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Advent

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Advent

The Absurdity of Advent
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 40:3-5
Isaiah 40:3–5 KJV 1900
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, And every mountain and hill shall be made low: And the crooked shall be made straight, And the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together: For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

I. Introduction

I so enjoy this time of the year in the Christian Calendar. Even after 35 years of Preaching and Pastoring, this season never grows old or tiresome as I stand in the pulpit. This is the First Sunday in Advent.
• In the media the season is called `the run-up to Christmas'
• Even in the Church we rarely give much thought to Advent
• I am convinced most Churches across the land will give it no thought at all
• But if we do think about it, it seems to play strange tricks with time
We all know it as the season when we look forward to the birth celebration of Jesus.
• It heralds the approach to Christmas
• But, as is clear from our Advent hymns, we also look forward to the Second Coming of Christ
• So we sing `O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
When we talk of `looking forward to the birth of Jesus,' we know this is only a manner of speaking. The birth of Jesus took place some two thousand years ago, and what we now look forward to is Christmas, our annual celebration of that event – it is the Greatest Announcement the World has have heard.
When, however, we look forward to the second coming we are in our own present time gazing to an unknown future.
• We don’t know the time or the Season of His Return
• It may be Morning – Noon - Night
So at Advent –
• We look back to the birth of Christ and His ministry on earth
• We look forward to our yearly celebration of His birth at Christmas
• And we look still further forward to His coming again
• When He will judge the living and the dead

II. Advent is More than a Looking Back and Looking Forward

But to put it just like that and leave it there is to forget that emphatic now. If on Advent Sunday all we do is to look back to Christ's earthly life and forward to his coming again, our present life seems to occupy a sort of interval when nothing much is going on.
• Something decisive happened in history
• Something decisive will happen beyond history
• But nothing decisive happens now
• That is what is believed to be ‘THE ABSURDITY OF ADVENT’
Christ came to visit us two thousand (2,000) years ago and, we believe, will come again, although we cannot picture what that will be like---or rather we can picture it as Charles Wesley does in his marvelous hymn `LO! HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING', but we know, as Wesley surely knew, that the reality of it will far transcend our picture of it.
But meanwhile we are, it seems, left with nothing but remembrance and anticipation, as if in the long interval between the two, Christ was altogether absent.
Advent is the time to soberly and joyfully prepare once again to receive God's gift of Christmas.
• Advent is the time to remember the ancient promises to ABRAHAM – DAVID - and the PROPHETS
• Advent is the time to ready our hearts to celebrate once again the joy of God's Incarnation
God's Christmas gift of Jesus is only the beginning of the story. To be sure, it's a glorious beginning -- a beginning filled with angelic choirs -- brilliant stars heralding Jesus' birth.
• Still, it is only the beginning of the narrative that continues through the ages
• The end of the narrative, the climax, is still to come
• And waiting for the end makes waiting for the replay of the beginning so much richer!
So, on this Sunday of Advent we pray with Isaiah for God to rend the heavens so that nations might tremble before His presence and all flesh might recognize the authoritative presence of our maker.
• Surely Christmas is a break in the clouds that conceal the majesty of God from us
• But it is only a break
• The heavens still await the time of God's final Rending
• The heavens still await the time of God's final Disclosure
If we look only to Christmas as the answer to Isaiah's cry, we will fail to hear God's full response to the ancient prophet. There's more to come! Jesus reminds us of the "more to come" in the ST. MARK 13 passage when He encourages us to keep watching and waiting for the return of the Master who has gone away only for a time.
• There is still more to come between the Birth and the Second Coming
• There is still more to come between the Looking Back and the Looking Forward
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul draws the other two passages together. He thanks God for the rich faith of the Corinthian Christians—a faith made possible by Christ's first opening of the heavens, but also a faith that looks for the full revelation of God, the day when the barriers between heaven and earth will be fully and finally rent asunder.
Doesn’t that make Advent then an exercise in paradox? Typically during the Christmas Season we hear of:
• Visions of Peace
• Visions of Hope
• Hills made Low
• And Valleys raised up
• Lions lying down with Lambs
• Swords beaten into Plowshares
• We pronounce beautiful promises to the Poor and Oppressed
• We center our worship on the ethereal concepts of Hope - Peace - Joy - Love

III. Our Present Reality – Easily Seen

And then we exit our place of Worship and go out to the parking lot and get into our vehicles and drive back into the –
• Swirling vortex of charity drives
• Jewelry commercials
• Consumer guilt
• Family pressures
• Worries about money drowned out by Tinsel – Carols - Baked sweets -- and promises of incredible Interest-Free financing for 18 months
And the words of Peace and Hope for an amped-up and worn-out world seem quaint and pretend. Not really real at all. Yes, THE ABSURDITY OF ADVENT. Let me be honest – We all know what real feels like.
• We know what Sweet Potato Pie baking in the oven smells like – that’s Real
• I know the taste of my favorite holiday drink, hot chocolate – that’s Real
• I know the sound of my favorite Christmas Music – that’s Real
• We know the feeling we get handing over our Credit card during Christmas Shopping
• We know the BROKENESS – ANGER – SADNESS – STUCKNESS – life and the lives of those we love
• We know the feeling of giving the perfect gift that tends to obscure for a while the darkness inside us and around us - That’s Real

