Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church
November 28, 2015
First Sunday of Advent
May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Why does our lectionary start at the end? Today is technically the beginning of the new church year with regards to the lectionary so why does our scripture have to do with the end of times? Where is the baby shower scripture?
“So on the day before Mary and Joseph made their trek to Bethlehem they stopped by Mary’s cousin Elizabeth’s house to be showered with love and gifts. A donkey was given, new receiving cloths and Joseph had a hard time taking all the new goodies home on the new donkey…”
But that is not where we start today; instead we are faced with an apocalyptic prediction. I have read this passage in the past and each time I want to skim on by it because it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because it reminds me of fire and brimstone and the teachings I grew up with of a punishing God. Of a God who is like the ultimate Santa Claus watching our every move and then finally one day judging us and deciding if we get into Heaven.
But as I studied this text I began to realize this passage is not what I had thought. Instead the people who are the audience are excited and ready for the kingdom of God to come. I say this because the text instructs people to be ready to “stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Stand, not bow down or kneel but literally “straighten up” and “raise your heads”. “These events are not bad news but good, for they mean “your redemption is drawing near”. The main purpose of this text is to provide encouragement for people during difficult times through maintaining hope in the realization of God’s saving purpose.
So this is not a message of condemnation, but a message about signs of hope. We begin today from the end, which is ok because we already know the story. We don’t come to church each Advent wondering “will Jesus be born this year? How will the story go?” No, we come and travel with Jesus through his birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
But why do we travel this path each year? Because we are resurrection people. We are followers of Jesus Christ who believe that he is risen and each year is a new physical and spiritual journey. We have journeyed through another year, through the darkness and now we are in search for the light. We come here looking for Christ, having experienced the darkness life brings and searching for the light Christ delivers.
This is why we light candles to visually and physically experience Christ’s light. Today we light the Advent candle of Hope.
Contrast and signs are key for me in understanding today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke. Contrast because to fully appreciate one thing we must have experienced the opposite. For instance, I saw in the New York Times this week one article entitled “Paris slowly coming to terms with a new vulnerability”, referring to life after the terrorist attacks. Directly under this article is another titled, “The Paris attacks have awakened a patriotic fever in France not seen in decades”. Contrast. Paris suffered greatly from the cowardly attacks, yet has now experienced a camaraderie and patriotism that the current generation has not experienced.
The people of Paris are rallying together out of Hope. Hope for a more just and peaceful world. Hope. Our passage this morning from Luke is all about signs of Hope. The language of this gospel was “generated from a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the author’s present reality and an equally strong yearning for an altered future.” The original hearers of this Gospel also know Jesus’ story. They might have been firsthand witnesses to his ministry, crucifixion and resurrection or they would have heard it through their faith leaders. They are also distraught, because Christ has come and gone and their lives have not changed. They are anxiously awaiting Christ’s return, which they believe is coming within their lifetime. So they are people who are looking for signs from God and signs that God is in control. We see this in the very first verse “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth…”(Luke 21:25).
Signs bring us comfort. I am a big believer in signs, it is a way to make meaning and create hope. For instance a good friend of mine suddenly lost her dog, Nikko a few weeks ago. Nikko was her baby. Now on Facebook every so often a “on this day” reminder will appear including her dog. This past week one popped up with a picture and her cuddling Nikko. They were sitting on the sofa with Nikko snuggled up under her arm sitting as if he was a person. The caption read “Nikko is helping me with my case study”. My friend wrote on Facebook, “these reminder make me smile and be incredibly sad at the same time”. Many of us have been there. Having lost a pet or loved one and then something pops up to remind us they are gone. It can throw you for a loop into the darkness again. It is sometimes hard to see the light in the darkness. What I have found that gives me comfort is seeing these reminders as a sign of hope from our loved one. I believe in the resurrected Jesus and I believe in signs from him and from my loved ones. Just as our scripture says as soon as the fig trees sprout leaves you know summer is already near, and just as you see these signs, know that the kingdom of God is near. Signs connect us and are a way to find comfort and make meaning. Because of this belief I wrote under that post on my friend’s wall that I view these reminders as a message from her beloved dog, Nikko as him saying “hi Mom, I love you.”
When we suffer a loss all we can do is turn to hope. Hope that this hard time will pass, hope that our hearts can be mended, hope that the future will be brighter. I have hope that the future will be brighter. The first baby shower I went to was for my now four year old niece. This Thanksgiving she and I got to break the wishbone. Breaking the wishbone was one of my family’s traditions. As we were cleaning off the rest of the Turkey I pulled the wishbone off and grabbed a couple of paper towels and called Paige in to help me. She resisted at first preferring to stay curled up on the sofa with my brother in law, but then came over. She grabbed one end of the paper towel wrapped wishbone and I had the other. We pulled and pulled and it finally broke, her end being the longer. We then told her she got to make a wish. Her wish was "that we will always be friends”. Hope and honesty out of the mouth of babes. Kids give me hope for the future. Everything is so simple and true coming from a child.
Hope is a powerful yearning. It is what kept our ancestors preserving and excited about the coming of the Son of Man and hope is why we come here today. This Advent I invite you to have hope and dream. Take time to sit in the darkness, sit in the silence to hope and dream. Reflect on where this year has taken you and where you hope Jesus will enter your journey this next year. The truth is we have to experience the darkness to see the light. Come see the light, for Jesus coming and is the light of the world (John 8:12).
 Tannehill, Robert. Luke (Nashville, Abingdon Press: 1996), 307.
 Soards, Marion, Dozeman, Thomas, and McCabe, Kendall. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C (Nashville, Abingdon Press: 1994), 26.