A sermon for Advent 1: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44
It is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is after I spent some time at the Thanksgiving feed, here I Blytheville, where some 1,000 meals were shared all over Mississippi county. And later with family & neighbors, where there was food, food and more food. There was some conversation about family traditions, and then a little bit of football. After that ~ I was ready to be home alone. Then there was Black Friday and all the shopping hordes. But we skipped all that and after a short trip down the road for a second, Thanksgiving feast with more family, and desserts more numerous than I can count followed by a short drive after which I was ready to be home alone. After all that ~ I recovered enough to be reminded that we have much to be thankful for even when we do not think we do. And now ~ now I am ready to use this time to teach myself to see the abundance of God and to share the abundance of God.
Today is also 1st Sunday of Advent it is the 1st Day in a new church year. There were no late-night fireworks or morning concerts; there were no parades of floats, and marching bands, or giant balloons and no celebrity-studded commentary. There was this morning there is a hopeful proclamation of the days to come we heard from Isaiah prophecy. There is a psalm celebrating going to the Temple, and prosperity, and unity and peace. We have to back up several verses to get here, but there is the story of disciples with Jesus at the Temple, seemingly pointing out its grandeur, followed by Jesus’ reply “It is all coming down.” A little bit later and in private they ask him “When?” And Jesus answers them with a warning not to be lead astray, he tells them about persecutions, sacrilege in the Temple, false prophets, and false messiahs, and the darkening of the sun, and the moon and the stars; and then Jesus tells them “no one knows the day or the hour when” and cautions them, cautions us to be alert and remember that the people of Noah’s day were not so alert, and he ends with some puzzling stuff about one being taken and one being left and a home owner knowing when the thief will come. Paul follows Jesus’ example by telling Christ’s Roman followers to stay alert because salvation is nearer now than when they became believers (Romans 13:11b).
By the way none of what Jesus or Paul has to say supports the Left Behind series’ idea of rapture (Boring). And if Jesus’ and Paul’s warnings and their less than gentle encouragement to be prepared don’t have anything to do with the rapture what are we to learn from all this? Why do we read these lessons as we begin a new church year? What are we to see as we seek to continue a renewed Christian life, as we look forward to the coming of Christ not only as the baby born in a stable but also as the Son of Man with Angles and Trumpet calls (Matt 24:30-31). Well, it just might have to do with how we answer the simple question “Are you ready?”
So, are you ready? Are you ready to live knowing that Advent is not a countdown to Christmas? What Advent is ~ is time to reminder to be as ready as you have ever been for the most unexpected thing you can never imagine (Bowron). Isaiah’s introduction “In days to come” is not a prediction but an affirmation; and while it is definitely unspecified and clearly far-off, it is in no way vague (Tucker). So ~ are you ready? Are you ready to trust that God, Jesus, and the Spirt will not be ready someday, but are ready now, and have been since before Jesus’ birth? Are you ready? Ready to learn (once again) that being ready for the Kingdom of Heaven is not about determining who goes and who stays, but is all about being together. Together in the field, or in grinding meal, together in school, or in lanes, or at sea, or at church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea; together in all of life trusting that God is already ready (Scott). Are you ready to ask your neighbors, those you like you and those you don’t like, those who look and speak like you, and those who don’t look or speak like you; are you ready to ask them “How can I help you get ready?” (Lewis). Are you ready to live knowing, to live believing, that God has not and will not abandon you or us, or anyone at all, or the world? Are you ready to stretch your imagination, so you can see that there is a real alternative to the violence and abuse in the world, and then work together to reconcile ourselves to each other and live as if God in Jesus by the Spirit are right here right now (Bratt)?
Are you ready to follow Torah, that often translated “law” but here is an invitation to learn (Gaventa and Petersen Isaiah 2:2)? Are you ready to learn that keeping watch by being faithful to the Lord in our mundane everyday routines is a holy watchfulness? Are you ready to learn how such a watchfulness witness means to live the best lives we can for our great God in Christ (Hoezee, Advent 1 A | Matthew)? Are you ready to give up going along through life as usual (Boring)? Are you ready not be surprised by, or to at least accept God’s invasion into everyday life (Harrelson)? Are you ready for God to be all in your stuff?
Knowing that there is no rapture with Christ’s return and that the coming of the Son of Man will reveal the hidden reality that is already present are you ready for mercy; are you ready for forgiveness; are you ready for peace (Micha 6:8) (Boring). Are you ready to do believe as C.S. Lewis once said
I believe in God for the same reason I believe in the sun that shines in the sky.’ ‘Not just because I can see the sun but because by it I can see everything else. (Hoezee, Advent 1 | Romans 13:11-14).
Are you ready for Christ’s return to reveal the hidden reality that is already present and commit the next four weeks to recommit to living life as if the Kingdom is right here right now? Are you ready do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micha 6:8).
Are you ready?
Well, are you?
Come on ~ are you ready?
Then let’s light it up!
An acolyte lights the 1st Advent Candle
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