Sermon – 11-28-21 – Advent 1 – Cycle C
Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Sermon Title: “Coming Days”
Christmas is coming. Each day brings it closer with increasing frantic feelings. We already had the Christmas bazaar. Thanksgiving is already past. How fast can time fly? Credit to you if you know how to pace yourself in a comfortable schedule without panic. Maybe you are able to cut some things from the Christmas hecticness. Maybe you don’t give gifts anymore. Maybe you don’t send cards anymore. Maybe you let someone else act as host for a meal. Of course, COVID helped with that. Most of us had enough respect for COVID to stay in our own little circles last Christmas. What will this Christmas bring?
Starting slowly may be the secret. Maybe, just maybe, whatever gets done gets done and whatever does not get done will not tarnish our image long-term or maybe not even short-term. Maybe the people around us would rather have less decorations, fewer gifts, a simpler meal if it means we can be more relaxed, that we can enjoy the day, that we have more happiness and kindness to share with them. Relationships matter more than accomplishments! There I said it! Now if I could only live as though I meant it!
Relationships! The people who shaped our church year – our church liturgical year – not only want us to slow down as Christmas approaches. They want us to back up. The only thing I heard in the scripture lessons today that vaguely seems a bit like Christmas is the idea of “joy” in the New Testament Lesson. But I did hear “relationships.” What relationship does the fig tree have to the coming of the end of the ages? Well, the budding of leaves on the fig tree heralds summer coming. So shall other signs herald the coming of significant happenings. How I wish the budding fig tree in this story meant summer is approaching! Not so; other things are in the offing. Some of you are looking forward to snow. “How can that be,” I say.
Other unpleasant things. It is like we need to suffer the results of a COVID booster shot for several days in order to be saved from a bad case of COVID that could affect us for the rest of our lives. It is easy to let fear overome us when we read of the awful things that will signify the coming of Christ and the coming of total peace on earth. Before the peace and our redemption for all times, there will be testing. How strong is our relationship to Christ at this very moment? It would be a good thing for us to concentrate on that relationship now – not to wait another day. Only if our relationship with Christ is good and strong, will we be able to survive these fearful approaching times.
You might say and I might say that these fearful activities are already happening. Each day we hear of senseless shootings, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, gangs of wild people destroying countries, plagues covering the whole earth, the mention of the word climate change sending relationships scurrying just as does the word immunization. There is immense disrespect for each other and for people in authority, civil meetings are no longer civil. The word relationship does really apply. So how much worse is this going to get?!
Jesus gives this advice to us in Luke 21. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (end of quote) Let’s check our relationship status with Jesus immediately. We need to be ready! Pray, pray, pray for strength to endure, for calmness to sustain us, for a strong bond to have developed between Jesus and ourselves.
Will being in relationship with other people also give us strength and courage in “togetherness mode?” I would opt for relationship with other believers. We really don’t need non-believers to weaken our belief and our connection to Jesus, do we? But what about the ones we love? Should we give up on them now? As we believe, a person can be repentant at the last minute and receive redemption. Can these people drag along on our coattails or does their relationship with Jesus need to be genuine, need to be real?
Paul guides us with his first letter to the Thessalonians. In chapter 3 of his first letter, he says, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (end of quote) Paul voices overflowing thanks, joy, and blessings for the people of this growing church. People of St. Paul’s and Zion, you bring joy to me as one of your pastors just by your being here, by your singing, by your love for each other. Many of you are already friends and now we are worshiping together with the Holy Spirit flowing among us.
Paul’s missionary zeal for Christ comes along after Christ is resurrected and has ascended to the Father. Paul and his fellow missionaries are developing relationships with people around the Mediterranean Sea. Love is the attracting and attaching commodity that forms these new churches and keeps them going. It is not fear! Of course, this is solid love, the kind of love that comes from Jesus Christ. This is genuine love which wants the best for each other. It is an unselfish love.
On our way to Christmas it is easy to get caught in fear about the end times when we should be yearning for the coming of Jesus in all of his glory. Where does the baby Jesus fit between the terrible approaching happenings and the glorious coming of Jesus in the clouds? This baby Jesus brings the love. Jesus is love. If Jesus seems harsh a few times as recorded in the Bible, there was a need to bring people back to the track – the track toward salvation.
As we stumble through the first few Sundays in Advent, may we keep the HOPE. Did you notice the banners? Way back in Jeremiah’s day, God proclaimed hope through Jeremiah. The hope is looking toward the future to this One who will come from the line of David, the little sling-shot boy, the psalmist, the king, the sinner. This One will save us. He is called “the righteous branch to spring up for David.” He shall bring righteousness and justice. This One shall bring a New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem shall be called “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Where and how do righteousness and love meet? This question came out of my fingers as I typed. “Oh God,” I said, “What am I supposed to do with this? Maybe God is giving one of you a clear picture of how righteousness and love meet. If you are that person, would you please stand up. Then, God showed this verse to me from Psalm 25:10, “All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies.” “All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies.” Here it is, the intersection of righteousness and love. May it be so for each of us! Amen