Here’s the sermon from Sunday, November 28th,
First Sunday in Advent.
The children taught/preached so wonderfully on Sunday, it seemed redundant for me to give the full sermon. I gave a synopsis.
The full text is below.
For people who live in the north,
Advent comes just in time.
As the nights grow longer,
and the sunset comes earlier,
this season of waiting and watching
takes on a special intensity.
The darkness is longer than the day,
this season, and stars shine in the sky
still in the early morning.
Dawn is a long time coming.
All last night, I was aware that
it was the end of the church year,
and the turning of the season was at hand.
We’re waiting and longing for the
return of the light, literally
for the return of the sun,
and spiritually for
the birth of the light of the world:
for the coming of Christ.
We’re expecting the kingdom of God
to draw even nearer.
And each week we gather in this season,
we’ll hear the visions of prophets,
Isaiah and John the Baptist,
who felt the nearness of God
coming into the world,
full of expectation that the Messiah
was on the horizon,
coming with power and glory
to restore the world to wholeness.
It’s a visionary time,
this strange darkness of winter,
a time of dreaming and wonder,
of hope and preparation.
Earlier this month, we heard
Jesus invite us to disarm our hearts—
this season is a season of the disarmed heart.
As we wait for the birth of Jesus,
the teachings we hear
invite us to lay down our defenses,
to surrender our resistance to God,
to come out of the darkness of ignorance and fear,
and be embraced by the light of the Savior.
Advent is a season of repentance,
we’re called to turn toward God’s light,
to become children of light.
The prophets who speak to us
this season, see the spiritual struggle
as a wrestling between darkness and light,
and always the light prevails.
We’re invited to shed the armor
that shields us from others, and from God.
Isaiah, this morning, has us turn east
toward Jerusalem, to see with eyes of faith
the vision of a mountain raised above all others,
and all the nations flow toward it—
toward the house of God
to hear the teachings and learn the ways of God.
Isaiah sees the Word of God
offered as a saving grace for everyone.
He calls God’s people to come and gather,
to go up to the Lord’s house
and learn to walk in the paths of the Lord.
Perhaps the most powerful lines
in this morning’s prophecy
come near the end of our portion,
where Isaiah sees God’s judgment
between the nations is for peace:
God arbitrates on behalf of all of us
and negotiates peace.
What follows that judgment for peace
is an end of war, an end of military production,
where the swords that destroy lives
are hammered into plowshares,
and spears into pruning hooks.
Instead of technologies of destruction,
when the kingdom of God’s peace,
of God’s shalom comes, we’ll
design technologies of creation, construction,
tools that support life, garden tools
for growing things, building tools for making things.
The energies of violence are transformed
into the energies of peace, energies that support life.
That’s an invitation for us, this Advent,
to hear, see, imagine, participate in
this vision of peace, and see what
it might mean for our lives.
For Isaiah, walking in the light of the Lord
means walking in the light of God’s Word.
What do our lives look like
when the Word of God is lamp for our path—
when we follow that light in our choices.
St. Paul repeats the theme of walking in the light
when he urges us to wake up.
He senses the daylight coming, that the light of Christ,
is on the horizon. We live, during Advent,
in that moment of expectation.
Salvation is near to us,
the night is far gone.
In the strange in-between
of already-not -yet realm of faith
Paul urges us to put on the armor of light,
a beautiful image of peace, of living in a disarmed way.
It’s a meditation really, if you think about armor:
clothe yourself in light, let the light of Christ
be your protection from danger, instead of hostility.
Put it on each day, as you would put on clothing.
Putting on the armor of light for Paul is putting on Jesus Christ.
Remember last week’s baptism—we sang
“you have put on Chris.”
Here again in Paul
the invitation is repeated, put on Christ.
When we are tempted to discouragement
or unhappiness, or despair, put on the armor of light,
put on Christ, remember your baptism and choose life.
Wake up and live.
And finally, Jesus exhorts us to be prepared,
to stay awake and keep watch—
for God might come in at any moment,
God might knock on your door, or climb
in a window of your home, God is
about to arrive, so stay awake.
This prophecy of the end-time
is about spiritual vigilance.
Spiritual life as Jesus teaches it here
is awake, alive, ready—vigilant.
He urges a kind of readiness to receive God,
a kind of waiting that expects
to see God at work in the world.
When Jesus speaks of those left behind,
he’s talking about us—this imagery isn’t about a rapturous
in-gathering of believers—Noah’s flood
took a lot of people—but there were those
left behind to remake their lives.
This passage is about who is left
after the cataclysm to rebuild the world.
I’m reminded here, of Luther’s instruction
in the Small Catechism
when we pray for the coming of Christ’s kingdom on earth.
It comes of its own, because God wills it,
but we pray that it may come among us,
and come now. We pray and work for that.
Advent visions are not individualistic,
They aren’t meant to be private visions of a private spirituality.
They are visions of a cosmos transformed by the presence of God,
of an earth restored and renewed by God’s love and healing,
of the powers of darkness driven back by the light of Christ.
The bible thinks big—it’s about you and me, yes,
but also everyone else, and everything that was ever made—
Advent preparations are not just about our personal preparations
for Christmas, or for repentence and getting our souls in order;
these visions are about a world made new,
the wonderful dawn of a new age,
that comes in at an unexpected hour.
They are visions that support us in our daily walk in faith,
while we await the salvation not only of ourselves
but of a whole creation.
And this saving grace comes in a disarmed way,
it comes in surprising ways,
it lights up darkness, even as a small happy child
lights up a room, or a candle lights the darkness
on an early evening.
Put on the armor of light then,
in the mornings this season,
remember to put on Christ
when you get dressed every morning.
Lay down your swords and spears,
and renounce anger and hostility.
Help to be peacemakers in all your interactions
and see what happens.
Be the light that is coming into the world.
Stay awake, expect to see the Lord
coming around the corner any minute,
expect the salvation of absolutely everyone,
the healing of every nation, an end to war and violence,
expect the liberation of all who suffer,
an end forever to death and dying.
Carry the possibility of God in your life
and in the world the way Mary
carried the baby in her womb.
Expect the cosmos to be turned upside down,
and the glory of God to pour in like light.
That’s the sense of Advent,
a whole new world is about to be born.