Welcome to Advent and a New Church Year!
Advent, similar to Lent, is a season of spiritual preparation encouraging us to pause and reflect. Advent, however, despite these scriptures is more warm-and-fuzzy with less focus on repentance.
Instead, Advent is the preparation of our hearts, souls, and even our world for a divine house guest. Advent beckons us to remove the dust from our souls and the cobwebs from our spiritual lives. Advent invites us to de-clutter our calendars to ‘stay awake’ and focus on God breaking into our lives.
Advent is the hopeful anticipation and expectation, awaiting:
- the long-awaited Messiah promised to Israel;
- the baby Jesus to be born in the manger;
- the Jesus, who is judge and jury, to return at the ends of times; and
- the Jesus who appears, breaks in, and journeys alongside us daily.
Despite the Advent emphasis on hope, our hope candle lit, and these Advent stars of Hope… the Scriptures this morning may seem to embody fear more than hope.
Isaiah calls upon God to break through the barrier and ‘come down’ to be present with us. Isaiah describes terrifying images of creation and the nations trembling, but Isaiah notes that God acts in unexpected ways, especially for those who wait.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus foretells of his return with equally terrifying images of creation becoming dark, stars falling, and the entire creation trembling. Jesus warns that we do not know the time and day of his return, and therefore we must ‘stay awake’.
These Scriptures may seem especially appropriate in 2020. I have witnessed an increasing number of persons sounding the alarm and referencing the Book of Revelation anticipating the end of days due to the civil unrest, economic turmoil, and the global heath crisis of COVID19.
And yet, it may not be as hopeless as feared. Our 1 Corinthians scripture reminds us that we have all that we need for our spiritual lives as we await the revealing, the appearing of Jesus the Christ.
Additionally, the falling of stars and darkening and trembling of the entire creation would be significant signs of the divine presence breaking into our lives and world. And yet, Jesus points to the new growth, new life of budding leaves on a fig tree as the sign that summer approaches. It is a relatively settle sign.
Perhaps, the appearing and revealing of Jesus is less of a terrifying entrance at the end of days as judge and jury to separate the sheep and goats.
Perhaps, the appearing and revealing of Jesus is breaking into our lives and world to journey alongside us in a far less dramatic, quieting presence that is easily missed if our souls are dusty, our spiritual lives are cobwebbed from neglect, and out calendars and lives are cluttered with distractions.
Perhaps, we are to ‘stay awake’ not for the darkening skies, the falling stars, and the trembling of creation which would awaken anyone, but rather the divine presence of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that can be easily missed. It might be a cup of coffee, a sunrise or sunset, a Hallmark or Lifetime movie, a song, cuddles with fur-babies, socially distanced time with family, loved ones, and friends… and beyond.
Perhaps, it is about new growth, new life that calls us into a new future on the other side that is defined by the divine presence of hope, peace, joy, and love in our lives and the entire creation, rather than simply a return to our lives and world of 2019.
Perhaps, Advent is a new beginning of housekeeping out hearts, souls, lives spiritually and otherwise, and the entire creation staying awake and seizing upon the Kingdom of God to Come in glimpses of hope, peace, joy, and love.
May the Triune God continue to appear, break in, and
journey with us yesterday, today, tomorrow, and beyond.
May we dust off our souls.
May we clean the cobwebs from our spiritual lives.
May we de-clutter our calendars and lives.
May we stay awake to witness the divine presence
of hope, peace, joy, and love
entering into our hearts, souls, lives, and the entire creation.
Scriptures were Isaiah 64: 1-5; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; and Mark 13: 24-37.
Originally preached on 29 Nov. 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).