Sermon – 12-01-19 – Advent I – Cycle A
Scriptures -Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-13; Matthew 24:36-44
Sermon Title – “Thinking About the Second Coming While Celebrating the First Appearance”
Waiting! Alice was standing in line on Black Friday for hours before the doors opened. Brad stood in line waiting for his marathon to start. Clinton stood in line waiting to vote in the last presidential election. Charles stood in line for everything, absolutely everything. He was in military service. Little Christopher was counting the days until Christmas. Angelina counted the days until her birthday.
Baby Louise didn’t know she was counting. She just felt that something was missing and that her mother and grandmother and brother were not happy. She could sense this until one day her daddy appeared. Yes, here was this man she really did not remember until he held her in his arms, close to himself. Then she knew goodness and joyful contentment. Happiness was all around her and her mother and grandmother and brother and the many relatives who poured through the door until the house was full, really full.
Was this young father home from across the ocean or was he home from across the state in a penitentiary or finally healed from a very bad accident? We don’t know. We do know that homecoming happened. What was hoped, finally happened. The missing person arrived into the waiting place.
Our Jesus was expected for centuries. Our Old Testament, the Hebrew part of the Bible, is full of references to this person who is expected. But when? Generations came and went before this hope became fulfillment. Students of the Bible may try to have us believe that these prophecies referred to prophets who came, did their job reluctantly but obediently, and then disappeared either by death or by being swooped into the skies. I stubbornly believe that these references may have included temporary people sent by God to do specific announcing and to become involved in frightening ways but ultimately these references to one who will come were vividly pointing to our Jesus.
When the century actually was right, this obscure baby in a manger in a stable in a little town called Bethlehem, came like a shadow in the moonlight. It is so important to believe that this future king was born to parents who had loving natures and who loved each other. God surely chose these parents who fell in love while they were neighbors and became the parents of the Savior of the world.
Is the world saved yet? More centuries are needed. More centuries of waiting. Just as God was working behind the scenes in the times when God’s people were Hebrew (also called Jewish), and God was working to arrange these two people to be the parents of our Savior, God is still working to arrange the nations and the people of the nations to be hospitable with each other until just the right time; the right time for this second coming of the son person of the Trinity to appear. Will it be in a stable? Do you think that our ubiquitous (meaning “being everywhere”) media people will sense this coming ahead of time? Will God even give a news advance to our sometimes too nosy newsgivers? Will it go viral on facebook?
Or, will the little boy who is quietly sitting at the edge of a stream fishing, be the first to see Jesus coming again? Or will Jesus come at midnight to quietly call those of his people who are ready – you know – with oil lamps filled with oil; the people who are waiting and watching with hope.
Where will we be? We may already be in heaven having died while we waited. Otherwise, where would we want Jesus to find us? Doing Black Friday shopping? Sitting with our computers or phones shopping on-line? At a carnival buying chances? Serving in a food pantry? Planting grain and vegetables? Volunteering in a nursing home? Mowing a neigbor’s lawn or shoveling snow? Sitting in a holy place just waiting? Sitting in a bar just drinking away the time while we wait? Being at home with our family, if we have a family? Making a fine meal and inviting people so we create a family?
How will the word spread? How will Jesus gather his people? Will he really only gather the people who have been in relationship with him? Or will he gather everyone in one big circle and everyone will feel loved and wanted? That is my hope.
Is that a foolish hope? Should I really deny all the judgment notices in Scripture? Then there is the comical story about a person who died and was surprised to see who was in heaven when she arrived there. I don’t know where my original copy is. I will try to say this well. When our person noticed the person who had pulled her pigtails unmercifully in grade school she said, “I never expected to see you here.” When she saw the person who cheated on tests in school and then was found guilty of stealing from the business where he worked, she said, “I never expected to see you here.” When she saw the fellow school board member who always argued against her, she said, “I never expected to see you here.” On it went. Then she noticed that everyone was silent but they looked astonished.. She said, “Why is everyone so quiet?” Everyone shouted together, “We never expected to see you here!”
My version is surely a variation of the original but the idea is the same. We judge each other whether we realize it or not. We forget that other people are doing the same to us. When it comes right down to the truth, none of us is worthy to be called to heaven. That is what is so very special about the Son and the Father. We do not need to be worthy! None of us would find ourselves in heaven if worthiness were taken into account.
Even though our own bodies and minds and souls might wallow in the darkness of complaining or talking about each other in a negative way or hoarding our money if we have money or hoarding our smiles by freezing our straight lips or declining to join a church group or a community group because we like to do our own thing, there is this little flame of light inside us. God put it there. The darkness of our daily living is no match for this flame of light. God’s light triumphs in the darkest corners. Nothing can escape that light. We can fear that light for what it may reveal or we can revel in that light because it is right and it brings assurance. It is not the fiery light of hell that may or may not be real. This light that Paul explains in his letter to the Romans is the light in which we may walk to end wars, to have swords beat into plowshares, to have spears turned into pruning hooks. We heard Isaiah saying, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Do we need to wait until the second coming of Jesus to dwell and walk in this powerful yet peaceful light or can we bring this light into existence now by claiming the love of the Savior in our hearts and being watchful of our thoughts and actions?