulpit and lectern. They are blue in color, because BLUE is the color of Advent. Blue is the color of HOPE and Advent is the season of HOPE, WAITING, ANTICIPATION and LONGING.
We HOPE, WAIT, ANTICIPATE, and LONG for the coming of the Messiah, the righteous one of God. Our gospel lesson is a parable told by Jesus which shows very clearly the WAITING, HOPING, LONGING and ANTICIPATION of this season.
Jesus begins with a statement of HOPING, WAITING, WATCHING, LONGING and ANTICIPATION, He says: "Take heed, watch, for you do not know when the time will come." He tells us to be watchful, He tells us to be waiting, He tells us to be hopeful, He tells us to be anticipating His return. Then He proceeds to tell the disciples a parable about HOPING, WAITING, WATCHING, LONGING and ANTICIPATION.
This is a short parable, but one which is filled with many truths. This is an allegorical parable meaning each part means something. Follow along with your insert. The man is Jesus and His journey is the ascension, His servants are the church, you and I who are members of the body of Christ and He commands the doorkeeper to be on watch. The doorkeeper is a difficult term, but it could mean those who are in charge have a responsibility to keep the house in order until the master returns.
Then He gives this warning: "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--lest he come suddenly and find you asleep."
Sleep is a symbolic word for a state of unpreparedness. It means one is indifferent and unconcerned. This parable was preached to the disciples before Jesus ascended into heaven as a warning of His return and description of the work of His church while they await His coming.
Notice in these words a fore-shadowing of coming events in the Passion of Jesus.
Pastor Thomas Long in his book Shepherds and Bathrobes says on page 13: "The master could come "in the evening," and in the very next chapter, Mark tells us that "when it was evening" Jesus ate his last meal with the disciples, and tells them, "one of you will betray me." Or the master could come "at midnight," and Mark records that, later that night, the disciples went with Jesus to Gethsemane. While Jesus prayed his cry of anguish, the disciples, no doubt weary of waiting, slept. "Could you not watch one hour?" Jesus said to them. Perhaps the master will come "at cockcrow," and Peter turned to the accusing maid with a curse and a denial, "I do not know this man." The cock crowed. Maybe the coming of the master will be "in the morning," and "as soon as it was morning," Jesus was bound and led away to his trail and to his death."
Maybe Jesus was warning the disciples His coming was not so far in the future, but it would be in the next days. His coming as the Messiah would be revealed for all to see, and they flat out missed it.
What about us?? Is our vision better than those of the disciples??? How do we see and read scripture concerning His return? The message of His return is found throughout the New Testament as it says : In Acts 1:11, "This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven shall return in like manner."
In John 14: 3, Jesus says: "I go to prepare a place for you, and when I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and take you to myself that where I am you may be also."
He is coming again in that we can be sure, but when that is remains a mystery for in Matthew 24:44 He says: "Always be ready because I am coming at an hour you do not expect." or in Matthew 24:36 He says: "Of that hour and that day no one knows, only the Father in heaven."
Jesus is coming again, and what about our vision?? Are we waiting for His coming only at the end of time or at the end of our time?? Or, do we sense He comes now, in many surprising ways?? He comes as a Babe born in a manger again this year as we relive that experience. He comes as a peasant carpenter as throughout the new church year as we relive Jesus’ life. He comes as gifts the wise men brought at Epiphany as He comes when we give gifts of kindness, love and compassion. He comes on a cross as we during Lent relive His passion. He comes in an empty tomb as we relive His resurrection during Easter. He comes as we see tongues as of fire on the head of the disciples during Pentecost. He comes in bread and wine as He prepares a table for us today. He comes in word as we throughout this church year hear his word from Mark. He comes through His church, through us as we become "little Christs" one to another. He comes in many mysterious and wondrous ways, as He comes and comes and comes.
He comes and what about your vision?? Do you see Him, are you ready for Him to come into your life?? I think we have lost something of the urgency of His coming into our lives. We have lived so long with the promise and hope of His coming that it really has become meaningless for us. But is it meaningless?? I think not.. Though He has not come in His second coming, we have seen He continues to come and come into our lives. He comes because though we belong to His kingdom now, we haven’t fully arrived. We are on a path of becoming, growing all the time. Paul understood the paradox of Christian living, being in the kingdom, but not having fully arrived when he says: "as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,". Christ is reveled, but not fully.
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."
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."