Monday, December 3, 2012


December 2nd, 2012       “Advent”          Rev. Heather Jepsen

Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:25-36
          Welcome to the season of Advent and the start of a new church year.  We begin the church year with our season of expectation and hope.  Advent means coming and it is a season in which the church looks forward to the coming of the Christ child and our Christmas celebrations.  But it is also the time when the church looks forward to the second coming or return of Christ into our world.  Our scriptures this morning address both of these forward looking views.
          In our Old Testament lesson we hear from the prophet Jeremiah.  He is writing during the time of Judah’s exile in Babylon following the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  This destruction of the temple is extremely significant – much more so than would be the destruction of one of our modern churches.  Following the time of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit we believe that God can be present with us outside of a specific holy space.  But before Christ, God was not believed to be present everywhere and with all people.  Rather God was only present in the temple, residing in the physical space.  So, the destruction of the temple would be the destruction of God’s presence with the people.  People would believe that God had abandoned the people of Judah.
          So, we find the prophet Jeremiah, anticipating a new kind of relationship between people and God.  “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.  And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
          Jeremiah is anticipating the first advent, or the first coming of Christ into our world.  This is what we most often associate with the advent season; preparation for the Christ child in the manger, the babe wrapped in swaddling, the righteous branch who has sprung from the line of David.  More importantly, Jeremiah is anticipating a new covenant which happens for us in Christ.  In Christ, we are no longer bound to only experience God in a physical location such as the temple; rather we can have a personal relationship with God through Christ wherever we may be.  This first coming of Christ into our world and into our lives is half of what we celebrate during the advent season.
          The anticipation of Christ’s second coming is the other half of our advent season which we sometimes forget in the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  It is this second coming that Christ speaks of when we find him in the temple in Luke’s gospel.  Luke sets this speech in public in the temple; it is a message for all people, not just the inner circle of disciples.  Christ offers us a startling vision of the future.  “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.”  Jesus speaks to us of cosmic signs and unnatural phenomenon, he is moving beyond the second destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which he just predicted and into the end of all history. 
This is a classic piece of apocalyptic writing which we most often associate with the book of Revelation.  In this genre historical events, such as the destruction of the temple are given symbolic meanings.  These writings represent the hope and vision of minority groups that stand outside the mainstream culture.  Oppressed groups have no hope in the world improving without divine intervention so they inject their writings with these dark images of the future where God will intervene and make everything right again.  That is why we find Christ saying, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 
The oppressed Christians that Luke is writing for are looking forward to this dramatic future; but what about us today?  How does this vision apply to us?  Are we, a people who are not an oppressed minority, still to look forward to Christ’s return? 
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.  Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.  For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Christ tells his followers that they will not pass away before these things have taken place.  But as we know, that generation has passed away for surely all alive at the time of Christ have long since died.  Yet, we are still a people of faith looking forward to this return, with strong beliefs that these words apply to us as well.  It is my view that every generation since Christ has lived in what we call the end times.  We have all lived in such a way as to believe that we will not pass away before these things come to pass.  And I believe that this is the way Christ wanted us to live.
Christ tells us to be on guard; to not be distracted by dissipation, (which by the way is a translation of the Greek word for nausea caused by drunkenness) or distracted by the worries of this life, but to always be watching for the in-breaking of Christ into our world.  As Christians we are well aware that things are not always what they seem.  That despite whatever is happening in our world, we have faith and hope that in the end God will make all things right.  That is what the Second Advent is about.  It is our expectation of divine intervention into the way the world is, God holds our future no matter what is happening now.  And as a people of faith, we anticipate the actions of God breaking into our lives at any moment in time.
Studying the texts this week I found a wonderful Advent poem that I really want to share with you this morning.  It’s called The whole earth’s a waiting room and it is written by Joseph Nolan
We wait – all day long,
for planes and buses,
for dates and appointments,
for five o’clock and Friday.

Some of us wait for a Second Coming,
For God in a whirlwind.
Paratrooper Christ.

All around us people are waiting;
a child, for attention;
a spouse, for conversation;
a parent, for a letter or call. 

The prisoner waits for freedom;
and the exile, to come home.
The hungry, for food;
and the lonely, for a friend.
The whole earth’s a waiting room!
“The Savior will see you now”
is what we expect to hear at the end.
Maybe we should raise our expectations.

The Savior might see us now
if we know how to find him.
Could it be that Jesus, too, is waiting
for us to know he is around?
Gathered here today, we look forward to Christ’s return.  We wait, a people with bated breath, for God to break into our world and to bring healing and change.  During this advent season, as we are tempted to be distracted by our many Holiday tasks, let us be watchful for God’s activity in our lives and our world.  Let us remember that Jesus himself may simply be waiting for us to notice him.  And let us anticipate not only the coming of the Christ child, but the return of Christ triumphant.  Amen.    


No comments:

Post a Comment