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    Dec 01, 2019

    The 1st Sunday of Advent

    Passage: Matthew 24:36-44

    Preacher: The Rev. Nathan M. Finnin

    Series: Year C: 2019-2020

    Category: Advent

    Detail:

    Happy Advent.

    If you are looking for something that will fill you full of gratitude this Thanksgiving weekend,

    or something that will lift your spirits as we approach Christmas,

    today’s lectionary is not for you!

     

    Every year, the Gospels for the first Sunday of Advent,

    is apocalyptic in nature,

    meaning... it is a story about the end times.

    And it actually makes sense.

    The word "Advent"

    comes from the Latin "Adventus,"

    meaning "coming." 

     

    Originally, Advent was a lot like Lent.

    It was a season of preparation.

    A season of repentance.

    A season of introspection.

    Early Christians would fast, as a way of focusing and reorienting themselves.

     

    It's a season the Church has used

    to focus not only on the forthcoming Incarnation of God in Christ,

    but it is also a time, when 'warnings,’

    when apocalyptic reminders

    are ushered through Scripture that give us a chance to –

    to recalibrate.[1]

     

    The Lesson for Matthew this morning is about the return of Jesus. 

    It is about that 'second coming' of Christ

    to bring final judgment on humaniTY

    and to usher in the final revelation of the Kingdom of God. 

     

    But what are we to make of these kinds of predictions? 

     

     

     

    The Rev. Dr. Russell Levinson writes:

    The Second Coming of Christ is a central theme

    that runs throughout our Judeo-Christian story. 

     

    The Old Testament prophets,

    the Gospels,

    the Epistles,

    and certainly the Books of Daniel and Revelation,

    have all pointed to a kind of cataclysmic day

    when the world as we know it will pass away

    and the perfect and completed Kingdom of God will be ushered in.[2]

     

    My guess is that if you were to visit migrant detention centers –

    if you were to visit cities overrun by crime and poverty,

    if you were to visit other countries with authoritarian regimes,

    if you were to visit sites of protest

    or even some of our own communities in Greensboro–

    if you were to watch any number of one sided news channels from either side

    or read the banter on social media,

    Or believe the scientific community’s consensus on climate change

    many people would say that the world as we know it,

    seems to be coming to an end. 

     

    But our Gospel reading this morning is clear about predicting such apocalyptic events:

    “abut that day or hour no one knows,

    neither the angels in heaven,

    nor the Son, but only the Father."

     

    So, what then,

    is the purpose of Jesus telling His followers about this "last day?" 

    “Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

    and then one last time:

    Therefore you must be ready, for the son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

     

    Jesus' words

    Were not designed to prompt one so much to fear

    as it was to prompt people to action.

     

    Jesus words are not meant to say the game is "over,"

    it announces now is the time to really play! 

     

    Levinson argues,

    correctly, I believe, that what Jesus tries to prod us to do here,

    is fulfill the primary duty of the servant...

    to care for the house in such a way,

    that if the Master were to return today - or a thousand years from now –

    he would be pleased to find the good stewardship of the servants lived out.

     

    So the question that leaves us with,

    is what does that call on you and me to do? 

     

    Well, if it is true that this world and our lives are gifts from God,

    entrusted to us,

    then simply put, it matters deeply to God that we trust in Him and obey Him;

    that we proclaim Him in thought word and deed. 

     

    It matters that we take seriously the call to follow Jesus’ teaching –

    It matters how we treat this world of ours,

    because God calls us to care for His creation. 

     

    And it matters - matters deeply,

    how we treat one another –

    It matters deeply how we live with our families, spouses, children, friends;

    It matters deeply how we care for our neighbors and coworkers;

    and it matters deeply how we treat strangers, the hungry, the homeless and the lonely.

     

    These reminders, or warnings, or prophecies we find throughout Scripture

    tell us that these things matter very much to God. 

     

    This means that we should live in what some have called a 'heavenly way.' 

     

    C.S. Lewis once said,

    "Aim at heaven, and you get earth thrown in,

    aim at earth and in the end, you get nothing." 