IV. Our Present Reality – Not So Easily Seen

And yet every week in during this month, I must stand in the pulpit and talk about this other reality. The one that's often hard to see and that we almost never touch –
• This reality of Enduring Peace and Transforming Hope
• This Eschatological Vision of Rightness
• This Light that the Darkness can never put out
Every week of advent we suggest that Christmas means something –
• And something is coming
• That something somehow changes at Christmas
• We use words like "INCARNATION" and "SALVATION," and sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel
• Then we bless the people and send them all back into the real world
Yes my Brothers and Sisters – THE ABSURDITY OF ADVENT.
• We talk about a beautiful, peaceful world of wholeness and harmony
• We talk about it as though Christmas really changes things
• That God came near, God entered in, means everything is different!
• We declare - And sometimes we even believe it
TRANSITION
But if we're honest, we will say we're still waiting.
• Waiting for things to be made right
• Waiting for Wholeness
• Waiting for Hope
• If we're really honest, we'll talk about the Darkness and not just the Light
• And you need to hear us doing this
• Or else we are collaborators with the retailers and feel-good spirit peddlers of the season who turn Christmas into a temporary antidote to our pain

V. Advent Must be More than Looking Back & Forward

Advent can’t just deal with the PAST – the Wonderful, Magnificent Birth of our Savior. It can’t just deal with the FUTURE that Christ will return. Advent must also touch our TODAY our NOW.
• Just because Christmas is coming
- doesn't mean sickness is leaving
- doesn’t mean our problems have disappeared
- doesn’t mean or jobs suddenly appear and tensions eased
- doesn’t mean we will now have an easier time paying our monthly bills
- doesn’t mean those broken relationships will now be fixed
- doesn’t mean the hurt and pain of missing a loved one is erased
And unless we say this aloud -- unless you and I announce that Advent embraces these realities, makes space for them and gives voice to them –
some around us or listening to the message weather in this space or online, they will feel more alone and isolated right now than any other time of year if we can’t connect the Birth of the Past, the Second Coming and tie it into the Reality of our Now we do a disservice to this Advent Season.
And this is where Advent's absurdity is a profound and blessed gift to us.
• Advent is Honesty
• Advent lets us go to those places of waiting and unearth them, hold them out in front of us, and cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
• Because when all the rest of the world would rush us out of our discomfort and push us into cheer
• Advent calls to us to Keep Awake
• See the need
• Hold the sorrow
• Embrace and Sit in the waiting

VI. Advent is Also About the Now

So Advent is also about the NOW. I don’t believe we are supposed to be in a state of urgency, anxiously awaiting the return of Christ.
• We don't have to be scanning the news channels waiting for the "Breaking News Announcement: Jesus Has Returned"
• We don't have to keep our Smart phones at the ready, worrying we'll miss Jesus' text or tweet telling us he's back!
• Instead, Jesus tells us simply to be ready
• We do this by paying attention to the needs of others
• We do this by opening our hearts to the least among us
• We do this by loving our neighbor as ourselves
• When we love one another, we reflect that which God created us to be
• When we love one another we are part of the God Movement
• That's what Jesus wants us to be ready to see

Closing

As I move to a close that we may, let’s go back to where we began this message in ISAIAH during this Advent season. YES, I BELIEVE THERE IS AN ABSURDITY TO ADVENT.
• It is the absurdity of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh
• It is the absurdity of believing and trusting in another reality, beyond the reality of what we presently know, and in another power above the powers of this world
• It is the absurdity that the kingdom of God is yet evolving, being created, and springing forth each moment, when we as the people of God dare to live in Hope and walk through the dark into the Light of Christ's love
• Yet, it is in this Absurdity that we as believers must Watch and Wait
--We are the ones who can participate in the hills of injustice being made low
--We are the ones who can work to smooth out the rough places for those who struggle and suffer under the weight of oppression and inequality
--We are the ones who can beat the swords of intolerance and hatred into plowshares of acceptance and love
--We are the ones who can commit ourselves to empowering the lambs to speak, stand or rise up against the lions who misuse and abuse their power and authority
--How?
--When we are bold enough to believe and embody the essence of Emmanuel-God with Us
--When we are bold enough to believe and embody the essence of God Among Us
--When we are bold enough to believe an embody the essence of God For Us
Isaiah 40:3–5 KJV 1900
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, And every mountain and hill shall be made low: And the crooked shall be made straight, And the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together: For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
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