Sunday, December 1, 2019
First Sunday of Advent, Year A
World AIDS Day
Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 2:1-5 Weapons of war transformed into instruments of peace
Romans 13:11-14 Salvation is near; time to wake from sleep
Matthew 24:36-44 The sudden coming of the Son of Man
Title: Advent: Journey in Hope
You know how it is. You go away for a week. You have some nice rest and relaxation. You expect to come home all refreshed and renewed. You look forward to returning as a new you to a new world (or at least and new outlook on your world). And then boom. You land, you’re home, and everything you left is still there. Those magic elves didn’t come and sweep it all away. The dog still needs to be walked, the cleaning you didn’t get to before leaving is still there, the challenges you faced still need to be stared down. And within days, if not hours, you’ve forgotten that you ever went away.
It’s certainly how I’m feeling with the readings that we have heard this morning. We certainly heard quite a bit about longing and waiting before Scott and I left for a refreshing week away. And now back, well rested to be sure, we’re still waiting. We’re still longing. As much as I love the season of Advent, it always starts with a bit of a bump in the road for me, because the ancient lectionary tradition is to start this season that brings us to Jesus’ incarnation, God’s coming to earth; this season of preparation for Christmas begins with readings about Jesus coming again, and encouraging us to prepare for his second coming. And those always have a layer of threat and terror on top of the waiting and longing. This morning, Jesus in Matthew certainly has that tone with the threat that some will be left behind. Throughout church history, some have profited greatly with making the most of these scare tactics. Whether it is by oppressing into fear-filled obedience or selling millions of books and subsequent movie rights.
Yes, the lectionary inspired waiting and longing that we experienced at the end of the church year… (Last Sunday was the final Sunday of the past liturgical year and today is the first Sunday of the new year. This year focuses on the gospel of Matthew). We ended the year longing and waiting and now it seems like nothing has changed because we are starting the new year waiting and longing.
And yet, this is a new season. The wreath is here. The creche is beginning to take shape. Those past Sundays of waiting were ending the church year. They were culminating the journey from cradle to cross, from the coming of the Spirit to going out with a mission. Today’s waiting is starting the new year, starting the new journey. We are not looking back with reflection. Today we are looking forward. And the combination of looking forward with an emphasis on waiting, is a great way to light a fire of hope. The beginning of our Advent altar vestment reminds us of this very Advent word.
Though these past four weeks may have felt like it, we are not stagnant in our waiting and our longing. Let this new season, this new year, this new journey, tone our waiting and longing with hope. We would be Advent-wise to open our ears to the words of the prophet Isaiah that we will hear each week. As he speaks with hope. We will see that he never shies away from the audacity that is at the heart of God-inspired hope regardless of what was going on around the prophet to Judah. And he certainly faced turbulent times: a nation in crisis, a failure of national leadership, a failure of society to attend to the vulnerable ones, (sounding familiar?) But then there was an exile, and the longing of return. Isaiah never looses hope in the God who will lead all nations. The God who leads people in ways such that instruments of war, destruction and death are transformed into instruments of peace, production and life.
Soak up the hope of the Advent season and witness its transforming power in you.
Today we add to the encouraging voice of Isaiah the voices of so many who have been transforming the devastation and despair of AIDS into hope and resilience for over 35 years.
When faced with the swords of governmental neglect, determined activists (determined being another word for hope-filled) beat those swords into plowshares that brought forth action.
When faced with the spears that sought silence and fear, unwavering workers like our own Scott Jordan (unwavering being another word for hope-filled) transformed those spears into pruning hooks that cut away ignorance and spread education and understanding in an effort to restrain the advance of HIV that was killing so ruthlessly.
When faced with rejection and exclusion, when told the dead were best forgotten, the audacious community (Audacious being another word for hope) created a most sacred shine. Carved out a place on the mountain of the living God because all are welcome there. They said “Come, you will not be forgotten.” And a quilt was begun. Panel of which you see hanging around us.
And the hope-filled work continues. All this and more will be remembered and commemorated tonight in this sanctuary.
With Advent-hope, a hope that endures even in the growing darkness of our winters, a hope that sustains even in the devastating events in our world, a hope that renews even in the midst of our waiting; with this Advent-hope, embrace these signs of God’s healing presence. Open your ears to the hope expressed in God’s word. Search out stories of hope that light our way even today.
I read of one this past weekend. Perhaps you heard it as well. Last week, when a substitute teacher in a Utah public school asked the 5th grade class what they are thankful for, one little boy said he was thankful that he was about to be adopted by his two new dads. The teacher told the boy that this was nothing to be thankful for. That these two men were wrong to love each other and form a family. That they were living in sin. The boy’s classmates were so outraged by this that they tried to talk her down. She was unrelenting. So, three girls went directly to the principal. The substitute was removed.
Hope in the leading of a little child. Hope in a world that is striving to live into the love of God. That is Advent hope. Stay awake. It is there. Watch for it. It will light your way. Share it. Others need to know it. Advent hope, grounded in the God who keeps promises, God who is with us, God whose power fills us. No need to wait for it. Hope is ours today. Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
The Rev. Mark Erson