First Sunday of Advent Sermon Transcript

Written by Joel on December 6th, 2009

Here is the transcript for my sermon preached on the first Sunday of Advent. You can listen to it here.

——-

Well, it looks like everyone survived Black Friday. Did anyone try this year? Not a single one? Well, you are some smart people out there. I tried going Black Friday shopping once in my entire life. That’s right I said, tried to go Black Friday shopping. In fact, it was last year – turned me off to the whole experience for the rest of my life I’m sure. I think the problem was I set my sights a little too high. I was aiming for the big crown prize of Black Friday shopping which is Wal-Mart. I went there first thing in the morning, I had my sights set on that product I wanted – The GPS systems were really big that year. After waiting for about half an hour to find parking, fighting through the crowds to get up there through all of Wal-Mart, went right-directly to that department I knew that GPS system would be…I just found…another line. I saw people pushing and shoving, a few people beginning to tear up, and all sorts of disgruntled faces on the shoppers. I threw my hands in the air, I gave up. I said forget about this mess and my wife and I left, gave up on Black Friday shopping and had breakfast instead.

Now here in the United States, in this culture, Black Friday traditionally begins the Christmas season that we all prepare for…at least the shopping portion of the Christmas season. And this year it seems to be dragged out even longer than the Black Friday time. But, you know on the Christian calendar, today marks the beginning of the preparation for Christmas. It’s a time we call Advent. While all of the shops are putting out their sales ads, their fliers, their special time of shopping and buying; the church calls us to a time to be removed from those distractions and to focus on the coming kingdom of God.

Now I can imagine a retelling of our Gospel text for this day in this particular time where our major distraction in this time of year come from those things – not only the shopping but which parties to go to and who to buy for and what to put on our list. So if you will allow me I would like to try this Gospel reading again with the idea of the distractions we face in this particular season in this particular time.

There will be signs on the store fronts, the radio, and on t.v. Among the shoppers there will be much distress and anguish. People will faint from terror because they don’t know which gifts to buy. But, the church says “Keep your heads up high because this is a season in which your redemption is coming.” Be careful and do not get drawn in to the distractions of this holiday season, but be alert. Be always on watch that you may be able to escape what is about to happen. That you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Now in the Christian church we face not only one Advent. It is easy to remember the Christ, the babe Christ that we found back in Bethlehem. It easy to remember baby Jesus this time of year. But in the church  we are called to remember and look for two Adventen Seasons. The first which came already and we stand in between, we stand waiting for the second coming in which Jesus will come in his full glory to his church, some time to come.

The church has had this idea of two Advents for many centuries. I wanted to share with you a writing from Saint Cyrill who wrote about the two-fold coming of Christ. Listen to his words of wisdom.

We preach not one coming only of Jesus Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the first.  The first revealed the meaning of his patient endurance; the second brings with it the crown of the divine kingdom.
Generally speaking, everything that concerns our Lord Jesus Christ is twofold.  His birth is twofold: one, of God before time began; the other, of the Virgin in the fulness of time.  His descent is twofold: one, unperceived like the dew falling on the fleece; the other, before the eyes of all, is yet to happen.

In his first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger.  In his second coming he is clothed with light as with a garment.  In his first coming he bore the cross, despising its shame; he will come a second time in glory accompanied by the hosts of angels.

It is not enough for us, then, to be content with his first coming; we must wait in hope of his second coming.  What we said at his first coming, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, we shall repeat at his last coming.  Running out with the angels to meet the Master we shall cry out in adoration, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.

Now this word, Advent, the season we stand in right now literally means before the coming. Its a time of waiting and preparation. And this is the time we are called to wait and prepare for not only the baby Jesus in the manger, but the glory Jesus who is yet to come.

This isn’t a simple kind of preparation that we face like getting ready for someone to come over to your house – you clean up, you do the dishes, you cook up a nice meal, you get the house ready for someone to come over. But you can appreciate the kind of waiting that the church has been doing for the last 2000 years waiting for Jesus to come again. We have been ready, we have been waiting for this whole time. It’s a difficult kind of preparation and a different kind of waiting. And that is the challenge we face this day. It’s the kind of waiting for a loved one to come home for the holidays. The house is already clean, the food is already cooked, and now we are just waiting on the couch or the chair or the front porch for the loved one to come home. It’s like that preparation waiting for a phone call for that perfect job offer, waiting at the airport for someone you care about to walk through those doors. It’s the kind of hopeful waiting and anticipation that we are called to in this Adventen season. That’s the challenge this Gospel text has for us today.

If we look here in verse 34 that the call is not to look for the signs. The call is for an inward turning for the preparation within ourselves. Verse 34 – be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and anxieties of life. And later in verse 36 – be always on the watch, pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, be ready to stand before the Son of Man. It is a preparation that is turned inward to our hearts, to our minds, to our souls as we prepare for the coming glory of God.

The church is not entirely immune from the distractions of the holiday season. We already talked about the sales and the ads and the shopping and the parties, and the entire mess of the holiday season. But the church is not immune from this distraction. In the church we have the distraction of focusing on the second coming. Even such churchly things as that can be a distraction. Think of the t.v. Preachers, all the books, the entire industry of Christian literature that is devoted to focusing on the second coming. You can see just last week that movie that has come out 2012 which focuses on the signs of the end of the world. We are a distracted people. And we have trouble being comfortable in the time that is waiting.

Have any of you heard that saying “a watched pot never boils”? You know it’s not true, right? Have any of you tried it? Put the pot of water on the stove and sit there and watch it? I assure you, it will boil. It might take about 20 minutes but it will boil. That saying has a lot to tell us in our modern time. It’s easier to wait in the midst of distractions. It’s easy to distract ourselves. And that is the challenge we have for this holiday season – waiting for the coming of God.

Jesus doesn’t say focus on the signs. And I am here to encourage you this holiday season don’t focus on the hype of the holiday season. I’m not saying it is entirely bad either. But turn your focus of preparation inward.

As you sort through those sales papers, examine also scripture for our coming Jesus Christ. As you write up those holiday cards and send them out to your loved ones, send up also your prayers. As you go out to the parties and find times of plenty and perhaps even excess, I encourage you to attempt to find times of fasting. In the midst of the chaos and noise and the confusion of the holiday shopping I encourage you to take that time out and find quite moments of adoration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as the holidays sneak up on you and you think where did that time go?-I can’t believe it’s already here; turn your thoughts inward and think of the time when Christ is coming.

There is this old fable perhaps a myth about the legislators early in the United States, perhaps 200 years ago, before electricity. The group of legislators were sitting around on a bright March day. They could do all their work by natural light. But then suddenly there was an eclipse in the middle of the day. The legislators started to panic. There were many of them who were Christians and they all thought that this was the coming of the promised savior, Jesus was coming back. But the speaker of the house stood up (he was a Christian man) and he said “Listen here, fellow legislators, either the kingdom of God is coming or it’s not. If Jesus is not coming back, then we have no reason to worry and no reason to stop our work. And if Jesus is coming back today, well I for one want to be found doing my duty.” And so at that time he ordered that candles be brought in so that they could continue their work. And that is the kind of preparation we are called for in this holiday season.

So, I assure you brothers and sisters, that there will be signs this holiday season and there will be distractions. But turn your preparation inward and prepare for that coming kingdom of God as you find Jesus and he finds you in this holiday season.

——–

If you would like to comment on this sermon, please do so here.


 

Comments are closed.