First Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2018 First Sunday of Advent
It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.
And then—then!—they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!"
Luke 21:25-28 The Message (MSG)
On this morning we begin the Christian season of Advent. Advent is observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The term comes from the Latin word meaning "coming." During the four Sundays of Advent we stop to reflect on what Jesus’ coming means. The Gospel reading from Luke paints a stark picture of what Jesus’ coming will feel like. According to Luke it will feel like all hell has broken loose!
A few years ago I preached at a church in the season of Advent. Life all around seemed like hell. Natural disasters, economic struggles, racial battles, hate-killings, and immigrant bashing were the state of life. It was much like today, with less response. I thought I was preaching to a community of mature Christians, so I delved into the passage without reserve. Jesus was coming, and it would feel like hell, initially.
Jesus’ coming is initially the clashing of our world order and the order of God’s kingdom. The destruction and chaos of human sin bring panic and fill us with doom every single time because sin only leads to darkness and death. And when Jesus comes, even the powers-that-be in their superficial comfort will quake. The coming of Jesus calls for change, and what a change it ushers in! God’s compassion, mercy, justice and peace will overcome the darkness and death of our sin!
Luke reminds us that the coming of Jesus is like hope that allows us to lift our heads high above the evil and hopelessness of life, because Jesus, who is our help, is on the way! I was filled with joy as I preached this sermon, but joy was not what was filling the hearts of some who were hearing me.
At the end of worship, as I greeted people at the church door, those who were less than pleased with my sermon let me know of their disagreement, and in the case of some, their disgust with what I had shared. How dare I desecrate their Advent! Did I not know that Advent was about angels, sweet songs, flickering candles, fragrant wafts of pine, tinsel, shining lights and brightly wrapped gifts gathering under the tree? If they could have banned me from the church, they would have! But there is something to be said about being faithful to the sacred text.
The signs of Jesus’ coming may frighten us, but ultimately, they will be signs not of immanent destruction but of redemption, because Jesus has chosen to be our help. I saw this in the eyes of the survivors of the recent Camp Fire. Faster than they could have imagined, the horizon turned burnt red, day light turned to darkness, fire began to fall upon them from the sky, smoke filled their lungs, and everything around them was consumed. But when they looked up, what they saw was their redemption; God their help was with them. It was the witness the Camp Fire survivors gave over and over again to those of us who heard their stories.
In our daily living and in the worst of our suffering God will be our help! It is what Jesus comes to proclaim to us; the message of Advent. In faith, we believe that even those who lost their lives in the Camp Fire lifted up their heads and saw Jesus helping them to their eternal home.
We can stick to the superficiality and impermanence of tinsel and fake lights, or we can stand up tall and welcome the One who is our help. Jesus is coming……
Hope and Joy,
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño