Advent 1, Year B: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13: 24-27
‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mark 13:24-27)
Happy New Year, everyone! This morning, the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of a new year on the church calendar and so this morning we begin anew. You’ll notice that the colors have changed. (Thank you, Altar Guild.) We’re a beautiful ‘blue’ this morning. The Advent wreath has been hung and we lit the first candle today. And to mark the new season, the tone is a bit different today too – during Advent we are called to be a people of anticipation and hope as we await the coming of Christ. This is our work – we are to very intentionally be or at least commit to become a people of hope. This season is often described as “a countdown to Christmas” but this is also a looking forward to the second coming when Christ will come among us as the gospel says, “in power and great glory.”
Now this morning we will baptize and welcome Luna, Fletcher, Merrick, Berend and Winona into this household of God. Now we’re a household that is decked out beautifully, and is busy setting a hopeful tone, but in the spirit of full disclosure, we also need to acknowledge that we are a household that is aware that some very challenging weather, or more accurately, some significant meteorological events could be just around the corner.
“The sun will be darkened,” we just heard, “and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven; the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” And one of my instincts is to advise us all to take cover – especially the babies. It’s just not wise to mess with proclamations of darkening skies and falling stars. And of course of all the days for this kind of forecast, it comes on a day that our pews are full of babies!
But actually, given the state of our world, taking cover is one of my pretty much daily temptations – hole up, hunker down, calculate, defend, take care of my own! Checking any forecast these days, I can’t say that that approach to life in general isn’t somewhat enticing.
But really, I’m not sure that approach is in the best interest of the household. Nor is it what this household, let alone this season is all about. Think about the stories that define us here – just last week we heard about caring for, reaching out too, inviting in complete and total strangers – “the least of these my brothers and sisters”. The week before that we heard about not burying our talents a message about “un-hunkering,” and before that we were advised to make sure that our lights are always able to shine out there, regardless of the weather! And soon we’ll hear about a man who made his home out in the wilderness calling everyone out and into the waters of repentance. Soon after that we’ll sing of a young woman whose soul sang of God’s mercy and whose body carried into this broken world, the savior of the world. Because God so loved the world. And because of that love, God came to offer redemption, mercy and peace right here and right now, in all of our here’s and all of our nows.
At the heart of this household is the story about how God in essence (literally in essence,) un-holed-up, un-hunkered, refused to take cover, and came to be here among us.
And so as tempting as it might sound taking cover is probably not what we’ve been called to this season. Perhaps some weather gear is in order, and if you have extra be sure to share. We should keep our lamps lit because the days are actually getting darker. We need to dig out of all of our talents, offer them up and out, and no matter how cold or how warm, we all need to take some regular dips into the waters of repentance. Because we all need to prepare our bodies, minds and souls to receive – to receive the Christ who is God un-hunkered and here.
And so rather than fear this season, a prayerful, humble, hope-filled kind of courage is what will allow us and our household, and in all likelihood this world that God so loves to thrive. Our work is to foster that in one another, to offer it to Luna, Fletcher, Merrick, Berend, Winona and anyone who comes. Our prayer at baptism is one that fits us all:
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of
grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
Listen to the forecast this season but remember the stories and the prayers that define us, that remind us who and how we are. This world will be shaken, over and over again. Stars will rise and fall and rise and fall. And so it is. But our work no matter the forecast, is to receive the gift of God – to love this world with all that we can muster and mustering more and more of that is a significant part of what growing in faith is all about. Which is why we start young. And why we restart at so many points along the way.
As we receive into the household of God this morning, know that Christ is here too and the entire household has been called into a prayerful, humble courageous way of being in God’s world. The prayers of the prophet Isaiah are being answered, “tear open the heavens and come down, O Lord.”
May the hope of the household be renewed this Advent season.