Sermon for Advent 1 Year C
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” –Hamilton Wright Mabie
I was watching a moving this weekend with one of my dear, dear friends. Her husband, my classmate, was ordained to the priesthood the night before and despite all our good intentions neither Kristin nor myself could get any work done the day after the ordination. We succumbed to our recovery needs by lying on her couch watching the final two Harry Potter movies. (Yes, that is 6 hours of Harry Potter movie goodness, don’t judge.) There is a scene towards the end of the final movie when the battle of good vs. evil comes to a climax and then, all of a sudden all of the sound is sucked out of the air and Harry is left in a room of dazzling, blinding white. All of the stress of the preceding scene vanishes in a flash as Harry is left in unearthly silence in the midst of what can only be described as a blank canvas, ready for his imagination to illustrate at will. What I thought in that moment was: “Wow, I wish I could spend Advent there.” I wish I could spend Advent inside a completely blank canvas with no sound and no distractions. I wish I could spend all of Advent alone with my prayers and watching for the Light of Christ while I paint my own prayerful preparations all around me.
Advent is the beginning of the church year. It comes as we prepare for one of the most important feast days of our faith and it comes when everything outside of church is happening at a sprint. Our challenge as people of faith is to slow down our hearts so we can fully live into this season of hopeful anticipation.
We are invited to live in the passage we heard this morning from Jeremiah during Advent. We live in the promise of the days that are coming. We live in the hope. Jeremiah is speaking to the people in a time of tragedy and pain. They are at war and there has been much destruction and devastation. The people of Judah and Israel are feeling hopeless. They are feeling abandoned by God. They are feeling as though the covenant has been broken and that they are left to fend for themselves. But Jeremiah’s prophecy tells the people to keep heart: despite all that is broken around them, hope is coming – God has not forgotten God’s people.
Advent is a season of expectant waiting. We are waiting for God who was born, is born, and will be born. We are waiting for God who is the messiah sent as a branch on David’s own tree. But, what is more, I believe God is also waiting for us. God is waiting for us to use all that we’ve been given to further God’s message of love and hope in this broken world. God is waiting for us, the humans created in God’s own imagine, to live into our potential to be an extension of God’s incarnate Love in the world. We are given the season of Advent in which we can choose to be active seekers of the kingdom of God in the here and now.
Unlike waiting for a bus or waiting in a check out line, Advent is a season of waiting that invites us to do things to prepare our lives for the arrival of our Lord. We can pray. We can choose to keep our hearts open for the coming of the messiah. We can help those who may be in pain this season. We can love others deeply. We can feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We can wait, actively. Waiting in our modern day Western world is often seen as a negative thing. When we have to stand in the check out line too long we tap our feet impatiently and glare at the man who is writing a check instead of swiping his card. We look scathingly at the cashier as if to say, “hurry up and stop wasting our time.” There is the old phrase “Good things come to those who wait” but it is used to pacify people who are already frustrated with the delay in the gratification they seek. But this season of Advent proves that old adage by allowing us to celebrate the birth of our Savior with even more joy when our active waiting clears space in our hearts to fully embrace the miracle of the Christ Child.
Advent can be an exceedingly stressful time of year because it falls at the time when all of the outside influences start beating down our doors and tell us we must prepare for Christmas NOW, we must decorate NOW, we must be merry NOW: we must, we must, we must. Sometimes it can feel like life is falling apart when the pressures mount in this way; but when that happens we are being invited to stop, allow all of the sound to be sucked out of the room, and -if only for a moment- to live in that in-between space of dazzling white. That place where the only interruptions come from the voice on our heart, and if we listen closely enough we will find that voice comes not from within ourselves, but from the Spirit of God who is singing into our silence.
Living in that in-between space is living on a blank canvas just waiting for the wonder and colors that we will bring to it with the help of the Living God. Living in that in-between space is trusting that if we delay our celebration until the appointed time, it will be even more joyous than if we’d jumped ahead. So I invite you to slow down and listen with me. Listen as all of the raucous shouts and confused noises die down. Watch as all of the bold colors and chaotic swirls of pattern fade away and leave you with a canvas of dazzling white. Let’s make a decision to actively and intentionally seek the Christ child in our everyday lives and in our every interaction. I’ll bet, if we try hard enough, we will discover the Christ waiting for us in some of the most peculiar places.