Sunday Sermon 28th Nov
The chosen hymns for this week, Make way, make way, for Christ the King and Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of all our hearts
be acceptable to you
our Lord and our Redeemer.
It's the first Sunday in Advent. We could easily trivialize this season, this beginning of a new church year. We could use it as a countdown to Christmas. We could number the shopping days left until the Big Day. We could treat it as part of Christmas itself.
Or, we could focus so much on the Advent wreath and the other church symbols of the season that we miss the vocation, the deep longing, of Advent. We could easily spiritualize this season and see it only as a time for retreats and inner preparation for the joyous tide of Christmas.
Or perhaps we feel overwhelmed by hustle and bustle, advertising, and the push to buy more stuff to show people we love them.
We may feel cynical and see a real and spiritual wasteland around us.
But God calls us to look forward and see a different reality—a kingdom of God that stretches towards the sun.
Which brings us to today’s Old Testament reading.
Our lectionary reading for this first Sunday of a new Church Year, the First Sunday of Advent, is from the book of the prophet Jeremiah.
Six hundred years before Jesus was born, the people of Israel were carried off into exile in Babylon, after many warnings by the prophets, including Jeremiah, that their failure to live faithfully, to live in justice and righteousness, would bring their downfall.
Once, under the great King David, Israel had been a formidable political and military power, and its people still remembered those glory days and longed for their return.
Now, their king was no more; that glory was only a dim memory, and their hopes were dashed upon the rocks of the brutal history of empire.
For them, it is hopeless – there is no future.
Everybody understands the feeling of hopelessness. Everybody here can identify times of seeming hopelessness.
We know this world isn’t as it should be. We spend our lives waiting. We bury our treasures. We are intimidated by the giftedness of others, incapacitated by our lack of discipline, and mesmerized by our fear of failure. Our lives aren’t what they should be. And then the prophet arises It is right then, right there, in the midst of despair, that the prophet arises,
-the prophet who proclaims, even in desolation, destruction, and loss, God's promise for the future.
In the midst of the terrible suffering of the people, with Jerusalem destroyed and the temple in ruins, Jeremiah doesn't pile more misery on the people. Instead he offers them something to grasp, a hope which they can cling to.
In fact, the prophet's voice takes such a dramatic turn that these chapters of Jeremiah are called the Book of Consolation, or the Book of Comfort.
From captivity, Jeremiah speaks a word of hope. God promises that his people will be slaves no longer. The Messiah is coming from the line of David to fulfil the ancient promise of salvation.
Jeremiah does not say a word about the people keeping up their end of the bargain.
There is no bargain.
There is only love.
This kingdom is dependent not on the goodness of the subjects, but the love of the King.
Waiting for the Christ Child is best spent working for the cause of Jeremiah's righteous Branch. That cause is justice and righteousness in the land.
Mother Teresa told a story about the time she came down with a terrible fever. Her temperature climbed and she became delirious.
She had a vision of being at the gates of heaven and telling St. Peter that she was ready to pass from this world to the next.
But St. Peter refused her entry into the high vault of heaven. Mother Teresa asked why. Peter replied: "Because there are no slums in heaven."
Peter turned Mother Teresa back from heaven's gate because there was work for her left on earth. Her vocation was in the slums of earth not in the glory of heaven.
So it is with us.
If Advent is anything, it is a season of painful waiting in the world and not detached from the world; a season of darkness before the light comes; a season about a future that is not yet--about a redemption that is "drawing near" in the language of Luke's Gospel.
Our job as Christian disciples is to make Advent more about earth than heaven. We must be like Peter at heaven's gate: We must remind ourselves that there is work to do as we wait for the Lord of History.
The best way to wait is to work for the kingdom - for justice and righteousness in the land. That's what Jeremiah did with his life and that's what Mother Teresa did with her time here on planet earth.
As Christians we are bound to a new kind of king, one who changes us from within and gives us a new name. During Advent we announce to the world his coming rule, and we invite the whole world to claim Jesus as its righteousness.
Advent is a time of waiting, filled with hope, for the One who is to come. When we live in love and act in hope, when we gather again and again at the table to remember what Jesus did and to know that Jesus is with us once again, we are people of Advent hope.
Today is the church’s New Year, and this alternative New Year's Day affirms time as a movement toward a reaffirmation of trust in God's promises, past, present, and future.
Our task, then, here, on the near edge of Advent, is to give our lives each day to God's own dream of compassion and peace, and to persist in living our lives in hope.
We imagine a world where peace and justice
are the ordinary realities of life;
We dream of a planet where giving and sharing
are second nature to all people;
We envision an earth where joy and celebration
fill the news and our lives;
It may seem like a delusion,
but we have an incredible hope!
We hope in the One who has come:
who proclaimed such a world,
and who gave his life for it;
We hope in the One who is always coming:
surprising us with the presence,
and the restoring work, of God;
We hope in the One who will come:
in every age, to every generation,
until this dream has come true.
We have an incredible hope, O God,
and we praise you for it!