Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sermon; Advent 1C; Luke 21:25-36

Happy New Year!

With the proclamation of this gospel, though, one might wonder just how happy it will be.  Like last week, we are told of signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and waves.  People will faint from fear as heaven will be shaken.  Be on guard so that the great and terrible day of the Lord does not catch you unexpectedly like a trap.

Happy New Year?

The Church year, as you know, begins with Advent 1 as we begin to prepare for the coming of the Lord.  We look both back and forward to his first arrival in a manger.  We look back and forward to what Jesus said about his coming again.  We are torn between living into the expectation of terrifying apocalyptic visions and of living into a vision of a newborn baby surrounded by loving parents, adoring shepherds, and angels on high, venite adoramus dominum.  Which one is Advent preparing us for?

The answer, of course, is both.

Today we hear from Luke's version of the little apocalypse.  We are told that the Son of Man is coming with power and great glory.  We are told that heaven and earth will be shaken to their core.  We are told to not let that day catch us unawares like a trap.  And we are told to be alert at all times.  In short, we are told that when Jesus comes, the whole world will be thrown into a tizzy.

On the one hand, people are looking forward to this event.  Without attaching negative reasons to this (revenge, for instance), let's just give people the benefit of the doubt and say they are looking forward to the event because, Yea, Jesus.

On the other hand, people are terrified of this event because it's the end of the world as we know it.  Things we thought we knew are unknowable.  Old patterns of behavior are thrown off as we are forced to cope with a new way of being.  Things that were are being cast down, while new things are being raised up.  And that terrifies some people.

Advent reminds us that the world as we know it is ending with the coming of the Son of Man and for us to be prepared to live into this new reality.

But in Advent, we also begin to prepare again for the coming of the Christ child.  We begin to look forward to Christmas in hopeful anticipation.  We begin preparing for the coming of the Son of Man born in a stable to a young girl.  That time and those images are just a few short weeks away.

And despite images of softly falling snow, horse-drawn sleighs, and beautifully decorated houses, despite hymns of holy nights or dreams of sugar plums, Jesus' first arrival was much like his second – that is, disruptive.

Let's take a look at the description of the apocalyptic vision and apply it to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

The Son of Man is coming with power and great glory.  Anyone who has ever had a child knows that they wield an incredible amount of power.  A newborn child has the power to cause you to reschedule your life.  It has the power to change your sleep patterns.  It has the power to determine if you stay in or go out, and for how long you'll be gone.

This child also arrives with great glory.  Pictures are taken at every opportunity.  Now, videos are posted to Facebook daily.  Grandparents are proud.  Namesakes croon.  Sleeping babies elicit contemplation and giggling babies generate glorious laughter.

For those of us who have had children, they shake our idea of what life is, our sense of heaven and earth, to our core.  No longer can we live only for ourselves, but we realize we are living for this tiny other person.  During the  pregnancy, we are given multiple lists, books, and advice of what to do before and after the birth.  Cover the outlets, learn to cook with pot handles to the back of the stove, buy life insurance, get a car seat, build a crib, cloth or disposable, and be alert at all times.  In short, our world as we know it is thrown into a tizzy.

The first coming of Jesus threw the immediate world around him into a tizzy.  Mary and Joseph were new parents.  Angels appeared to shepherds.  Turning to Matthew, kings quaked with fear and attempted to eliminate him.  The first time Jesus came, he came with power and glory for all to see who were willing to see it.

Jesus, whether he comes for the second time, or whether he comes again for the first time, has a way of upsetting the world both as we know it and as we want it.

Be alert for Jesus to come when you least expect it.  He has already come when people least expected it.  Christmas is also coming, and it has a way of sneaking up on us like a trap.

These things are all around us.  Nations are distressed and cower in fear.  The noise of the world confuses many.  People are fearful of what is coming their way.  Babies are born, turning the world of those around them upside down.

But you, when you see all this, stand up, raise your heads and know your redeemer draws near.  When you hear of these things, and hear people proclaim a message of fear and isolation, be not afraid.  It is into this world that Jesus comes.  And it is this world that will be thrown into a tizzy.  Because that's what happens when an upside down world is turned right side up.



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