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There's nothing like the First Sunday of Advent to get you in the "holiday spirit"


Isaiah 64:1-9

64O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—

2as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

3When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.

5You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. 6We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

7There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

8Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

9Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.


Mark 13:24-37

24“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,

36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.

37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


(This is Pastor Will's sermon from the First Sunday of Advent, Dec 3rd 2023)


There’s nothing like the first Sunday in Advent to get everyone in the “Holiday Spirit” right?!


We all know the image, or maybe experienced, the corner street preacher warring the sandwich board sign that screams… “The End is Near!”

How do you react to such a figure? Ignore them? Don’t make eye contact with them?

Avoid them and walk on the other side of the sidewalk?

Yea, me too. It’s rare that I think to myself, “perhaps they have a point.”


Each year we usually kick off Advent this way. Even though it’s the beginning of the new liturgical year starting again from the start of the Jesus story… we kick it off with apocalyptic language near the end of the story.


Yea, John the Baptist calling for us to “prepare the way of the Lord” is coming, that’s next week. And we will get to Mother Mary and the holy family soon enough…

But first we get an apocalyptic Jesus giving his disciples a wake up call.

So Happy New Year! Don’t hit that snooze alarm!


As we begin this new year with the Gospel of Mark, we don’t start with chapter one, verse one… again that’s next week.

The context for today’s Gospel lesson is that Jesus is at THE Temple with his disciples and the disciples are marveling at the sights and how grand and majestic the Temple is…

Jesus interrupts their awe and doesn’t want them to get too focused on human made things. He warns them… that all these things wont last…

He turns around their focus… to not get complacent…

And this is important to Jesus because he knows what’s going to happen in a few chapters while Jesus is in Jerusalem and near the temple.

For Jesus, the end was very near.


And so he urges his followers to keep watch, to pay attention to his words and actions

and to not miss what God is doing in the world through the gift of the Christ right there in their midst.


When Jesus uses this language juxtaposed with the quest for the jolly holiday spirit, it’s super jarring, it can be scary and intimidating.

I’m not used to “warnings and threats” Jesus….

I’m much more comfortable with cute baby Jesus silent on the hay.


But maybe that’s the point as we kick off a new season with Advent.

The “beware, Keep alert!” is so that I don’t hit that snooze button… which I do, A LOT…

…in fact I anticipate it and set my alarm a little earlier knowing that I’m going to hit the snooze button a few times each morning.


With all that is happening in our world… our world isn’t easy right now.

That "the end is near" guy has a point.

With what is going on in the middle east...

As we gear up for a big and important election year...

As we continue to reflect on what’s meaningful and true and good...

It’s super hard to be positive. It’s really difficult to have any hope.


With the prophet Isaiah I too cry out…

O (GOD) that you would tear open the heavens and come down!


A clear and obvious sign from the heavens that everything is going to be alright would really be nice right about now.

And yet, I like that Jesus has embedded in his apocalyptic sermon a few parables about being observant and keeping watch for what’s next.

Even though we are right here kicking off winter, there is a parable about a tree about to sprout leaves in spring time… plants beginning to bud and bloom with new life.


Where do we see new life around us?

Where is Christ being born anew in our lives and faith?

Where do we see new opportunities blooming around us?

What new relationships are emerging in our midst?

What new awakenings of what is real, true and beautiful is growing around us?


Perhaps this season instead of saying “The End is Near”...

...we switch it around and say boldly… “The beginning is near!”


Yes, for Jesus at the end of the gospel of Mark… the end was near… but that wasn’t the end of the story… there was also resurrection and new life.

And this good news about a resurrection was and is placed in his followers hands to proclaim and live and share.


There is tension in Advent.

On one end, we remember the past.

…yes, Christ was hoped for and he was born and that nativity scene is a reason to celebrate.

And on the other end, we look with Hope of a future.

…we are promised that Christ will come again, and we long and hope for that.

But also, he tension on the line between the two is where we find ourselves now… the tension on the line is a tense and scary world hungry for hope…

And it is in this very tense and scary world that God chose to be born into.


And so perhaps despite all that is going on we can devote ourselves to…

“Hope as… protest”

We hope despite when all that seems reasonable says, “don’t waste your time”.


Because here’s the good news of Advent and Christmas…

While we wait and watch

While we do our best to hold on to hope

While we want and long for God to show up plain and clear with a loud and bright ripped apart Divine Dimension…

God does show up

Christ is born again

Not with a loud and bright sign from the heavens torn apart…

But rather in a town that has no room for him.

Born in a barn, placed in a manger surrounded by animals and the marginalized.


The good news of this season is that in the birth of Christ God again shows solidarity with the human condition even at is most vulnerable.

This apocalypse isn’t wrath but rather a revealing and an uncovering (similar to that of an Advent calendar)...

Of a Creator that continues to create

Of a Savior that continues to save

Of a Spirit that continues to hover and shape and guide like a potter does with clay.


So perhaps our “Hope as protest” is discovering God in the small and unassuming things right here in our midst.

Perhaps the “holiday spirit” and keeping Christ in Christmas…

Is through feeding the hungry

Welcoming the stranger and refugee

Opening our doors to the marginalized

Caring for and working for the healing of all creatures and our environment…

And echoing Isaiah’s call to consider that “all” means “all people”.


Maybe this Advent, instead of looking up to the heavens waiting for Jesus to fly back from outer space, we watch and notice what’s happening down here, in our midst…

In doing so we find a God who surprises us in a young displaced family and a vulnerable baby looking for room in our lives.


Amen

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