For November 27, 2016
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by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
I don’t know about you but, now that Thanksgiving is over, I’m ready for some Christmas.
It’s been a tough year. We’ve had some nasty, nasty politics. There has been a lot of racial conflict;
an uptick in violence; violence related to racial conflict; war, war, and more war; terrorism and fear of terrorism; a difficult economy; bad weather.
I live in western North Carolina – we have been ravaged with forest fires, one of which raged less than 20 miles from my house. And on the home front, we’ve been fighting cancer. I could go on, but I won’t. I am so ready for some Christmas.
You know – sweet baby Jesus; kind, gentle, understanding Joseph; beautiful, meek Mary; Holy Family – all huddled up in the barn – poor but proud. There they are, surrounded by humble kings and worshipping shepherds; dumb but loving animals huddling nearby; choirs of angels singing; the whole world rejoicing; “JOY TO THE WORLD!” off-key and at the top of our lungs. Yep! Christmas! That’s what I need, right now. Some calming Good News.
But – that’s not what we heard in our Gospel lesson is it? “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Lord.” The days of Noah? That can’t be good. A flood came and swept everything away. What’s going on here? This Gospel lesson is a startling reminder that God always refuses to play by our rules. While we yearn for the comfort of Christmas past, Advent calls us to anticipate the discomforting possibilities of Christmas future. Advent is the season of hope. It is a time when we are called to look to the future with confidence. It is a time to prepare ourselves for the new miracles God will work in our world today and tomorrow. It is a time to get ready for new movements the Sprit in our lives.
Jesus uses three images to help us come to grips with the suddenness and unpredictability of God’s activity in the world to come. First, he reminds us of the familiar story of Noah and the flood – pointing out how everyone but Noah and his family went about their normal business, ignoring God and godliness until it was too late. Second, he gives twin examples of how some will, in the midst of the normal daily-ness of their lives, be ready to drop everything and follow when “the Lord comes.” Third, he refers to the age-old experience of burglary, making the common-sense observation that if you know when the bad guys are coming you can be ready for them. But you don’t know when they’re coming – so you must be ready for them all the time.
That’s the way it is with God, Jesus says; you never know when the God-moment is going to show up in your life so you must be ready all the time. And this readiness is not a matter of hanging decorations, and baking cookies, and sending Christmas cards, and going to office parties. This readiness is primarily a nurtured tenderness in our hearts, a willingness to listen for God’s word and to go God’s way. To be ready for Christ to come into our lives, we must begin work beating our personal swords into plowshares and our private spears into pruning hooks. We must work at making peace in our families and in our congregations and in our workplaces and in our schools before we can make peace in our world. For us to be ready for Christ to come, we must lay aside all the works of darkness, we must put on the armor of light. We are called to examine our lives, repent of our sins, commit ourselves to acts of charity and goodness, fill our lives with hope and generosity.
All our texts today remind us that God is sneaky, that God makes appearances in our lives and in our world when and where we least expect it. God comes to us in unusual ways, through unlikely people, in unexpected places. 2000 years ago – it was a little baby, the child of an unwed mother, in a spare room, of the other side of nowhere.
Could it be you? Now? Here?
Get Ready! Wake Up! God is coming!
Amen and amen.