Summary: A sermon for the first Sunday in Advent, Series A
1st Sunday in Advent December 2, 2007 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that you have chosen to reveal yourself to us in many ways, especially in the person of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your word, that we might trust in your promise of redemption, and look forward to the future with hope. Wake us to your presence, and enable us to live our lives reflecting your grace to those around us. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Today we begin a new church year, as we celebrate the first Sunday in the season of Advent. This year, our lessons will follow “Series A” of the three year Common Lectionary, which features the Gospel of Matthew. But Advent is more than just a time to begin a new series of lessons, as we begin to proclaim the Gospel anew. And Advent is certainly more than a time of countdown to Christmas.
This first season of the Church year is a time to help us realize that we are a part of this story that we are about to proclaim throughout the coming year. Thus, our lessons have been chosen for this season, to not only help us look back in history and recall how God was faithful to his promise of redemption years ago. Our lessons also proclaim a promise of a future yet to be realized, for those who have faith and have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. As a result, we are, in the present, a part of this ongoing revelation of God’s redeeming grace. Perhaps the simplest way to describe Advent is to say that it is a season that affirms the revelation of God in Jesus the Christ in all three tenses – past, future and present.
So lets begin by considering the past tense. Throughout the pages of the Old Testament, there are numerous records of how God chose to redeem his people – culminating in his promise of a Messiah. This is really where the Gospel story begins. God is true to his promise of redemption, and as Christians, we celebrate the fact that in the actual, historical person of Jesus the Christ, God fulfilled his promise. Jesus was truly the Son of God, his Word become flesh, and through his death and resurrection, he redeemed us from sin and death. It happened in the past. It has already been accomplished.
But since we are a part of God’s ongoing work of redemption, Advent calls on us to look back at our past, and recognize that through what God has already accomplished, we have the opportunity for our sins to be forgiven. Through the process of repentance, whatever sins we have committed before this moment in time, God, in Christ, has forgiven. It happened in the past. It has already been accomplished, even though we might experience it anew in present moment of our life.
Now, lets consider the future tense of our Advent message. Clearly our Gospel lesson for this morning focuses our attention forward in time.
Here, Jesus shares with his closest disciples that there will be a time in the future when God will act to establish a new heaven and a new earth in which his judgement will prevail, and his people of faith will enjoy the presence of Christ for eternity. But what do these words of Jesus, as Matthew records them, mean?
According to sections of the New Testament and early Christian writings, the Church in the first century expected the return of Christ to happen in their lifetime. But as years and decades past, the people of faith who knew Jesus began to die, which many Biblical scholars assert, inspired the writing of the Gospels. As a result, the mood of the early church changed from one of immediate expectation of our risen Lord’s return, to one of patient expectation. Thus, since Matthew’s Gospel was written some sixty years after Christ’s ascension, the emphasis of our text falls on the words, “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Thus, we are encouraged to patiently await the future that God has promised those who have faith in Christ, which brings up a couple of comments that I would like to make about this text. This past week I spent at my camp, hunting and spending time with relatives and friends. I always go to camp on Friday, because quite often some of these persons come on Friday evening. I spend some time cleaning the camp, and getting things ready for their arrival, and then sit back and wait with expectation for their arrival.