Summary: If on Advent Sunday all we do is to look back to Christ's earthly life and forward to his coming again, our present life seems to occupy a sort of interval when nothing much is going on.
TITLE: THE ABSURDITY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 40:3-5
I so enjoy this time of the year in the Christian Calendar. Even after 35 years of Preaching and Pastoring, this season never grows old or tiresome as I stand in the pulpit. This is the First Sunday in Advent.
• In the media the season is called `the run-up to Christmas'
• Even in the Church we rarely give much thought to Advent
• I am convinced most Churches across the land will give it no thought at all
• But if we do think about it, it seems to play strange tricks with time
We all know it as the season when we look forward to the birth celebration of Jesus.
• It heralds the approach to Christmas
• But, as is clear from our Advent hymns, we also look forward to the Second Coming of Christ
• So we sing `O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
• But we also sing `Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending'
When we talk of `looking forward to the birth of Jesus,' we know this is only a manner of speaking. The birth of Jesus took place some two thousand years ago, and what we now look forward to is Christmas, our annual celebration of that event – it is the Greatest Announcement the World has have heard. When, however, we look forward to the second coming we are in our own present time gazing to an unknown future.
• We don’t know the time or the Season of His Return
• It may be Morning – Noon - Night
So at Advent –
• We look back to the birth of Christ and His ministry on earth
• We look forward to our yearly celebration of His birth at Christmas
• And we look still further forward to His coming again
• When He will judge the living and the dead
But to put it just like that and leave it there is to forget that emphatic now. If on Advent Sunday all we do is to look back to Christ's earthly life and forward to his coming again, our present life seems to occupy a sort of interval when nothing much is going on.
• Something decisive happened in history
• Something decisive will happen beyond history
• But nothing decisive happens now
• That is what is believed to be ‘THE ABSURDITY OF ADVENT’
Christ came to visit us two thousand (2,000) years ago and, we believe, will come again, although we cannot picture what that will be like---or rather we can picture it as Charles Wesley does in his marvelous hymn `LO! HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING', but we know, as Wesley surely knew, that the reality of it will far transcend our picture of it. But meanwhile we are, it seems, left with nothing but remembrance and anticipation, as if in the long interval between the two, Christ was altogether absent.
Advent is the time to soberly and joyfully prepare once again to receive God's gift of Christmas.
• Advent is the time to remember the ancient promises to ABRAHAM – DAVID - and the PROPHETS
• Advent is the time to ready our hearts to celebrate once again the joy of God's Incarnation
God's Christmas gift of Jesus is only the beginning of the story. To be sure, it's a glorious beginning -- a beginning filled with angelic choirs -- brilliant stars heralding Jesus' birth.
• Still, it is only the beginning of the narrative that continues through the ages
• The end of the narrative, the climax, is still to come
• And waiting for the end makes waiting for the replay of the beginning so much richer!
So, on this first Sunday of Advent we pray with Isaiah for God to rend the heavens so that nations might tremble before His presence and all flesh might recognize the authoritative presence of our maker.
• Surely Christmas is a break in the clouds that conceal the majesty of God from us
• But it is only a break
• The heavens still await the time of God's final Rending
• The heavens still await the time of God's final Disclosure
If we look only to Christmas as the answer to Isaiah's cry, we will fail to hear God's full response to the ancient prophet. There's more to come! Jesus reminds us of the "more to come" in the ST. MARK 13 passage when He encourages us to keep watching and waiting for the return of the Master who has gone away only for a time.
• There is still more to come between the Birth and the Second Coming
• There is still more to come between the Looking Back and the Looking Forward
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul draws the other two passages together. He thanks God for the rich faith of the Corinthian Christians—a faith made possible by Christ's first opening of the heavens, but also a faith that looks for the full revelation of God, the day when the barriers between heaven and earth will be fully and finally rent asunder.