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Actively waiting in Advent.
Sermon given at the 9.15am service, Christ Church Downend, December
1, 2013- First Sunday of A...
was late. Now, what I normally do is go to the stop outside St. James’
church in Mangotsfield, not the stop outside Cleeve...
by intolerance and inequality, by pollution and poverty, by fighting
and fear, by darkness and dismay, by hunger and hurt,...
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love
one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the...
heard is to live each day as though it were you last. It sounds a bit
morbid – literally, in fact – but actually it is lib...
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The word comes from the Latin,
adventus, translated as coming. And for us, as Christi...
to that baby in the manger; to that teacher in the temple; to that
healer in the crowds; to that saviour on the cross; to ...
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Actively Waiting in Advent

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A sermon given on the first Sunday of Advent, 2013, Christ Church Downend, 9.15am service (http://christchurchdownend.com/)

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Actively Waiting in Advent

  1. 1. Actively waiting in Advent. Sermon given at the 9.15am service, Christ Church Downend, December 1, 2013- First Sunday of Advent. The Bible readings were Isaiah 2: 1 – 5, Matt. 24: 36 – 44, Romans 13: 11 – 14. I began by turning an egg timer over and, without saying anything, stood and watched it empty. You know, it is sometimes said we are a nation of queuers. Still, waiting isn’t always easy. Even if we know what we are waiting for – for me to start speaking, for the sermon to begin – the wait for it to happen, and the delay in it occurring, can cause uncertainty, restlessness, distraction, confusion maybe, perhaps even dismay. I wonder if you have ever been in a restaurant where, after sitting you down, the serving staff seem to disappear, leaving you forlornly sat with a menu, doing your best to indicate you are ready to order, desperately trying to get their attention. You know what you want. You can read about it on the text in front of you. But how long will you have to wait before you can actually taste it? Before you can have what you are longing for? The wait can be infuriating, particularly if you have two hungry children or, if you are my wife, one hungry and grumpy husband. Earlier this week, I was running late for work. Actually, I wasn’t running at all, and that, in fact, was the problem: I do now sometimes run to work but on this day I intended to take the bus. However, I
  2. 2. was late. Now, what I normally do is go to the stop outside St. James’ church in Mangotsfield, not the stop outside Cleeve Rugby Club that is actually the closer to my house. Why? Because the farther is in a cheaper fare stage, I am a cheap skate, and so the little extra walk saves me a little money. But, not that day; because I was late. And so I got to the closer bus stop relieved to see the other passengers still there, waiting. One, I discovered, has recently had a daughter so we chatted a little about life as a new parent. And we chatted about a few other things too but gradually the conversation turned to silence as we waited. And waited. And got very cold because it was not a warm morning. Until half an hour after it was due to arrive the bus remained conspicuous by its absence and we collectively gave up, taking a different bus instead. We had tired of waiting. In fact, we no longer believed that our bus would ever arrive. It is the little things that annoy. Waiting for a bus, waiting for a meal – it can be frustrating. Why? I guess because the timing is out of our hands. It is out of our control. We are waiting but do not actually know when what we are seeking will arrive. So we get discouraged, or dispirited, or disinterested even though, in the greater scheme of things, these things are really fairly trivial and not worth getting too unsettled about. But what if we are waiting for something altogether more important? Something – someone – altogether more profound? What if, in a world tormented, divided by war and conflict, by greed and injustice,
  3. 3. by intolerance and inequality, by pollution and poverty, by fighting and fear, by darkness and dismay, by hunger and hurt, by starvation and sorrow, by lawlessness and lovelessness… what if, we are waiting for a time when people will walk together, guided by a common light, when disputes will be settled and swords put away, when the soldiers will rest and not train for war anymore. How long then should we wait? 30 minutes? One hour? One week? One year? One lifetime, if that’s what it takes? It’s quite easy for me to stand here and say, “yes! I will wait. I will wait on the Lord. I will wait night and day until He returns.” But, in practice, I can be easily distracted. I can lose faith. I can lose heart. You will remember, I am sure, the parable of the sower (Matt. 13): some seed fell on the path where the birds ate it; some fell on rock where it initially flourished but then withered away; some was choked by thorns; some produced a good crop. It’s a powerful story but I think, for me, it may be a little too clear cut. I find the reality, in my life, is that the seed moves between different places: sometimes it is on the path, sometimes on the rock, sometimes it is amongst the thorns and sometimes – well, I hope so – it grows well. God forgives. Christ inspires. The Holy Spirit guides and refines us. But we need to do more than just wait. To do more than just passively receive the seed and hope it will grow. We need to act; we need to be; we need to do. We don’t just wait in faith. We live in faith. We live out our faith, in our individual conduct and the way we live amongst others. The Apostle Paul writes:
  4. 4. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. The time is coming, when, as Isaiah described it, “the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills and all nations will stream to it.” But don’t just sit back and wait, says Paul. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. And, having done so, go out and love your neighbour as yourself. I may have said this before in a sermon so forgive me if I am becoming repetitious. Either way, some of the best advice I have ever
  5. 5. heard is to live each day as though it were you last. It sounds a bit morbid – literally, in fact – but actually it is liberating because it puts things into perspective: is this argument really worth having? Is this purchase really necessary? Maybe I could buy The Big Issue today rather than convincing myself I will return to buy it tomorrow. Yes, I will take time to help you. Perhaps I should return that person’s call. No, I didn’t like what she said or did to me but – you know what? – I forgive them. I could be a little more patient. I will watch my language around other people. I will avoid gossip and try and see the good in people. Yes, I will spend a little time seeking the presence and guidance of God. I am not suggesting I always succeed. I am more than capable of being incredibly self-centred, self-serving and selfish. But I do try and remember: this day could be my last. So what would I like my last actions to be? How would I like to be remembered? If I was taken, right now, from here to the gates of the eternal kingdom, how would I want to answer if God asked me, “what have you just done?” Keep watch, says Matthew, because you do not know what day your Lord will return. It probably won’t be today. It probably won’t be tomorrow either. But it could be. We simply don’t know. Matthew writes, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father […] Therefore keep watch […] you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
  6. 6. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The word comes from the Latin, adventus, translated as coming. And for us, as Christians, that word – coming – has more than one meaning. Firstly, Advent is a period when we take ourselves back, as it were, to immerse ourselves in the richness of the Christmas story: in the lineage of Christ from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, on to David and Solomon, on to Joseph and Jesus; in the Song of Mary, her faith, her trust, her belief; in the support of her husband; in the long, uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem; in the birth into poverty; in the faith of the shepherds and the Magi; in the angel chorus of celebration and worship; in the jealousy and brutality of Herod. Secondly, Advent is a period when we cast our minds forward to the time, a second coming, when God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes; when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21). Thirdly, Advent is a period when we reflect upon Christ and allow Him to come not in the past nor in the future but today into our lives – to clothe us, to teach us, to help us live in a way that is testimony to all that is good, and loving, and compassionate and just. To be not just inheritors of God’s kingdom but also developers of His kingdom: light in darkness, peace in conflict, love in hatred, hope in fear. Advent is a period of waiting. But it is a period of actively waiting as we seek Christ in our lives. We do not just sit back. We come forward:
  7. 7. to that baby in the manger; to that teacher in the temple; to that healer in the crowds; to that saviour on the cross; to the Son of God. Don’t just wait, my friends. Be alert. Be ready. Be willing to love as you are so dearly loved. It is, as I say, the first Sunday of Advent, and also the 1st of December. With that in mind, may I be the first to wish you all, a blessed and Christ-centred Christmas. Amen.

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