Sermon from Sunday 28 November

A sermon for Advent Sunday

 

Reading(s): Luke 21:25-36. This sermon was given by Warwick Heathcote at St Denys.

I have always liked Advent it was a time of expectation, anticipation and excitement. As a child I looked forward to my Advent calendar - Every year about this time my siblings and I were given an Advent calendar. It had little numbered doors, one for each day of Advent. - Each day we would open a little door on the calendar. Behind the door was a Bible verse, part of the Christmas story and a chocolate! Each door we opened was a sign Christmas was getting closer. We were counting down the days. That’s what Advent was about.

I sometimes wish Advent was as simple and easy as opening a little door on the calendar and eating a chocolate, knowing that Christmas was one day closer. But it’s not. You and I both know the world is not that simple, that the living of life is not always that easy and that no one escapes living, which involves hardship and pain as much as it does joy and gladness. The redemption that is ours in Jesus Christ is not some sort of luxury cruise through the calm waters of the Sea of Pain-Be-Gone. God’s plan has never been to insulate His people - but to prepare us for what comes our way.

The words “There will be signs” are words of hope and reassurance, but all too often they are heard as words of warning and threat. And when they are, the signs are used to predict a future of impending doom and loss and you’d better shape up or God is going to get you!** **Our misuse of the signs blinds us to the coming of the Son of Man with power and great glory.

“*Now when you see these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” *Do you hear that? In the midst of tragedy, in the midst of war and rumours of war, in the midst of oppression and poverty, in the midst of our own personal losses we can raise our heads and look for the Lord because he is near. That is the message of Advent.

Jesus' words are not the stuff of science or history - but are the stuff of divine promise. The promise that God is present and acting within human history amongst both the good and the bad - to bring about a victorious conclusion, the result of which will be a new beginning *“Where God himself will wipe away every tear; where death will be no more; where mourning and crying and pain will be no more - for the first things will have passed away.” * (Revelation 21:4) That’s the promise!

Let me see if I can put it another way. In the beginning God said "Let there be light" and there was light. Where was God? In the darkness. Moses went up into the darkness that covered Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. Where was God? In the midst of the darkness. On Easter morning while it was still dark - Jesus rose from the dead. Where was God? - In the darkness.

Advent is a season in which we remember that we are a people of hope. - We are the Christmas people. –We sing to Emmanuel because God is with us. - When we sense that we are lost in the darkness - Advent reminds us that we are not alone. The God of hope is with us.

Jesus warns us not to get distracted by the worries of this world. - Lift up your eyes and look upward toward God because even in the midst of difficult times our Lord comes to us. But I hear you say wouldn’t it make more sense to see things like an end to war and natural disasters and the clean-up of politics as signs of the nearness of the Kingdom? Why does it seem as if Jesus is accentuating the negative?

I believe that what Jesus is in fact accentuating is a truthful assessment of reality as we know it - a reality that stands in stark contrast to the Kingdom of God that is here in part – but not yet come in fullness. Our human frailty, our human sin our world’s birth pangs - reflect the signs of how badly we need “thy Kingdom to come.”

When we come to communion we repeat Jesus' words “When you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again” Proclaiming a mystery that says it is through death that God is victorious in Jesus Christ. We proclaim that Jesus died - and that he rose from the grave but it his death on that cross - that atoned for our sin and prepared the way for Jesus' resurrection to “be the first fruits of many to come." (1 Corinthians 15:20)

Our past and our present is not all there is. Our past – present - and future is in God as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise in the coming again of Jesus Christ.

And in the present Jesus comes in a very real and special way every time we celebrate the Eucharist. It is a foretaste of Jesus' Second Advent every time we celebrate this meal as he forgives us - resurrects us, nourishes us, emboldens us, transforms us and covers us in the knowledge that in Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God is in us and around us. And that we are never ever alone not in life - and not in death (Romans 8:38-39) For in Jesus Christ our lives are secured saved, redeemed. []{#anchor}Lord, by your cross you have redeemed the world. [Amen.]