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Sunday was the First Sunday in Advent and I took a moment to talk about the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath is one white candle in the middle surrounded by three blue or purple candles and a pink candle. Now the blue (or purple) candles represent Hope, Peace, and Love while the pink candle represents Joy. The white candle represents Christ. Each Sunday in Advent we light an additional candle around the wreath and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we light the center candle as a symbol that the Light of the World, Christ, has come.
Advent is a mystical time where we await the fulfillment of the promises of God as the First Advent (the Christ-child in the manager) as well as the Second Advent (the return of Christ) and really every day in-between. It is a time when the past, the present, and the future all co-exist together.
In our texts this week, we hear about urgency and the need to be prepared. I use to work in a very high-end grocery store in the meat department. It goes without saying that the day before Thanksgiving, we would receive phone calls from people:
“Do you have anymore turkeys left?”
“No, Ma’am, sorry. We don’t have any turkeys left.”
“What do you mean? You don’t have any turkeys left. It is Thanksgiving tomorrow. I need a turkey for tomorrow! How can you not have a turkey for me?”
Granted we did not say this to our customers, but the mantra that kept us our sanity in the meat department was “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
That is what continued to come to mind for me while I was looking at these texts. The Gospel of Matthew (chapter 24), we have a text that has been used for the rapture; although most scholars say that Matthew would not have had a notion of the rapture because it comes later historically. But, Matthew was really re-enforcing this notion of urgency, the need to be prepared, to be awake, to watch. The people before the flood didn’t know the flood was coming and it will be the same way when Christ returns. So, be ready. Be prepared.
And similar to a magnet on the refrigerator at my home congregation “Jesus is Coming. Look Busy”. But, what does it look like for when Christ returns and how do we prepare for that?
Our text from Isaiah talks about the skills and the tools used for war not only not being used anymore but being transformed into tools and skills for peace; a day when we won’t learn war anymore but rather we will learn peace. Our Psalm (122), talks about going to Jerusalem on a journey to a city of unity, a city whose names includes the word ‘shalom’ the word for peace. Yet, we know in our time and in our place the holy land is not a place of peace. These are promises that will be fulfilled. Those are the promises we look ahead to, but how do we prepare for that?
Paul tells the Romans (chapter 13) to be ready, to be prepared, to be awake. Paul is really telling them is to live into the people we are called to be; to take those glimpses of God’s kingdom that breaks into our world past, present, and future and to grab ahold of them; and to cling to, to live by hope, peace, joy, love, and the light of Christ.
This Advent, prepare. Make a commitment to embrace hope, peace, joy, and love in order to heed Matthew’s warning, [and] in order to not find yourself in a position to where your lack of planning and preparation is a sense of urgency and emergency.
My prayer is that we take this and that we try to live it out everyday, not just in Advent. Amen.
Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, and Matthew 24: 36-44.
Originally preached on November 27, 2016