2 Advent Yr B

Last week, the first week of Advent we heard stay awake! Stay awake, something amazing is about to happen, stay awake, you don’t want to miss it, you don’t want to be so busy doing paying attention to something else that it passes you by. Stay awake!

Our collection of readings this second week of advent shows us how to tell time. One of my favorite stories to tell in Sunday school is the story about how the church tells time. The church tells time differently than the way our culture tells time. I’m reminded of a very old song by Chicago, the lyrics are, “As I was walking down the street one day, A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, And I said, Does anybody really know what time it is, Does anybody really care, If so I can’t imagine why, We’ve all got time enough to cry.” And then, “I was walking down the street one day, Being pushed and shoved by people trying to beat the clock, And I said, People runnin everywhere, Don’t know where to go, Don’t know where I am, Can’t see past the next step, Don’t have time to think past the last mile, Have no time to look around, Just run around, run around and think why.”

When we tell time the church’s way our year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, and our year begins in quiet waiting rather than loud revelry. Telling time the church’s way causes us to stay awake and to prepare for this amazing thing that God does in Jesus Christ. Telling time the church’s way causes us to take time to be present to ourselves, to one another, and to God. Telling time the church’s way helps us to live fully alive, fully engaged, and not to run around in circles, always wondering why we are alone, always wondering why we never get anywhere.

In Isaiah we hear that all of creation is getting ready, even the wilderness prepares the way of the Lord, every valley is lifted up, every mountain and hill are made low, everything is being rearranged for the day when it can be shouted, Here is your God! And in second Peter, one day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day. Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?

Advent not only marks the beginning of time, it also marks the beginning of the end of time. We begin the year again, we wait patiently for and prepare for birth, the coming of God into our world, and at the very same time, we wait patiently for and prepare for our Lord coming into our world again, the fulfillment of all things, as God promises. Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?

John the baptizer knows something about time. In fact I think he really does know what time it is, and he really does care what time it is. John knows that to live fully in the present, it’s time to repent; it’s time to be forgiven. It’s time to be prepared for the One who is to come. All creation is getting ready; it’s time for us to be ready. How are we to be fully present to God who is with us, and how are we to get ready for the One who is to come?

I’m not sure that the season our culture experiences as Christmas has much to do with repentance and forgiveness. I’m not sure that the season our culture experiences as Christmas has much to do with being fully present to God in our midst. I’m not sure that the season our culture experiences as Christmas has much to do with being ready for the One who is to come at all. But if it really is time for repentance and forgiveness, we’d better get around to it. Repentance and forgiveness are about turning away from that which keeps us from a relationship with God and with others. lf it is time for repentance and forgiveness, as John the baptizer says it is, what is it that we need to turn away from? Where is it that we miss the mark? Not only individually, but collectively. How do we even know where the mark is? I think we can find the mark in our baptismal covenant. Seeing as this story from Mark is a story of baptism, maybe it is good to look at our baptismal promises as the mark.

As we live fully present to God in our midst and as we prepare for the One who is to come, we may measure ourselves against this: we are to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers; we are to persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord; we are to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; we are to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves; we are to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

This is the mark to which we point ourselves. And when we miss the mark, when we fall short, we repent and ask for forgiveness, and we try again. Does anybody really know what time it is? According to John the Baptist, it is time to repent and seek forgiveness.

As we live fully present to God in our midst and as we prepare for the One who is to come, like Mary and Elizabeth, like the Shepherds, we may also look for those signs that show us the way, those signs that tell us that this is Advent, the time of preparation for Immanuel, God with us. God signs. What are the things, the people, the circumstances that call us to be fully present to God with us, fully alive as the new creations we are. What wakes us up and causes us to say, hummm, that was a God sign. There are God signs all around us, signs of God with us, signs that may even cause us to see how we miss the mark, signs that help us to know what time it is, signs that show us that Love wins.

I encourage you to spend some time this advent being fully present to God with us, I encourage you to spend this new year fully awake and aware of God with us. I encourage you to share with one another the God signs in your life. Keep awake, prepare, repent, and watch and wait.

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