First Sunday of Advent
November 30, 2003
The Gospel: Luke 21:25-31
Sermon: "No Time for Dirty Dishes"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near."
No Time for Dirty Dishes
First Sunday of Advent - November 30, 2003
My parents just left after visiting us for Thanksgiving. Now, we knew they were coming. So, we made sure the house was clean, the extra sheets were ready, and that we had plenty to eat and drink. We prepared. But what happens when you get that unexpected phone call from friends or relatives, "Hey, we just arrived in town and we will be there in five minutes." Everyone goes into high gear. Coats and jackets are hung. Socks and toys are picked up. Those last few dirty dishes in the sink are placed in the dishwasher. Everything must be ready when the unexpected guest arrives.
Today we begin the season of Advent. The word Advent means "coming". As Christians the season has double meaning. We celebrate the coming of the Christ child 2,000 years ago. We also recognize the second coming of Christ. Advent is a season and time when we are to prepare for both.
Preparing for the first one, the celebration of the coming of Christ as a child in Bethlehem is relatively easy. I use the word relatively because it depends on how commercialized we want it to be. Today, the birth of the Christ child is also caught up with Santa Claus. I have nothing against Old Saint Nick. After all, he is a saint. He became a saint due to his care for the poor. However, the commercialization of Christmas is another matter. This year tree decorations and Christmas candy appeared in the stores before the Halloween candy ever got off the shelves. Christmas carols are already being played on the radio stations. Every newspaper is full of after Thanksgiving sales for Christmas. People are already discussing how much they need to do to prepare for the holidays.
Now, the Church also helps us prepare for this celebratory event. The Church tries to keep before us the reason for this season. We have lessons that remind us of the events prior to the birth of Jesus. We have hymns to help us prepare our hearts for the celebration of the coming of the child. The color in the church is purple which is a symbol of royalty. All of these symbols, hymns, and lessons, remind us that Jesus came to Bethlehem. Emmanuel, God with us, actually happened. Jesus walked among us as one of us. He felt the pains we bear. He felt the love we share. He felt all of the good and bad that life had to offer. We are called to remember the birth of the Christ child for the world, for you, for me, for those we love and for those we don't like at all.
However, while we have all of the secular and religious activities to remind us of Jesus' birth, the same is not true for the second coming of Jesus. For the most part, the world does not recognize the second coming of Christ. That should come as no surprise. The world did not recognize the identity of Jesus the first time he came. What would ever make us believe the world will understand who He is when He comes again? While the secular world is silent, the church is not. The church has hymns that remind us of the second coming during this season. Listen to the words of this Advent hymn:
Lo! He comes with clouds descending once for our salvation slain;
thousand, thousand saints attending swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ the Lord returns to reign.
These words do not describe the coming of a little baby. They describe the coming of a risen king. The color purple in the church does stand for royalty. It also has a deeper meaning. The color purple calls the Christian to penitence. We are called to prepare our hearts and our minds for the coming of Jesus in glory and majesty. Every time we see this color we are reminded that Jesus will come again. Also, the prayer book recommends the use of Holy Eucharist Rite I at this time of year. This Eucharistic Prayer is the most penitential of the prayers we have in our book. We are reminded in this prayer of the incredible love God has for us. We are reminded deeply in this prayer of his sacrifice for us. We are reminded that he will come again to take us all home. Finally, today's lessons, the first lessons of Advent, talk to us not of the birth of Christ, but of the end times. These lessons call us to prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ.
It is amazing for all we can do is prepare ourselves. We do not know the time or the hour. Oh, there will be signs of the coming of Christ. There will be cosmic signs in the heavens, the moon and the stars. There will be signs on the land and the sea. There will be signs among the people. Many will be disheartened. Many will not want to face what is coming. They will try to hide from the inevitable. Fear in their hearts, because they are not prepared, will rule the day.
We do not need to fear. We know where our salvation lies. In fact, the lesson even tells us to stand up and raise our heads because our redemption is drawing near. What wonderful words of comfort. When Jesus comes in all of his glory the true believers have nothing to fear. We do not need to fear the powers of this world. We do not need to fear the changes that will come. We do not even need to fear death itself. Because Jesus has already overcome death and the grave. They have no power over us. They can not hold us down. Life with God is our promise and our hope. We can stand heads raised to heaven and wait for the coming of the King in expectation. This promise is the Good News. This promise is for all who would proclaim Jesus Christ as King.
So, today we are called to prepare for the coming of two things. We are called to prepare for the celebration of the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem so long ago. It is easy to prepare. We know the event. We know the guests who will come to celebrate with us. Our houses will be in order. We are also asked to prepare for the second coming of Christ. We are called to prepare our hearts and our souls through penitence and prayer for the coming of Christ the King. We probably all have things in our lives that we need to change. We have hurts that require healing. We have been hurt and forgiveness from us is required. We have followed the ways of the world instead of following God. Here we ask for forgiveness from God and we try not to fall into the traps of the world again. We try to meet everyone as a child of God loving them as we love ourselves. This preparation is a little harder. It requires some work and effort. It is also difficult for we do not know the hour when Christ will come again. We are called to be diligent and always keep the house of our hearts in order. For when the end times do come they will be glorious. Life with God in a new way will be offered. God's promise will be kept. There will not be time to pick up those few dirty clothes or place the last few dirty dishes in the dishwasher. There will only be time to stand up and turn our face towards heaven and see the coming of the Son of God in glory and majesty.