SERMON 12/2/12 Advent 1C
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
“Thanksgiving Day shopping,” “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday,” and now, “Cyber Monday,” these are the more recent seasons of anticipation and waiting that lead up to the Nativity of Our Lord. As a people who follow the cycles of the church’s liturgical year, as a people who in the midst of cultural chaos shout to the world, “peace,” as a people who remember the “reason for the season,” in the mi dst of this retail frenzy, consumer fixation, “buy one get one free” mentality, I have to ask, “whatever happened to “Advent?”
WikiPedia defines Advent as a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” Well, right now there is a lot of expectant waiting going on in our culture with long lines at the mall and local retail establishments, but I am sure that is not what Advent is all about. Also, there is a lot of preparation going on all around us with party planning, gift buying, Christmas card sending, tree trimming, and anxiety producing stress, and I am sure that is not what Advent is really all about either. Paraphrasing the scripture today, we can glean Our Lord’s words as, “we wait and prepare for the coming of the Lord, being aware of the potential for our spiritual life to be burdened, anxious, and depressed with the cares of life unexpectedly.” Advent is a call to peace, a respite from the chaos, a period to prepare not our homes and social lives for Christmas, but our hearts and spirits. Advent is not an excuse either to be a Scrooge, to reject the holiday spirit, but Advent is a wake up call to take a break from those things that distract us from anticipating Christ’s coming (His ADVENTS: in a manger 2000 years ago, in a glorious time to come, and in every encounter we experience in this life).
When the world is already celebrating Christmas, when the trees are trimmed, the holly hung, the egg nog flows, and the sounds in the air are silver bells and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” the church is sometimes accused of “not being with it.” For instance, our decorations throughout the parish grounds are sparse, the colors of the hangings and vestments are penitential purple, the hymns we sing are “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and “Sounds of Ending All.” In a way, with the season of Advent, the church is counter-cultural, but we are not culturally irrelevant. I dare say we don’t go so far as some of my professors in seminary, who would absolutely have a conniption, if the smallest silver bell, pine tree, red ribbon, or holly found its way into your study carrell or classroom desk. One of my professors would adamantly assert “Christmas is December 25th! We celebrate it from sundown Christmas eve and we celebrate it until January 6th, and not before,” One of my professors would make his point by wearing a green Scrooge hat to the weekly community dinner. It was the tongue-in-cheek way of reminding us that Advent is about something counter-cultural, but not culturally irrelevant.
A little radical you may say? Perhaps, but there is something to being said about taking on an Advent intentional spiritual practice such as, abstaining from the norm that stands in contrast,to what the world around us is experiencing; stress, anxiety, and depression. Do I advocate for a complete rejection of Christmas decorations in our homes; not at all. However, the church in her observation of Advent, seeks to create space liturgically, decoratively, and musically for four particular weeks, to allow us to focus on cultivating an expectant waiting for Christ. What we as Christians are called to be in this time known as Advent, is a people prayerfully, intentionally preparing our hearts for Jesus’ coming, and my friends, it has nothing to do with the distractions, worries, and anxiety that the holidays bring to the rest of our culture. As Christians, this season of Advent reminds us that for four weeks, in the midst of the chaos around us, we can focus on Christ and the peace and joy, which he brings into a world, that is striving to bring peace and joy, through a season of shopping, buying, and gifting.
Jesus tells us, to “be ready, for the burden of life’s worries comes upon all of us.” Advent is about being ready. There are many ways to observe a Holy Advent. For some folks means that they restrain from decorating their house, playing Christmas music, and buying gifts until sundown December 24th. For others, their observance of this blessed season involves merely gathering around the table at dinnertime and lighting the candles of an Advent wreath with prayer and thanksgiving. Whatever you do as a family to prepare your hearts for Christ’s advent (his coming), I encourage you to be intentional and take a break from the chaos and clatter all around you. I encourage you to pray, meditate, and listen during the next four weeks. Jesus call us, in the midst of the anxiety and worries of life, “in all things pray that you prevail.” As you observe a Holy Advent, pray, rest, take a break, and wait with expectation for the coming of the one, who calls us all to live in peace.