     

    Levinson says

    When we aim only "at earth,"

    when all I am,

    is wrapped up in myself, my world, my issues and my needs,

    I've lost the meaning of Christ's call. 

     

    But when we aim at heaven,

    life here takes on an entirely different meaning. 

    We begin to see ourselves as servants of God –

    preparing for His return.[3]

     

    We live in an awareness,

    perhaps even a constant awareness,

    that each minute is an invitation and opportunity,

    an opportunity to receive, and to give..

    an invitation to live in a way that says I believe in more than what I see,

    I believe there is something bigger,

    something better..

    something more powerful than any darkness,

    Something more powerful than any fear,

    Something more powerful than any doubt we humans can experience or create. 

     

    And that someone is Jesus,

    In our Eucharistic prayer we proclaim

    we remember his death,

    we proclaim his resurrection,

    we await his coming in glory.

     

    And Jesus' teaching on this point

    Seems to be much more concerned with how we live

    than when this will happen, or what it will look like.

     

    Levinson, the author whose writing I’ve been quoting has a line I love:

    “I feel certain that the Second Coming of Christ

    is not designed as a way of jerking the carpet

    out from under inconsistent and imperfect Christians. 

     

    How many of you have had the dream of showing up to work or school without pants?

    Or finding out you have an exam for a class you didn’t know you were enrolled in?

    The lie in those dreams isn’t that we feel naked and ashamed...we often do.

    The lie isn’t that we haven’t studied...we often don’t.

     

    The lie is that we should feel shame.

    The lie is that there is a test.

    That’s grace.

    In Christ there is not shame,

    there is no test.

     

    Our gospel this morning holds before us,

    a reminder of who we are called to be

    and how we are to live in relationship with God and one another. 

     

     

    Go outside.

    Go online.

    Watch the news.

    Listen to the radio.

     

    Things are not good.

    And it often feels that there is a bigger need

    to tend to God's world and family,

    that there is greater urgency to do kingdom work,

    that there is a hunger and thirst for love and community.” (Paraphrase of Levinson's argument)

     

    And all of that is true.

    We need to tend to God’s family.

    We need to do Kingdom work.

    We need to show and spread God’s love.

    But we don’t have to do that alone.

    In fact, we can’t.

     

    We use advent to try to make Christmas happen...

     

    All Christ asks of us is that we let Him come –

    That we let "Advent" happen.

     

    And in doing so, he reminds us,

    we are empowered to live with our God,

    we are empowered to live in our world,

    we are empowered to live with our fellow humans

    and we are empowered to live in a way that will not cause us to be afraid ,

    or worried, or even surprised,

    at the Son of Man's return - but overjoyed. (Ibid).

     

    We just have to let it happen.

     

    The Good News of Advent,

    is that God is searching for us.

     

    It is not a story of a God

    waiting to see if we human beings

    will finally figure it out.

     

    Rather, the story of Advent is that God comes to us.

    And better yet,

    that God has already found us.

     

    That is the gift that has already been given,

    the gift of Emmanuel.

    the gift of “God with us.

     

    Advent reminds us that there is never a time when Christ is not with us,

    yesterday and today and tomorrow.

     

    Joseph Pagano writes:

    At its deepest level,

    Advent is an invitation for us to give up our searching,

    and to let ourselves be found

    by the God who came among us as child.

    By the God who comes into our hearts,

    By the God who will meet us in every future.

    In the search, in the finding, in the daily living of our lives,

    we have already been found and loved

    by the God who is with us always, even to the end of the ages.[4]

     

    The season of Advent begins today.

    It is a season of hope.

    But it is also a season that invites change.

    A season that invites us to examine the places in our lives where are not prepared.

    The places in our lives that would turn away the holy family,

    claiming there is no room here.

    So Stay alert!

    Keep awake!

    And in the words of our Gospel this morning,

    "Be ready."

    Be ready to find new spaces of love, and grace, and hope,

    and be ready to be found, once more. Amen.

     

     

     

     

    [1] https://www.saintstan.org/reflection.html

    [2] https://day1.org/3358-twominute_warning/comments

    [3] ibid.

    [4] https://episcopalchurch.org/fr/node/181790