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Sermon - 1 Advent

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world….” Jesus greets us with these words as we celebrate this first Sunday of Advent.

Well, Merry Christmas to you too, Jesus!

Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are jarring. We are so used to thinking of these weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas as the “Christmas season” that anything other than Christmas carols and Christmas shopping and Christmas parties seems out of place. But Jesus tells us something very different. And we really need to hear what he has to say.

In Advent, as in life, we have to wait, - and this waiting is not easy.

In Advent, as in life, we live by faith and hope - and this is hard to do. – there is fear and conflict, division and judgment in our lives and the world around us. There are the visions of the end.

- we wait for God’s kingdom of shalom – the promised kingdom of peace and justice. But it is not here yet, not fully at least, and, most likely, it won’t be here on Christmas day either. All we have are glimpses, promises, of God and God’s future and God’s loving presence.

This is Advent. This is where we live now. This is where we always live.

Our society, our lives are so fragile – we know that there are endings all around us. Nothing is permanent, nothing is perfect, all things come to an end. There are signs all around us of the end of the world, at least the world as we know it, or the world as we would like it to be.

- our government, community and families, bitterly divided, by politics and strife. - terrorists strike, violently and at random. - we get older, problems come, health fails, and death grows nearer. - world-wide, nations and economic systems seem damaged, beyond repair. - the climate changes; there is drought and there are melting icecaps.

We know the signs of the end. We see them every day.

So where is he? Where is Jesus, where is the one who is to come, the one who will bring peace and justice to the world?

Is it possible on the first Sunday Advent, to hear Jesus speaking of hope and promise in the midst of fear and destruction?

Yes, it is possible. Listen to Jesus’ words in today’s gospel. Jesus calls us to live with an “Advent attitude.” Stand up and raise your heads in the midst of all the chaos of the world - the Lord is near. Wait in faith and act in hope.

The fig tree sprouts; summer is near. Even though heaven and earth pass away, the word of the Lord, the Word of God incarnate, will not pass away.

It is not yet Christmas, it is Advent – but the joyous message of Advent is clear: The Lord will come, the Lord is here.

In this time of waiting, of expectation, of life by hope and faith: What are we to do?

First of all, pray. Hold God close, hold one another close, in prayer. Prayerfully embrace and receive God’s love, even when it is hard to see. Pray hard and praise enthusiastically, for the Lord will come.

And live and act in the Lord. Do not give up. Live as if we see the kingdom all around us – even when we can’t. Do what is right, filled with the Spirit, because the Kingdom is here. We do the works of God, we embody and live out the love of the kingdom – at all times, even if we see the Kingdom only by faith and hope.

In Advent, we gather together to pray and sing and live our lives as best we can, to do what we can to bring in the Kingdom of God, even though it has not arrived. We don’t know how it will end, but we hope and trust and believe.

In the words of St. Paul’s mission statement: Advent is a time to learn God’s word, often difficult to hear but powerfully present. Advent is the time to live God’s love.

We rejoice and sing, despite the signs of fear, the signs of the end. We live by faith, we live by hope, we live by the Spirit of the living Lord, and we sing the songs of the Kingdom.

O come all ye faithful; silent night; Christ the savior is born.

God is often hidden from us. God comes to us in different and strange ways. – but always, God comes.

Stay awake, watch.

Look at the signs – the signs of the end and the signs of hope.

The fig tree tells us: head for the woods, not the shopping malls.

Decorate the Christmas tree and watch for the reign of Christ – it is here!

Live to do good, not feel good.

There are distractions, there is fear. But don’t be distracted; don’t be overcome by the fear. Work for healing and peace instead.

Be Christ in the world.

Hope for the presence of God, and live it - now.

We have the gifts, we have the grace, we have the power.

We have been given the greatest gift of all: the baby in the manger, God coming to us, in our flesh; Jesus on the Cross, suffering all that we suffer, even the abandonment of God; and finally the risen Lord, the promise our future with God. We have been given Jesus, raised from the dead, giving us life in the midst of whatever fear we have, whatever the future holds.

The kingdom of God is as near as a prayer, as near as the bread and wine of the Eucharist. The kingdom of God is present in an act of kindness, a work of love, a moment of grace.

So wait, and while you wait, sing the songs of faith and hope, sing the songs of the kingdom – pray enthusiastically and do acts of hope and trust and faith. Live every day with an “Advent attitude.”

- for, bidden or unbidden, seen or unseen, God will come.

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