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12/3/06

             In the name of The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit             AMEN

                     

                        Let us pray

                       

Make us, we beseech you O Lord our God, watchful and alert in waiting for the coming of your Son Christ our Lord; that when he comes and knocks, he will not find us sleeping in sin, but awake and rejoicing in his praises; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.       Amen               

Today is the start of the season of Advent. A season of anticipation. A season of hope and waiting. It is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. It has been said; “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus shares with his disciples concerning his second coming. An extraordinary thing…matched only by the extraordinary moment before it happens. You might think, as I did at first, “What a strange text for Advent.” After rereading the Gospel text and praying for guidance about what to say I came to understand why this is a first Sunday of Advent reading. The birth of Christ encompasses much more than the Christmas story, not the one which TBS gives us 24 hours of on Christmas, but the REAL Christmas story. Understanding this moves us into a realm which is far more than sentimentality.

The Christmas happening affected the whole universe for all eternity. The eternal God was incarnated in a man named Jesus. Jesus is God’s story – word in the flesh. It is a story of the love of God for humanity. Like all stories it has a beginning and will have an ending – a completion, a grand climax.

When Jesus came the first time, he came as a baby in a manger in an obscure village. Nobody much knew or cared except Mary and Joseph, some shepherds, and angels. He says he will come a second time.

God works purposefully to build his kingdom – a kingdom of justice, righteousness and redemption. Human needs (good or bad) can never daunt the purpose of God. It is his doing, apart from all human calculation or designing. GOD IS IN CHARGE!

Jesus tells his disciples, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth…” There will be signs and circumstances reverberating through the entire universe. Signs…Things which will cause us to fear. Some fears are healthy. Such as the fear which causes us to be careful as we cross Glen St. to get to the Parish Hall. Sometimes, and I speak from experience, we all can be anxious, insecure…fearful. But there is good news!

WHEN NOTHING IS LEFT, GOD IS LEFT. GOD’S LOVE WILL NOT BE DEFEATED. NOTHING IN THIS WORLD CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD’S LOVE. This is so important that I will repeat it.

St. Paul writing to the Christians in Rome makes the affirmation: What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What most, if not all of us know personally, is that God never promised a life free from trial. What God promised was to be with us always, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, to give us the victory.

Therein is our hope. In the book of Genesis we find the story of Noah. There had been endless days on the ark… days of waiting and hoping. In every direction Noah could see only water. One day, in faith, he released a dove to search for land. The Bible tells us the dove “found no place to set her foot” and returned. Noah was put on hold. He had to wait. He waited with faith and in hope.

He sent out a dove a second time. It returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak. Noah couldn’t see the land, but he knew it was there. The waters had subsided. The worst was over. As sure as god had promised, a new world would emerge out of the wreckage of the old.

In Christ we find our sign, our olive leaf, if you will, pointing toward a day when all tragedy shall be overcome and all pain destroyed. A new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth will have passed away. A new kingdom will emerge. Our exile will be over. We will at last be home.This is our faith. This is the mood of Advent.

Time began anew with the birth of Christ. The Incarnation establishes a new situation for humanity. God’s action in the birth of his son, our Savior, was to be decisive, ultimate, and final.

With the birth, death and resurrection of Christ a whole new world has been created. When anyone is united with Christ, there is a new world. It is a world where Christ rules as Lord, where the Holy Spirit teaches and guides us, where love is the rule.

Our Lord said” Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Frederick Buechner wrote: As for myself, the longer I live, the more inclined I am to believe in miracles. I suspect if we had been there at the birth of Christ, we would have seen and heard things that would be hard to reconcile with modern science. But that is not the point. The gospel writers are not really interested primarily in the facts of the birth. They are interested in the significance, the meaning for them of that birth.

When a child is born, we who love that child are not interested primarily in the facts of the birth, although Grandma certainly wants that information, rather we are interested in what the birth means to us and how for us the world will never be the same again. Our lives are changed with new significance.

When Jesus was born the whole course of history was changed. The birth of Jesus into the darkness of the world made possible not just a new way of understanding but a new way of living. Since his birth, countless different kinds of people in countless kinds of ways have been filled with his spirit. They have been grasped by him, caught up in his life, and have found themselves in deep and private ways healed and transformed in their relationship with him.

He was indeed the long-expected One, the Christ, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel (God is with us). In this child there is a power of God to bring light into our darkness, to make us whole, to give a new kind of life to anybody who turns toward him in faith. He is salvation. He is the gospel (the good news) Of God. Apart from him there is no gospel, no good news. This is the only truth that really matters. The truth of the story is found in the hearts of believers. It is in being lived out that it lives.

                Let us pray

Take us in, Lord, and give us the shelter of a manger. Break through our darkness with the light of a star. Reach out to our loneliness, and draw us into a family. Open our ears to the choirs of heaven. And take our pain and use it to bring to birth something new! May all the promise, hope, joy, and love of Christmas be ours in Christ.      Amen

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