Sermons

"What do you REALLY want for Christmas?": Advent I, Year B

"What do you REALLY want for Christmas?": Advent I, Year B

Dec 03, 2017

Passage:Mark 13:24-37

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Advent

Category: Hope

Keywords: advent, hope, yearning

Summary:

We think about what we want for Christmas from the time we are very young. As adults, we ask others what they want for Christmas. But if we go deeper, the question becomes "what do we really want for Christmas?" "What are we yearning for?" Advent asks us to embrace that vulnerability and see God at work in the world. If we "keep awake," we will find the hope that we so desperately need.

Detail:

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

​What do you want for Christmas?  We start hearing this question as soon as we can point or speak.  We begin excitedly waiting for that time of year when people will ask that question and when we can begin dreaming about all the wonderful things we’ll receive at Christmas.  This is probably the first list we learn to make—the “what I want for Christmas list.” 

As we grow up, we become the ones who ask that question.  We ask our friends and family.  Even if we’re the kind of person who doesn’t typically make lists, this is probably the one we do make.  And we tell our loved ones what we’d like to receive.  There are all kinds of apps and planners just for Advent season that help us organize our lists and our time to ensure that we have the best Christmas ever!

Now, this is not a sermon about how consumerism has overtaken Christmas.  Or how gifts are somehow “bad” and we shouldn’t spend so much time and energy finding them and giving them.  After all, gifts are ultimately an expression of our love and care for others.  Some of us enjoy the search for the perfect gift.  Others of us are just relieved when the hunt is over and we have found what we were looking for.  We love the look of delight on a person’s face when our gifts truly reflect our love.

As we begin this Advent season today, let’s consider this question a little differently.  What do you want for Christmas?  What do you really want for Christmas?  What is your heart’s desire?  What are you yearning for?  These aren’t different questions.  They’re looking more deeply in our hearts and souls to what really matters to us.

Maybe we’ve been sick and we want our health back.  Maybe we’d even settle for moments of relief.  Maybe a loved one hurts so deeply and we would give anything for them to feel some relief and find hope again.  Maybe we feel a sense of emptiness and long to have hearts and souls that are full of love for others and ourselves.  Maybe our hearts are broken and we yearn for some kind of comfort.  Maybe the loneliness is overwhelming and we ache for true connection and belonging.

Advent is that time of year when we move out of ordinary time to wait with hope and anticipation for our greatest desires to be fulfilled.  But not in a superficial way, but in a deep and lasting way.  Each year we approach Advent with this hope and anticipation.  Somehow things will be better.  Maybe things will be different.  Maybe we’ll wish they hadn’t changed.

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t ease us into Advent with beautiful stories of loving parents and a tiny baby.  Mark brings us full force into the needs of the world, our needs.  Jesus talks about suffering and darkness and stars falling from the heavens.  He says that “the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.” 

As much as we love the image of baby Jesus, don’t we also sometimes wish for this Jesus?!  Don’t we wish that Jesus would just come down with all his might and power and straighten everything out?!  Get rid of fear!  Get rid of poverty!  Get rid of pain and suffering!  He’s all powerful, right?!  Why not?!

Because we know that’s not how God works.  Advent is that season that reminds us of who God is.  God is a god of love.  God is a god who knows that vulnerability is the key to reaching us.  God is a god who sends a baby to save us.  We tend to think of this baby as being the vulnerable one, but babies actually expose our every fear and hope.  They make us vulnerable.  The baby Jesus reveals all the yearnings that live within us. 

And when we are this vulnerable, we are able to see how God breaks into our lives and into the world.  This is the purpose of Advent.  This is what “keep awake” means.

We know we’re not getting a lot of sleep during Advent, there’s too much to do.  But even in our busyness, we can keep awake.  We can watch for those moments when God cracks open our hearts to see God’s work in the world.   We can watch for those instances when God calls us to be part of God’s work in the world. 

These are the occasions when we will meet God, when the desires of our hearts will be met, even if just for an instant.  But these are the encounters with God and with the world that give us the hope that we so desperately need.  Amen.