Sermons

"What Jesus is This?": Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C

"What Jesus is This?": Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C

Dec 02, 2018

Passage:Luke 21:25-36

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Advent

Category: Hope, Discipleship, Apocalypse

Keywords: advent, anticipation, discipleship, hope

Summary:

The season of Advent is one of anticipation and hope. AND it's one where we prepare for the the birth of the baby Jesus. But the gospel reading appointed for this day is one where Jesus seems to be talking about more serious, somewhat scary things. So, what Jesus are we supposed to be thinking about here? This sermon looks at this issue for us in Advent.

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

It's wonderful that we have gathered today, the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the beginning of the church liturgical year. It is traditionally the time of preparation and of waiting. We look forward from this day to the great day of Christmas and the celebration of the birth of our Lord.

This particular shift into Advent is always really interesting. We've just finished our Thanksgiving holiday. We've enjoyed the great festivities of that holiday that brought together families and loved ones. And at the same time, everything in our society now refers generally to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as "the holiday season." Our culture, our commercials, our media point forward to December 25th. That's the next great event!

And of course, that's also what Advent does. Advent is the season that points us, in a posture of hopeful waiting, toward Christmas.

We all have our different ways of participating in this season of hopeful waiting.

At our house this past week, our daughter was in town. We took advantage of the family time together and pulled out all our Christmas decorations and had a great time putting them up together. Most of our decorations are also family keepsakes--Lovely treasures we crafted together when she was a child... or ornaments we bought together on family trips... or cherished gifts from family and friends throughout our lives.

The decorations themselves have meaning to our lives as a family that point to something greater in this season of anticipation and of hope... This Advent season.

And the thing is, both the church world and the secular world are telling us that the next four weeks are to be celebrated in festive anticipation.

We busy ourselves in the tasks of planning and decorating. We sing songs that are special only to this time of year. We will watch television programs that tug at our heartstrings. And in the midst of all this, of course for us Christians, we also know where all of this is heading. We know where the focus is supposed to be taking us.

At least to some degree, we should be thinking of that event where baby Jesus is going to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger by his young mother Mary.

And of course, that is WONDERFUL!

All of this is SO good. ALL of this is special. I think it's great for all of us to participate in all of these things... the decorating, the singing, the preparing, the anticipation.

BUT, when we read the scriptures appointed for this first Sunday of Advent, we are presented with a little hiccup in the joyful revelry of our celebrations.

Right in the middle of our gleefully planned office party or heartwarming television Christmas special, Jesus tells us: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves." And that's not all. He goes on to say: "People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

That's pretty scary stuff!

This isn't the "little baby in the manger Jesus" I just put next my Christmas tree, my tumbling snowman village, and my Henry VIII and his six wives ornaments!

This is a much more serious sounding Jesus!

The scriptures appointed for this first Sunday in Advent seem to want remind us that we should focus on more than just the Baby Jesus.

After all Jesus did grow up. And then he was crucified. And then he was resurrected. Part of the focus of this first Sunday of Advent is to remind us of all of that.

How do we balance the anticipation and expectation of celebration with the more day-to-day realities of simply being the people of God?

This, I think, is where we, as the Church, are right now. How can we thank God enough for the joy that we feel for all of the celebrations that we have had recently (Oktoberfest, Trunk or Treat, Thanksgiving Day, St. Andrew’s Day, Birthday Parties)? We are also looking forward with great anticipation to the glorious celebration of Christmas. How can we thank God enough for the anticipated joy of that?

Here’s the good news! Even though Jesus may sound a little abrupt to our modern ears in Luke Gospel, he was actually giving wonderful news. He was talking about the return of the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And this return is not about blame or shame or harm. This return is about bringing God's mercy![1]

Luke’s portrayal of an apocalypse--a making known of things previously hidden--has some wonderful imagery.

But some it might sound scary at first glance. But if we look carefully, it is comforting, not condemning. Yes, Jesus is saying: be alert…be faithful.

But Jesus is also saying that this is about hope. This is about expectation. Christ is returning because God loves us. God wants to redeem us. In the middle of the scary language and the fearful imagery, Jesus tells us: “stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”[2]

So what does this mean for us?

I think that this Advent season we should commit ourselves to live in a time of joyful tension.

Of course we should look forward to the feast of the Nativity. We should look forward to the birth of Baby Jesus.

But we should also remember that Jesus died. Jesus was resurrected. Jesus will come again to redeem the world.

That knowledge means that we should be alert.

In this season of Advent, we should:

  • decorate our homes. And we should pray in those homes daily.
  • We should watch heart-warming T.V. specials. And we should visit each other joyously.
  • We should bake all kinds of yummy treats. And we should feed the hungry.
  • We should have our children’s pictures taken with Santa. And we should make sure that Santa has the address of all children in our communities.
  • We should enjoy the festive celebrations of holiday parties together. And we should be mindful of those among us in pain and sorrow during this season, and bring them comfort and love.

This Advent, we should wait expectantly for the Baby Jesus, and we should also be alert and commit ourselves to living the incarnate life of the Loving, Life-Giving, and Liberating Body of Christ.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!

Amen.

 

[1] The exegesis and analysis of the Thessalonians text has elements of insights from Joseph R. Jeter, “1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Homiletical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Vol. 1 David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Gen. Eds. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009),  15-19.

[2] See Kathy Beach-Verhey, “Luke 21:25-36, Homiletical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Vol. 1 David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Gen. Eds. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 20-25.