1st Sunday of Advent 2016

Sermon Title: 1st Sunday of Advent 2016
Date: 27th Nov 2016
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Date: 1st Sunday of Advent
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:9-14, Matthew 24:36-44

The Coming of the Light.  This is what Advent is about and Jenifer McKenzie wrote in her summary for the blue vestments, curtains and altar frontal, that Advent is one of expectancy, of hope and of preparation, as we prepare for the Light of the world, Jesus the Christ.

The symbols on the vestments are basically Australian so I have brought a koala and its baby, to sit at the foot of the advent candle stand.

Let’s embrace living in Australia during Advent and Christmas. I’ve included from the Australian Liturgical resources an Advent prayer in the pew sheet to reflect our summer rather than ‘dreaming of a white Christmas’ even though we may not have even had a Bing Crosby white Christmas with or without Bing!

! It’s always a mixed time leading up to Christmas.  We want to slow down and enjoy the experience, but there is shopping to do, cooking, wrapping and sending gifts and cards all over the world, end of year concerts, thinking about how to get on with everyone on Christmas day and there’s finishing things off at work so you can enjoy the break with family and friends and it’s always here faster than we thought! There is also the sadness when family and friends are not with us at Christmas. Our lads will both be in England this year so it will be a very different Christmas for Jonathan and me.

So as we enter this season of Advent, what are we expecting, what are we hoping for and what are we preparing for.

The readings for Advent are about expectation, hope and preparation of the coming of the Son of Man or the Day of the Lord.

Some many years ago, I saw a film I think called ‘Thief in the night’ and it scared the daylights out of me! It was based on Matthew’s gospel passage of the two men in the field and the two women grinding at the mill and one was taken in the kingdom and one left behind, which we heard this morning.  As a young girl this freaked me out that I have to always be good and always remember to say my prayers etc. otherwise I will be left behind.

As I’ve read more of the Scriptures, questioned my early understanding of God and Jesus, thought about how various theologians have interpreted the readings, I’ve come to believe more in God who isn’t threatening me of damnation or being left out if I’m not perfect or be good.!! (This is such a freedom and relief!).So instead I have come to believe in God whose basic premise is one of love and who wants me to remember that.  It’s the remembering bit that is important.

Let me explain with a story entitled, “What is the World like?”

God and a man are walking down the road. The man asks God, “What is the world like?”

God replies, “I cannot talk when I am thirsty.   If you could get me a drink of cool water, we could discuss what the world is like. There is a village nearby. Go and get me a drink.”

The man goes into the village and knocks at the door of the first house. A comely young woman opens the door.  His jaw drops, but he manages to say, “I need a glass of cool water.”

“Of course,” she says, smiling, “but it is midday. Would you care to stay for some food?”

“I am hungry,” he says, looking over his shoulder. “And your offer of food is a great kindness.”

He goes in and the door closes behind him.

Thirty years go by.  The man who wanted to know what the world was like and the woman who offered him food have married and raised five children. He is a respected merchant and she is an honoured member of the community.  One day a terrible storm comes in off the ocean and threatens their life. The merchant cries out, “Help me, God.”

A voice from the midst of the storm says, “Where is my cup of cold water?”

John O’Shea in his reflections on this story says ‘What is the world like?’. The answer of the story is that it is a place of forgetfulness… not remembering].  Or, in the metaphor of Matthew’s text, it is a place where we fall asleep.  We do not stay attentive to the spiritual dimension of life.  Eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, working in the field, and grinding at the mill take all our time and, more importantly, take all our mind.  When this happens, we find ourselves lacking passion, purpose, and pleasure.”

This just doesn’t happen in the lead up to Christmas. If you are anything like me, the day to day busyness can take over my time and my mind!

If we think about the coming of the Son of Man or the day of the Lord as events preparing us for the second coming, it is difficult to remain vigilant for we don’t know  when this is going to happen. Matthew was writing to the early Christians who were expecting Jesus to return and because Jesus hadn’t returned, they were feeling confused and discouraged by his delay. So nearly two thousand years later, we have been waiting a very long time and so many people just aren’t waiting any more. And I wonder if this reflects those thoughts that creep in, that God doesn’t exist either. It’s all a myth to keep us living in fear rather than living in the truth that God does exist so we can love and appreciate our world, each other and ourselves.

The invitation then, could be for us humans, this very day, is to live wholesome lives: Mentally, physically, emotionally and importantly spiritually so that we remember the One who is the very energy, the life force, our God, for each and every one of us!

It is the spirit that we often forget. The spirit that connects us with God, with others and with our very selves!  We may pay attention to our bodies when they are hurting and will work hard at recovering our physical health. We may pay attention when our finances are squeezed and we will work hard at how to live accordingly or how to create more money. But we will allow our spirit to suffer.

So what are some practical ways in this Advent season for us to remember why we are looking forward with expectation, with hope and being prepared to welcome the Christ-child who is the coming of the Light?

  1. Come to church each Sunday to help in your ‘remembering’ of what we are expecting, hoping for and preparing for.
  1. When you come to church, remember also that you are with other Christians who may have forgotten about God, or have difficulty in believing because of events that have happened or happening in their lives. This may be you or you may be able to be a prayerful, listening ear to someone who is struggling.
  1. At home, when you do your morning rituals of eg when you open the curtains to greet the morning or cleaning your teeth, remember to thank God for each new day and for your amazing life!
  1. I have to get up from my office chair every hour to walk around a bit, this is a chance for me to stop thinking of the tasks I have to do and to take a big breath and remember why I do what I do!
  1. Taking a big slow deep breath from your belly helps not only calm us but also we can use that time to say your mantra. Maybe it’s something like “be still, and know that I am God” the words were on the front of last week’s pew sheet.
  1. And don’t feel guilty if you don’t succeed in remembering…this just makes us feel bad about ourselves and feeds guilt and fears that we don’t measure up or not good enough. Think about what was going on for you at the time for you to not remember.  As I said earlier, the many things we have to do in a day take all our time and also all our mind and therefore we forget.
  1. So, help each other ‘stay awake’ in life! Being aware of God who is always here with us and continues to welcome us back even when we fall asleep to his presence. Jesus said “I am the light of the world”, we just need to turn our switch on to see him!

 

The Lord be with you.