November 29, 2020
1 Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13.24-37
+ Well, it is the first Sunday of Advent.
This season in which we, as the Church, turn our attention, just like the rest of the world, toward Christmas.
It is a time of preparation.
so that the mountains would quake at your presence--
when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil--
make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.
Well, that’s maybe a bit better, but it’s still pretty foreboding.
Actually, in our Gospel reading for today, we get a different way of stating it.
We get a kind of verbal alarm clock.
And we hear it in two different ways:
Jesus says it just those two ways in our reading from Mark: It seems simple enough.
“Keep alert” and “keep awake.”
Or to put it more bluntly, “Wake up!”
But is it simple?
Our job as Christians is sometimes no more than this.
It is simply a matter of staying awake, of being attentive or being alert, of not being lazy.
Our lives as Christians are sometimes simply responses to being spiritually alert.
For those of us who are tired, who are worn down by life, by pandemics and political strife, who spiritually or emotionally fatigued, our sluggishness sometimes manifests itself in our spiritual life and in our relationship with others.
When we become impatient in our watching, we sometimes forget what it is we are watching for.
We sometimes, in our fatigue, fail to see.
For us, that “something” that we are waiting for, that we keeping alert for, is none other than that glorious “day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that we hear St. Paul talk about in his epistle this morning.
That glorious day of God breaking through to us comes when, in our attentiveness, we see the rays of the light breaking through to us in our tiredness and in our fatigue.
It breaks through to us in various ways.
We, who are in this sometimes foggy present moment, peering forward, sometimes have this moments of wonderful spiritual clarity.
Those moments are truly being alert—of being spiritually awake.
Sometimes we have it right here, in church, when we gather together.
I have shared with each of you at times when those moments sometimes come to me.
There are those moments when we can say, without a doubt: Yes, God exists!
But, more than that.
It is the moments when we say, God is real.
God is near.
God knows me.
God loves me.
And, in that wonderful moment, in that holy moment, the world about us blossoms!
This is what it means to be awake, to not be lazy.
See, the day the prophet talks about as a day of fear and trembling is only a day of fear and trembling if we aren’t awake.
For those of us who are awake, who truly see with our spiritual eyes, the day of the Lord is a glorious day.
For us, we see that God is our Parent.
Or as Isaiah says,
O Lord, you are our Father;
We are God’s fully loved and fully accepted children.
And then Isaiah goes on to say that
are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Certainly, in a very real sense, today—this First Sunday of Advent— is a day in which we realize this fact.
Advent is a time for us to allow God to form us and make us in God’s image.
It is a time for us to maybe be kneaded and squeezed, but, through it all, we are being formed into something beautiful.
The rays of that glorious day when God breaks through to us is a glorious day!
And it is a day in which we realize we are all God’s loved and accepted children.
In this beautiful Sarum blue Advent season, we are reminded that the day of God’s reaching out to us is truly about dawn upon us.
The rays of the bright sun-lit dawn are already starting to lighten the darkness of our lives.
We realize, in this moment, that, despite all that has happened, despite the disappointments, despite the losses, despite the pandemic, despite politics, despite the pain each of us has had to bear, the ray of that glorious Light breaks through to us in that darkness and somehow, makes it all better.
But this is doesn’t happen in an instant.
Oftentimes that light is a gradual dawning in our lives.
Oftentimes, it happens gradually so we can adjust to it, so it doesn’t blind us.
Sometimes, our awakening is in stages, as though waking from a deep, slumbering sleep.
Our job as Christians is somewhat basic.
I’m not saying it’s easy.
But I am saying that it is basic.
Our job, as Christians, especially in this Advent time, is to be alert.
To be awake.
Spiritually and emotionally.
And, in being alert, we must see clearly.
We cannot, when that Day of Christ dawns, be found to lazy and sloughing.
Rather, when that Day of our Lord Jesus dawns, we should greet it joyfully, with bright eyes and a clear mind.
We should run toward that dawn as we never have before in our lives.
We should let the joy within us—the joy we have hid, we have tried to kill—the joy we have not allowed ourselves to feel—come pouring forth on that glorious day.
And in that moment, all those miserable things we have been dealt—all that loss, all that failure, all that unfairness—will dissipate like a bad dream on awakening.
“Keep alert,” Jesus says to us.
It’s almost time.
Keep awake because that “something” you have been longing for all your spiritual life is about to happen.
It is about to break through into our lives.
And it is going to be glorious.
Let us pray.
O God of glory, our God and parents, we are longing for you in the darkness of our lives to break through to us; to come to us in this place and shed your Light upon us. And we know that when you do, it will truly be a glorious Day. We ask this in the name of your Messiah, Jesus our Savior. Amen.