November 26, 2018
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #254]
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, December 2, 2018, the First Sunday of Advent, are as follows:
"Are we there yet?"
I'm sure you've heard that question before.
When my son was much younger, he and I would regularly take weekend drives to Pennsylvania to visit my mother. One of my nieces would often accompany us on those trips. Inevitably, he would fall asleep the minute the car picked up speed on the highway. She, on the other hand, was not so easily pacified, always eager to get to our destination.
One December Friday many years ago, we headed out in a blinding snowstorm. A more prudent alternative would have been to stay home, but their desire to see their grandmother made that option unviable.
If I heard the question once on that journey, I heard it a hundred times, in all its many varieties: "How much longer? Do we have much farther to go? Will we be at grandma's soon?"
My nerves were frayed. I had to summon every fiber of my patience to avoid losing my temper. Eventually, we reached my mother's house. The tension gave way to rejoicing. My mother was delighted to see us. My son and niece were excited to spend time with their indulgent grandmother. And I, I could relax for a while.
I'm reminded of this episode each year when Advent rolls around.
Advent is the beginning of the church year. Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas. Advent is the expectant waiting, the hopeful anticipation, and cheerful preparation of God breaking into our lives, and welcoming God into our lives every day.
There is joy in waiting. We mark these days of waiting in various ways, the chief one being the lighting of the Advent Wreath. Each Sunday we light one additional candle so that by the time Christ comes into the world, we are filled with the light of Christ.
However, in the reality of our world, Consumerism has now become the predominant religion. The consumer cult has its theology of supply and demand, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a rosy cheeked saint in a red suit. It has been the dominant American religion for decades, driving us to feel overwhelmed by hustle and bustle, advertising, and the push to buy more stuff to show people we love them. Or, to quote late-night talk-show host Stephen Colbert, "
We are once again spending money we don't have on things we don't need to give to people we don't like."
We may feel cynical and see the real and spiritual wasteland around us. But God calls us to look forward and see a different reality-a kingdom of God that is ruled by a babe in a manger.
In the Gospel reading from Luke, assigned to the First Sunday in Advent, Jesus warns his disciples to, "Be on guard," and to, "Be alert."
Traditionally, of course, this idea of "keeping awake and alert" has served as the theme for the First Sunday of Advent. It is a time to ponder and prepare, to watch and wait. However, the wait is not just for Christmas. Unlike the culture that surrounds us, the church has never been in a great hurry to get to Christmas. Indeed, all of the lectionary readings focus on a time much further in the future when all will see "'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory." [Luke 21:27]
God is working out a heavenly purpose here on earth. That purpose is being worked out through us. Far from lifting the church out of the world, if we believe that our risen Lord will come again, then we - the church - go into the world with confidence and conviction. We do not give up on the present world, filled as it is with sickness and starvation, but we keep working, and praying, and serving, and loving one another, living in hopeful anticipation of the future coming of Christ, when the creator of all things will become the completer of all things.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I will be in Chicago to serve on the ELCA World Hunger Domestic Hunger Grant Award Table. We will be selecting the congregations and agencies that will receive this year's Domestic Hunger grants. I am honored and humbled to have been asked to be part of this process.
This First Sunday of Advent, December 2, at Four o'clock in the afternoon, I will be blessed to be with the people of God at Messiah Lutheran Church in Akron, to ordain and install Lucas McSurley to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Lucas has been called to serve the people at Messiah. He began his call October 21. Rostered ministers are invited to vest and process. The color of the day is red.
This week and always, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, and may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness.
+Bishop Abraham Allende