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Christ is Coming: Be Faithful! Have Hope!

27 November 2022

Year A

Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:36-44

Sunday Cycle of Prayer

The Nippon Sei Ko Kai

St. Timothy’s Church, Daytona Beach

Church of the Holy Presence, DeLand

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

One late afternoon many years ago my wise friend, Willie, invited me for a cup of tea and reflection after a brisk fall walk in Sewanee, Tennessee. “Every day about this time,” she shared “I contemplate Where And When and through whom or what I noticed God breaking into our uncertain world today to reveal God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy and grace. These are what I call “Advent moments.” “Advent moments?” I inquired “But it isn’t Advent yet.”

“ Advent is not only a season of the year,” she said, “But a lens through which I can view my life with all its’ uncertainties.”

“A few years ago she continued, ”when my life felt very unpredictable and uncontrollable. With the economy my recent retirement and health issues and our daughter’s depression. Advent arrived I realized I had left God out of my life for a while, my soul ached for a chance to slow down, detach from the pre-Christmas rat race and frenzy and reconnect with God in new ways.

The Holy Spirit called to me to pause to open my eyes and ears and to wait for moments which caught my attention that revealed God’s goodness, beauty, love I have come to call them… Advent moments.” Moments like today when we walked together, sharing our lives and laughter I was challenged, but could walk without my cane. We both stopped, almost simultaneously, to soak in the forest trails silence and colors. Moments God nudges me to pause, to linger and to ponder how God has been at work in the past. And is at work now and will be in the future. In my life and others, Advent moments remind us we live in between times in the already, but not yet. God is faithful, Christ has come and will come but no one knows when Christ will come as much as some analysts would like to predict. I want to be awake and ready to greet Christ whenever he comes and with all life’s uncertainties and distractions, watching for Advent moments keep me spiritually grounded because God is faithful I am hopeful and I certainly don’t want to be left behind!! “

I suspect none of us, you and I don’t want to be left behind either! In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus reveals to his disciples and to us how to live in this in-between time, already and not yet. Times which can be unpredictable and uncontrollable.

BUT - before we take a look at this morning’s lesson you may be asking, what on earth are we doing on the first Sunday in Advent looking at the End times? These apocalyptic, ominous texts which sound threatening, like the end of the world

Aren’t we supposed to be focusing on preparing for the Christ Child to be born in Bethlehem? Advent, first observed by Roman Christians in the 6th century, centered on Christ’s second coming….. Parousia…. in Greek and not until the Middle Ages Was Advent explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming. In our tradition today we honor both Advent themes; the first two Advent Sundays emphasize Christ’s second coming, while last two Advent Sundays concentrate on Christ’s Birth in Bethlehem.

This morning Jesus is at the Mount of Olives answering the disciples’ questions about when the temple will be destroyed and what will be the signs of the end times. Jesus’ then turns to their third question, a question we can no doubt relate to. On what day, at what hour will the end times arrive? No one, Jesus says, not even Jesus himself, will know when the End times will arrive only God Godself knows and our job is not to try to guess or estimate the day but to prepare for the day. The day of new beginnings in Christ. For if we are living in faith the day and hour Jesus comes again does not really matter.

Jesus emphasizes, as the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, we are called to be watchful, awake, ready to receive Christ when he comes again at an unexpected hour, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And, then Jesus gives us a forewarning from early Jewish history as to how we are to prepare. Back in the days of Noah the earth was no longer the paradise God intended. All but one man, Noah and his family worshipped the Lord. Most of humanity had forgotten about God, they thought they didn’t need God or faith to anchor their lives. They were focused on themselves and their day to day lives, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. And they knew nothing until the waters came in unexpectedly, built up furiously and the flood swept them all away.

These people were living normal lives caught up in the day to day daily grind of making a living,

growing and raising families, enjoying their grandkids, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries. Sounds like that could be you or me. They were not living wicked or licentious lives but their sin was that they were living lives separated from God and disconnected from their faith. Perhaps they heard, but clearly did not heed, the stories of their ancestors and no doubt they laughed off Noah, that religious fanatic who was building a huge ark, stocking it with food and two of every animal and bird and kept warning them of pending doom.

Jesus’ warning here was the people’s sin in Noah’s day was their nonchalant attitude toward God. God and their faith were not at the center of their lives and hearts. They lived distracted. disobedient lives filled with spiritual emptiness.

Fast forward thousands of years to today. I hear, and I suspect you hear, that same nonchalant attitude if you ask some people about their faith….We are believers, but we don’t’ go to church, I am spiritual but not religious… Really???

Jesus warns the disciples that just like in Noah’s day, Christ will return on a day just like any other when we are at work or with our families or at play and that there will be consequences.

Those who are awake and prepared will not be left behind. I suspect, like my friend, Willie, you and I don’t want to be left behind!!

The Advent Season, particularly with the apocalyptic literature is a wake-up call for us. We are reminded especially in this Season to get up to a new day. A day we are aware we are in times of already, not yet and to wake up to become aware of the works of darkness of the world that bind us… the busyness and distractions of our secular world, particularly in the pre-Christmas season. The habits, hurts, and hang-ups that keep us from placing God at the center of our hearts and loving God, our neighbor, and ourselves and the nonchalance that at times erodes our connection to Christ and leaves us asleep, sometimes just for a short nap or at other times asleep for a season. Caught up in the pre-Christmas rush and unaware of God’s Advent moments in our lives.

Paul also writes we are to put on God’s armor of light, the Lord Jesus Christ and I had to stop in my tracks when I read this because I have yet, and I suspect you have yet, sadly, to see a child at Halloween dressed as our Lord Jesus Christ. But perhaps that isn’t as sad, as I first thought because when we are baptized in and with Christ, we become adults in the faith, taking on a mature Christians responsibilities to live with Christ-like qualities, to ask as I suspect you and I do…Would Jesus do in this situation? How would Jesus choose to love God and neighbor?

And when we are baptized in and with Christ and we become adults in the faith we may not know when Christ will come again but we can live with hope that our God is faithful and that Christ will come again and we want to be prepared and awake. And so on this first Sunday of Advent I want to challenge you to discover those “Advent moments” in your life perhaps by

reflecting at the end of the day where you saw God at work in your life, reading and praying with a daily devotional or doing something small everyday as Jesus would, offering a smile, calling someone you haven’t seen in church, visiting those who are ill or struggling in some way

This is how in this consumer driven pre-Christmas frenzy you can re-connect and deepen and widen your relationship with God. Be intentional to experience Holy Advent Moments for you will live in faith and know you will not be left behind!!


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