1st Sunday of Advent – C
Well, isn’t this a fun way to begin Advent? We want to be looking for cute little baby Jesus asleep on the hay. Instead we are told to look for the whole earth to be distressed; nations to be confused; the seas to roar; people to faint in fear and dread; the very powers of the heavens to shake. Thank you, gospel-writer, Luke. If it’s all the same to you, we’d rather look for shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night, or a baby wrapped on swaddling clothes, or decorated trees, or colorful lights, Santa specials on TV. You know, the real signs that Jesus is coming. . .
Advent is about preparing for the coming of Christ. So if this season is going to be meaningful it makes sense to talk not only about the baby 2000 years ago, but also about how Christ is present with us today. The baby in the manger is significant, but reminiscing about that 2000 year old event may not be enough when we need him now. It’s kind of like looking at Benjamin Franklin’s original fire department in 1736 when your house in on fire now. Nice, significant, but perhaps more is needed.
So one of the first things this gospel text in Luke points out is actually something we already know: that things in our world don’t always go right. There are things that happen that are destructive, terrifying, painful, and cause tremendous anxiety. That was true in Luke’s day, and it’s just as true now. We are a broken world, and that means that there are hard things in our lives. Try as we might, there will be things that happen that are painful and wrong and unfair and just plain difficult.
Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of this painful broken stuff, we want to just escape it—so we look longingly back at what seemed like a better time. A time we were happy, fewer problems, easier life. We idealize the good days, long for a simpler time. We get nostalgic and yearn for those less painful days.
Baby Jesus can become a part of that reminiscing. The manger and the carols and the lights can take us back to what we remember to be a more innocent time—and we avoid some of the pain and difficulty we experience today.
At least for a while.
But these hard days don’t go away. The reality of our worry and our stress and our pain comes back all too quickly. As nice, and as important as it is, sometimes we need more than a look back at a baby born 2000 years ago. Sometimes we need a bigJesus right here and right now.
I believe that’s what we are getting here today in this first Sunday of Advent. In the midst of the fear and the woe and the anxiety and the wars and the poverty and the hatred and the bombs and the death and the stress, Luke reminds us to “stand up and raise [our] heads, because [our] redemption is drawing near.”
While everyone around you is fainting from fear and foreboding, Luke reminds you that “when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
More than a baby in the manger surrounded by cows and shepherds 2000 years ago, Luke is telling us that Jesus is with us now—in the very midst of our stress. In Advent, here’s more than “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” There’s the one who conquers death, who brings the very peace of God, who stands with you in your brokenness. This is the Christ we need, and this is the Christ who comes.
Yes, we tell the story of the baby Jesus. But in Advent we are being prepared for the presence of the living Christ with us right now. What we watch for is the God’s hope given flesh in our lives today. What God prepares us for is to be free in midst of our worry.
What’s causing the distress in your life right now? Where do you see confusion and roaring and fear and foreboding? Where does the hard stuff of your real life today shake the very powers of the heavens?
When you see those things, that’s when you look for Christ to come to you. When you are stressed and full of anxiety, that’s when you look for Christ to be present through someone comforting you. When you are broken and hurting, that’s when you stand up and raise up your head, because the living Christ comes to you in the love and forgiveness of someone nearby. When you are overwhelmed in your life, that’s when you know that the peace of a very present Jesus comes in the hug and the listening ear of someone who loves you.
You see, as the church, as baptized people of God, we are the presence of Christ for those around us. We, who receive forgiveness and grace and mercy and love every day, reveal a very present Jesus to those we meet. We who are being shaped more and more by the love of God, become the hope, the hands, the voice of Jesus to those who see only fear and foreboding.
Sometimes we need Jesus to come. Sometimes we are the coming of Jesus for others. Wherever you are today, there is a very real, very present Christ coming to you. May this be a blessed Advent as we look for the presence of Jesus. Amen.