Audio 1 Advent Yr C Dec 2 2018 Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36, Psalm 25:1-9
Happy New Year! You all know that, right? Today is the first day of the new year. We begin again on this day, the first day of Advent. We count time differently in the church. Time in the church looks much more like a circle than a line. Our beginnings look like endings, and our endings look like beginnings. Our church year looks much more like a circle than like a line so that we would always remember that for every ending there is a beginning, and for every beginning there is an ending. This time is the time for getting ready, this time is the time for preparing, this time is the time for waiting. What is it we wait for? We wait for the great mystery of Christmas, the inconceivable incarnation, the baby born in a barn, Jesus born in our hearts, the Cosmic Christ that turns the world.
What are you waiting for? Some of us are waiting for presents. Some of us are waiting to see our families and our relatives. Some are waiting for great destruction and end times. Some of us are waiting to die, some of us are waiting to be born again. Some of us are waiting for the economy to collapse, some are waiting for the president to fail. Some of us are waiting for the president to succeed. Some of us are waiting for the world to change, some of us are waiting to change the world.
Advent is a time of waiting, and waiting in and of itself is valuable. In this culture where most everything is immediate, waiting is important. We want our news and entertainment immediately. We get mighty impatient when we wait in line for a coffee. And yet, we are willing to camp out all night to get the best deal, or the tickets to the concert. But Advent waiting is so much more important than all of that.
I think Advent may be about creating some room in our very loud and busy lives to wait for the surprise. The surprise that Christmas is. The surprise of Love born anew, Love born again, Love born.
I do think it is much like the waiting for a baby to be born. There is nothing you can do to make it go any faster or any easier. The baby just grows. And once that baby starts growing, it will change your life forever. Nothing will ever be the same. You, will never be the same. And, no matter how much we think we know about that new life growing inside, the birth itself is surprising, the baby itself is surprising, and we can never be fully ready for the changes to our lives the baby will bring. At every moment, we are changed by that new life. At every moment we are surprised by that new life. At every moment the possibilities will change us.
Advent comes to us every year. In that way it is a gift. We need Advent. We need to pull away for a time, from the cacophony of the cultural Christmas, and be quiet, and wait. We need to be in a space where God can find us and surprise us with new life and new birth. We need to hear the wonder of new birth, we need to hear the mystery of God with us, we need to hear the thunder and the roaring sea. We need to taste the fig from the tree. We need to ponder the mystery of Jesus, of God with us, and God who will fulfill all time.
We are in this middle place, a time between time. We live in the time when God is bringing all of creation, all of humanity, to Godself. God’s reign on earth is what we anticipate, the birth of God into the world more than 2000 years ago and the raising of Jesus from the dead, inaugurated God’s reign. We live in the time between the beginning and the end, and advent is the time we are given to wonder about and to anticipate God’s reign.
What are we waiting for? We wait for birth, and then we can’t wait for a child to grow out of being two, or six, or thirteen. We can’t wait to finish college and get a real job, we can’t wait for our children to finally make it on their own. We wait for a parent or loved one to die.
Part of waiting is in anticipation of what life will be like when the waiting is over. As we wait, we may have the opportunity to reflect on life as it is and possibly to come to appreciate the glimpses of the wonder and beauty of life as it is. Maybe, we begin to see life differently, more clearly. Maybe, all the things we thought were important aren’t so important anymore. Maybe, the falseness is being stripped away, and what is left is a truer person, a person who wants to plunge into every moment of life, no matter what, instead of sleepwalk through it. Maybe there is actually transformation in the waiting. At its deepest, Advent waiting transforms us. We are shown a glimpse of “what if.” What if we approach our Advent waiting as a radical time of transformation?
The Good News is that Advent transformation isn’t born out of fear, fear of the end of the world, fear of war and destruction, fear of those who are different than us. Advent transformation comes from joy because the promise has already been given. Advent transformation comes from the hope that Love wins. For those with the eyes of faith, “what if” has already happened. God is already with us. The reign of God is at hand. Heaven is already here. And nothing will break God’s promise.
Our Advent waiting may then be about making the world look more like the heaven that we already see by faith. We do this by focusing on the essentials—the basic things every human needs in order to reflect the divine. The poor have to be cared for, the hungry have to be fed, the homeless have to be sheltered, the refugee has to be welcomed, and the sick need to be healed. Forgiveness has to be offered, those at war must stop, and peace must be our legacy.
It’s almost as if Advent calls us to faith in the Real Absence of Christ—to believe in Emmanuel even in our darkness, in God-With-Us even when we hear no answer, and in the Incarnation even when we feel nothing at all. And so during Advent waiting, we may abstain from the flurry of Christmas not as a penitential punishment, but as a way to train our eyes to see God even without the angels and trees, crèches and stars. We focus instead on the basics of light in the darkness, silence in the chaos, and stillness in the turmoil. Advent waiting is waiting for Love to be born, again.