Sermon Advent 1, year C
Grace, mercy and peace to you from the God who comes to save us. Amen.
We are beginning the new year today. I know it is just the beginning of December, but the season of Advent is here. Some of us greet that news with, “finally” and some with “already.” It doesn’t matter which way you see this season, it is here.
In our church we read the first three gospels in a three year cycle. We just finished the gospel of Mark so we start with Luke today. That is why we bless the new lectionary book on the first Sunday of Advent and pray that it will open God’s word to us.
Today’s gospel lesson from Luke is about promise. It is an unusual story. It begins with the promise Jesus makes to his disciples about the times that are coming.
The Gentiles in the Greco-Roman culture of Luke’s time believed that the sun and moon and stars were all a bunch of gods who messed with people’s lives when these gods got bored or upset.
Jesus reminds the disciples that they don’t have to fear when they hear others talk about these things. Jesus promised them that the God who created all these things has sent Jesus himself to save us, and will send him again to gather us all together at the end of time.
Jesus tells the disciples that people will see signs in the sun and moon and stars. There will be problems between nations. There will be roaring of the seas and waves. People will be terrified by what they see. The thing they will fear the most is what they believe is coming next.
Then Jesus promises the disciples that he will return with power and great glory. Jesus promises them that these signs are the things that point to their redemption. Their salvation is near.
Then he tells them that not all the signs will be spectacular, like changes in the sun, moon and stars. Some of the signs will be as ordinary as the leaves budding on a tree in the late spring. The ordinary signs also point to the promise of salvation.
There are two ways we might look at this story. The first is through the lens of fear. The second is through the lens of faith.
If you put on your fear glasses, this story is terrifying. Lots and lots of bad things are going to happen. You will see the troubles between peoples and nations. You will expect wars every where you look. You will hear of floods. You will hear people say these things are happening because God is angry.
Your fear glasses will cause you to see the worst in the people around you. You will be especially afraid of those who seem different from you. You may think of ways to blame them for the troubles you see. You may even try to blame them for the bad weather.
You will try to stay away from anyone you don’t know. Your fear will make you suspicious of the motives of others. You will look for ways to escape. You will look for places to hide.
Your fear glasses will tell you that the things you need will become scarce. You will closely guard everything you have. You will hoard things you don’t even need, just in case you might need them sometime.
The first way to look at this story is through the lenses of fear.
The second way to look at this story is through the lenses of faith.
When you look at this story through your faith glasses, you will see the promises that Jesus has given. You will notice what he said to the disciples.
Jesus promised that the signs you see are signs that our salvation is near. These are signs that Jesus is with us.
One important note – faith glasses are not the same as rose colored glasses. When you wear rose colored glasses you only see the good and ignore the reality of everything else.
When we wear the glasses of faith we can see the reality of both the good and the bad. We can see that God is present no matter what the circumstances are in our lives.
When we wear the glasses of faith, we can see the hand of God in the big events that are going on in the world. This is not to say that we blame God for the bad things that happen. When we have faith we know we are still sinners and that the wages of sin is death.
We know that bad things happen to everyone. We can see, that sometimes our sin causes others to suffer, and sometimes their sin causes us to suffer. None of this is fair. None of the suffering is God’s plan for us.
But when we see through the lenses of faith we see that Jesus has promised to be with us in our suffering. Jesus will be with us even to the hour of our death. Jesus has already been to the place of the dead. He has opened heaven for us.
When we wear the glasses of faith we can see Jesus, not just in the big things, not just in the major events of life. When we wear the lenses of faith we can see Jesus in the little ordinary things.
We can see Jesus in the new green buds on a tree. We can see him in the snow and in the rain. We can see him in the face of a new baby. We can see him in the face of an elderly person.
When we look through the lenses of faith, we will find that soon we will begin to see Jesus in everyone’s face. Not just in the faces of those who look like us – we will see Jesus in the faces of those who are very different from us.
When we see Jesus we will not run or hide from the strangers. We will show hospitality to them. We will welcome them. We will embrace the diversity as part of God’s gift of creation.
When we look through the lenses of faith, we will find hope. We will know that no matter what happens in this life, Jesus is with us. We will hold on to his promise to come again, not as a human baby this time, but in glory to take us all home.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.