Our sermon at St. Andrew's on Advent Sunday, November 30, was offered by our Parish Deacon, the Ven. Jean D. Chess.
Advent 1 Year B
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
November 30, 2014
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen
I love chances to make a fresh start. As a student and as a teacher - I always looked forward to the start of the new school term. I love the process of starting a new job or a new project or a new spiritual discipline. I'm filled with hope that this time I can really get everything in order. I'll finish my daily to-do list. I'll eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day... I'll keep up with all those emails.... I'll see and respect the image of God in everyone I encounter.
I especially love Advent - the start of a new church year, a liturgical season filled with beautiful, peaceful, and hopeful images of light emerging in the darkness culminating with the very tender, and non-threatening presence of the baby Jesus. A chance to try - for only 4 weeks - some new spiritual discipline of keeping a better watch out for Jesus at work in my life and in the wider world.
So when I was asked to preach this first Sunday of Advent - I thought great, no stress, I know what to say about Advent. Upon my first read through of the lessons several weeks ago, I was caught by the familiar phrase - keep alert - and I even had an idea about how to work learning to use my GPS into this sermon..
But then, I spent time dwelling more deeply in our readings for today. I was drawn to the cries of lament from God's people in Exile as captured in the book of Isaiah - God's people crying out and saying - God, I need you, where are you, why have you left us, why don't you answer me.... and I was especially drawn to the very end of Isaiah 64 which was not included in our lectionary reading.
(From the New International Version translation..)
"Oh, look on us, we pray - for we are all your people....
Your sacred cities have become a wasteland; even Zion is a wasteland, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised you has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins. After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?"
There is great comfort in the image of the light of Christ emerging in the darkness - and we know that we, as Christians, walk always as children of the Light....but to focus only on the light can diminish the reality of our very human experience of darkness.
What have you treasured that now lies in ruins going into this season of Advent? Have you lost the presence of a beloved companion in this earthly life? Are you grieving the loss of physical or mental health of yourself of someone you love? Are you full of regret about the past - or fearful about the future?
Acknowledging the reality of darkness invites us into those places where we are less than perfect, where we are broken, where we are most human, and where we most need - and often find - God.
Canadian singer-songwriter-poet Leonard Cohen puts it this way in his song, Anthem - "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"
Listen to the whole refrain...
"Ring the bells you still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in".
Where are the cracks, the broken places, in our lives as individuals and in our collective lives as communities of human beings where we long for the light to get in?
Where might we be so focused on presenting a 'perfect' offering that we're holding back from taking any step at all?
Open the newspaper, turn on the TV, browse to cnn.com, walk down the street - what makes you want to shout out loud to God and beg "Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence...."
From where do you long most deeply for the light of God this Advent? From where do you cry - O come, O come Emmanuel?