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Advent in the age of Covid

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Sermon Notes, Advent 1, Year B 2020 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence-as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! I woke up Friday morning, Black Friday, stunned by silence. There was no haranguing in my head to dash for the store opening deals that trigger the Christmas shopping season. I thought to myself: I hadn't heard of a single business opening early to draw in early bird shoppers. It was a quiet start to the most frenetic time of the year. And then I remembered, COVID. For the first time since the pandemic began, I thanked God for COVID. Because the pandemic has succeeded where every other global attempt failed; to move us into the spirit of Advent. The fear of catching a deathly disease prevents us from charging blindly into the hysteria of mass acquisition. All across the world, people who would have in recent years throw off their covers to go shopping, stayed in bed a little longer, listened to the early birds chirping, had another cup of coffee, and discovered what we faithful Anglican's have known all along, that there is joy in patient waiting. Good people, our time has come. How unique is this opportunity? Very. The world is quite used to clamor and is scaled to accommodate it. If you want to be heard, you need to shout louder than the voice next to you, who also wants to be heard. That is why the prophet Isaiah (you see this is nothing new), prayed the Lord to return with such a violent shaking that everyone would have to notice. Anything less would be lost in the clamor. That very clamor has been the Goliath to our message of patient expectation. But this year COVID slew the Goliath, and the advertising moguls who in the past stirred up our passion for purchasing, now urge us to stay home, avoid the crowds, rediscover simplicity, oh, and shop on-line. So they aren't totally silent, but compared to recent years, their volume is greatly reduced. Two questions come immediately to mind. Are we ready for them? The crowds who might actually be listening. And what should we say to them? We are ready. We are ready because we have been doing this preparedness thing for over 2000 years. Jesus encouraged his followers to stay awake because they knew not when the day of the master's return would come. The church has been doing that with remarkable faithfulness since the day of Pentecost. It is not an Advent thing for us but defines who we are. We are a people who wait on the Lord. We lean into that expectation every Sunday when we pray in the words of the Nicene Creed, "We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come." We are a people who believe our sacramental union with Christ enables us to expect God's favor, as we say each Sunday in the post communion prayer. We thank him: "For assuring us, through this Sacrament, of your favor and goodness towards us, that we are true members of all faithful people, and are also heirs, through hope, of your everlasting kingdom." In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul sought to remind them who they were in Christ. A holy people, "Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours..." And as sanctified and called he reminds them that they lack no gift of the Holy Spirit as they, "wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ." The equipping of the saints, the calling of the church, the gifting of the Holy Spirit, none of that has not changed since Paul's day. We are every bit as equipped as they to wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. So yes we are ready to show the world what it means to wait on the coming of the Lord. And this year we don't have to shout it. We don't have to drown out the opposition, which is very hard to do when you are proclaiming peace. We just need to be who we have always been, a people who practice what we pray. What then should we say to them when they come alongside to hear us? Just this: we know what is coming and they do not. What is more, we want them to know just as we know. We aren't keeping a secret from the world; we have a gift for the world to open. Yes we are patiently waiting for the coming again of Jesus Christ into the world, but even as we wait we experience him here with us. It is not some distant comfort that we long for, some relief from the anxieties of COVID or the uncertainties of these troubled times, but a present assurance that already He is in the world and already He is with us. We hope and pray that the world hears that message in this Advent season as never before, enabled to hear as never before because of the circumstances of this time we live in. Because there is another message that is not so welcoming. The world should dread the second coming that we so long for. The end will be cataclysmically bad for all those who hear and do not receive. This too is part of the Advent message and we need to speak it, in love, as a call to repentance. So my friends. We have the floor as never before, at least not in my lifetime, to speak and be heard. Is COVID then a blessing? No. I would not call it a blessing and thereby insult all those who have been hurt by it. But it is an opportunity for the church to be heard. We have an ancient and unchanging message of comfort, a summoning toward the ultimate sublime peace of God. Advent means to come to. Let's show them the way. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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