Summary: A sermon for the first day of Advent, a church season that looks forward to the coming of Christ in Christmas and in the Resurrection. The next three Sundays are going to be following along the "what are you looking for?" theme and will all be taken from
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three In One who gives us true peace.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
So…I guess there’s supposed to be a tree there (pointing to the place where it traditionally stands) pretty soon. Some of you were probably looking for it this morning, maybe a few of you were a little disheartened that it wasn’t up already. It’ll go up on Wednesday…don’t worry.
And what about the readings? The Gospel of Matthew according to the TWENTY-FOURTH chapter?!? Are you kidding? Aren’t we supposed to be reading the early stuff? Like when Jesus was a baby? And Isaiah? Something about a mountain and beating swords into plows? Pastor Jay, you really are not good at Christmas services.
But it’s not Christmas. It’s Advent.
I have had a little trouble explaining to people what Advent is all about. Some of that has to do with the colors. Technically, we have a choice in Advent. We can go with blue, which we did, or we can go with purple. Do you remember the other church season with purple as its color? Yeah, lent. The forty days of trying to give up chocolate again. That’s right, Advent is a penitential season, the second cousin of Lent.
But it’s not Lent either. It’s Advent.
In Lent we focus on Christ’s suffering. His agony and His death. In Advent, we focus on something else. We focus on His coming. We actually focus on two sorts of coming in Advent, we focus on Christ’s coming metaphorically as we prepare for Christmas, and we also focus on Christ’s last “coming,” His second coming. We prepare our hearts for that day as well, when we see Him come on clouds in glory.
So it is all too appropriate to ask, “What are you looking for?”
In our Old Testament text for this morning, Isaiah is struck by an image that God gives him. It is as if God says to him, look Isaiah, this is what it will look like. People will say of the mountain of the Lord, “let us go up,” and “let us walk in the paths of the Lord.” He says that there will be peace. That people will beat swords into plows and spears into pruning hooks. He says people will no longer train for war.
And we come to this Advent season, looking at Isaiah’s passage and we seem to be missing it. It’s like the Christmas tree. It’s just not there yet. No matter how hard we try to squint and imagine, it’s not.
Isaiah says that people will not train for war anymore, but that they will instead train for peace.
While I was trying to figure out my life, bouncing around from major to major and seeking out vocation after vocation, one of the places that I ended up was the local recruiting station…actually, the recruiting stations for all of the branches of the military.
One thing that struck me about all of their sales pitches about the military was that it trained you to act on response. One Navy recruiter told me that after going through basic training, that there were things I wouldn’t even have to think about anymore, I would just go and do them almost as if it was programmed into my instinct.
A missionary to Japan told a story of when he was riding a train one late night across town. Everyone was being fairly dignified, but then a drunk man came on board. His face was red and he was looking for a fight. He was catcalling women and trying to provoke men to fight him. Nobody responded except for an old man, who began to laugh.
“What’s so funny, old man?” the drunk man responded. The old man shook his head and said, “Oh, nothing. You see, I remember a time when I was about as drunk as you, I went home to my garden, tripped and fell into one of my bushes where I spent the night. It was very funny.”
He continued then, “Tell me, why did you get drunk tonight? The night that I did that, my wife had died in the hospital.” Soon, the drunk man and the older gentleman were having a conversation which led the drunk man to sobbing on the old man’s shoulder.
The two of them got up and left the train together. It was only then that one of the passengers leaned over to the missionary and said, “You know, I didn’t recognize him before, but that was one of the greatest Aikido fighters in our country. He could have probably knocked him out very easily.” The missionary responded, a little confused, “Well of course, the old man probably couldn’t take a hit very well.” The passenger responded, “no, I am talking about the old man.”