Advent 1

IMG_2087 You may view a video of the opening processional by clicking on the link, although it may take a while to download.

Worship began with a Processional Drama of Youth, children, choir & more
Procession of children and adults playing cymbals, gongs, bells, trumpets. as they chant: “Keep awake! Be alert! The Reign of God is at hand!” (Children processed to front and around sanctuary to the back. Some set the communion table. As they leave, one child placed a noise maker near the first Advent candle)


Isaiah 64: 1-9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Mark 13: 24-37
“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


What comes to mind when someone tells you to Keep Awake!Be alert!?
I say that to Jim when are driving a long distance… or to myself when I have a long drive in the dark.
Or do you hear that at school? Its kind of like— hey you, Pay attention.
But here in our gospel passage… from my favorite gospel — the gospel according to Mark— that brief and gritty gospel
and also from our urging in the processional we are given the reason to Keep Awake and alert… because the Reign or Kingdom of God is at hand.
I wonder what that means?

We are beginning Advent
Advent is a season of awe and wonder.
A time to Keep Awake! It is a time of waiting and anticipation, not just for the birth of Jesus, or the arrival of Santa Claus
but for transformation in our own lives and hope for transformation in the world.
I want to see things become better, don’t you?
If we pay attention, if keep awake, we will notice that something is being born in us and we are waiting for its arrival.
We will notice shifting in our world
This is a time for us in NE when the days grow shorter as the nights grow longer

Advent can make us aware of the unfinished nature of creation,
God brought forth an unfinished universe, requiring our participation in its ongoing history.
Jesus the Christ came to earth, healed the sick, shared the vision of Shalom— of wholeness and peace, died, and rose again, and yet the ministry of Christ is unfinished, and the world he came to save still reflects the ambiguity of beauty and brokenness, of salvation and sickness.
Jesus has come and yet, we are still waiting.

The Prince of Peace came to earth as a child and as healer and yet, innocent children, women and men are still being killed in Syria, Egypt and Texas
while others are forgotten in the United States,
political leaders call each other names and taunt each other with threats of war, accusations of misconduct and harassment are daily/hourly items in the news, leaders argue over our role in climate change,
and our political leaders continue to widen the gap between the poor and middle classes and the rich— who get richer.

Thank God for a royal engagement. It is the only good news. Megan and Harry.
An American will marry a prince

But we need to focus on the Prince of Peace being among us while the reality of sin is in our face in sharply contrasted views, alienation, racism, and violence, some violence even carried out in the name of law and order.

We are waiting.
We are waiting to become our deepest and best selves, to live by love and not fear, to fulfill our dreams and God’s dream of Shalom.

We are desperately in need of God’s creative transformation.
Today in Advent, we may be tempted to give up hope of transformation,
or claim premature, quick, transformation
we could look at the signs of the times, while waiting for God to solve our problems and delight in the idea that the “bad news is the good news” and a sign that Jesus will come again soon.

We can choose to live in expectation of God tearing open the heavens and performing awesome deeds of transformation to liberate us from the ambiguities of life, while we do nothing to solve the problems of our world.

Jesus’ words in our gospel passage have led some to search for signs of the end of the world.
There are those who look for a Second Coming of Christ, salvation from on high which will clearly separate the saved and unsaved, the favored and the lost, and assuredly they will be among the favored in God’s reckoning.
And when the hour comes, part of their great joy, will be to see the chaos and suffering of the world from their privileged place of being saved!

I don’t think Jesus wants us to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good!
Nor does Jesus want us to sacrifice this lifetime – this planet – for a Second Coming that simply does not come.
We are to live and not to wait for a divine rescue operation –– we are to be partners in continuing creation and salvation— making things better, in the here and now.

I believe that Jesus’ words are not so much about his Second coming or who will be left behind.
These words are to turn us from heaven to earth and from being passive to being active. Just do it

When he refers to the fig tree as our guide to figuring out the signs of the times, Jesus is suggesting that the transformation we long for will come through the natural world,
the world of cause and effect, of seedtime and harvest,
and not by destroying this earth and what we need to live our daily lives.
Change and Transformation may be abrupt at times, but like the fig tree’s growth, the signs of change and transformation are all around us and within us.

Jesus is cautioning us about claiming esoteric or unforeseen knowledge about the end of the world.

Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good. Don’t look so far ahead that you fail to see God moving in this very moment of time.
Jesus calls us to be alert and to stay awake.
Yes, there may be dramatic moments in our lives and communities.
At times we are called upon to take a leap of faith into what appears to be a grand canyon of uncertainty.
We may experience seismic spiritual shifts.
But, God is faithfully moving in this moment, giving us clues and hints of transformation.

Advent is about active waiting that leads us to do something.
God is faithful and has planted signs of the times in our daily adventures.
We know if we keep awake and alert… we can find God sightings…
God nudged me last night… and for just $7.25 we could help a stranger in line in front of us at the grocery store.
And we were blessed for doing so. I felt God’s presence… because despite my long day and hints of a migraine I was awake enough to notice the need.

Stay alert! The Reign of God is at hand… and that may mean different things to different people.
I believe that the birth of new life is coming, the signs are here.
We have what we need to be faithful, if we can stay awake and alert. Amen