Jeremiah 33:14-16 Psalm 25:1-9 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36
[What is it that you are most waiting for … and how will you wait this year?]
Several days ago many of us gathered with friends and family and offered thanks to God for everything that we have. Later that same day, thousands of people driving to a shopping mall got stuck in a two hour traffic jam on a major highway. Everyone, it seems, was headed to “the mall.” You know the one. It is the mall where “everything” was on sale. People waited two hours to get to a parking lot in order to search for a perfect parking space so that they could wait in line for the perfect gift for – for what?
Such frenzy begs the question: what is it that we are waiting for? What is it that we are MOST waiting for? A parking space, a perfect present, an acceptable present for someone we never see … for forgiveness, joy, delight, or a few hours of escape?
We will find none of the most important things at a mall. Forgiveness, joy, delight, and relationship are not things that we can pluck off of a tree or off of a shelf. I say these things while knowing that I have been shopping on line, in stores, and thinking very hard about how to make Christmas very, very good, for me and for those I love.
Before Christmas comes another whole season; you might imagine that I had a plan for that season for me and for my family. I was going to give the perfect Advent season to my family. There were gifts: calendars, candy, cute and sarcastic cocktail napkins: it was a ready made Advent for everyone! I left it all on my table at home while I traveled three hundred miles away from that table.
That’s my confession, and there is good news for all of us in our preparations for every season. There is always room to fail. Advent does not depend on my gift buying, wrapping, stacking, or taking. Advent is here anyway – and that is great news! Begin again! In a completely imperfect world, where else except in Jesus Christ do we get to begin again, in every day and every moment? Today, Advent is here, and so we begin a new day and a new year. Happy new year! We can be thankful for the newness, the “beginning again” part of today. You see, you and I cannot make – or gift – the perfect anything. We cannot make a perfect Advent happen, but we can still have Advent.
In fact, in a frenetic, imperfect world, we need the church season of Advent. This is our chance to savor a season of waiting. How well would you have waited in that two hour traffic snarl in order to buy the latest widget or toy?
Advent is a chance to ask some deep questions. What is it that we are waiting for – that we are MOST waiting for?
How is it that we will wait?
These questions are the work of Advent. We can answer them individually, and I invite all of us to do so. What is it that you are waiting for? Presents, a Christmas tree, or a bit of contentment, reconciliation, peace. Advent is our time to wait for and to find Jesus. For which Jesus will we wait?
There is baby Jesus in the manger
Or the child Jesus about whom we know almost nothing.
There is healing Jesus,
Eating with the unclean Jesus,
The threat to the Roman Empire Jesus,
The life-giving Jesus,
And the one on the cross.
And the Jesus who is here
And who will come again to perfect the world.
Who is it that you are waiting for – welcoming – preparing for – making room for?
None of them is safe.
Jesus in the manger was hunted down by Herod.
The child Jesus stayed in the temple – self-identified as his father’s house – while his family traveled home.
Healing Jesus broke the rules and healed on the Sabbath,
Jesus quite often broke written and unwritten rules of behavior, propriety, religious and Roman law,
None of which was safe.
And then … and then Jesus, God on earth, conquered death. Saved the world. Redeemed it. Made us holy. We were given perfection and have been saved by that gift of love.
We are holy today in the gift of Jesus. That love is worthy of a short season of waiting, of holiness.
We have a choice, every day. Me, too, in case you’re wondering. Who is it, what is it, that we are waiting for?
We choose to wait for Jesus,
The Jesus who turns our world upside down no matter which Jesus we find. When we find Jesus we realize that it is us who have been waiting to be found, and that unsafe, turned-our-world-upside-down Jesus makes the world better.
This is Jesus,
The one who is always with us,
Who never deserts us,
Who understands what is means to be hungry, lonely, confused, sad, happy, joyful, full of life, walking with death, and leaning on God. That’s the Jesus we are waiting for. We will find him in a manger, in our hearts, and when he comes again to redeem the whole world.
How, then, will we wait? What will our imperfect waiting look like? We have many choices.
As a community, we will count down each week in the ever-increasing light of Christ. Candle by candle, we count. The light in the world gets ever brighter until the star rests and Jesus shows up, the baby, the king. This community will prepare in worship, traditions, Advent education time, in making liturgical space for baby Jesus. Advent is an exciting time!
We will do none of this perfectly. The manger might be in a different place, the candles lit in a different manner, the songs – some familiar, some new. Embrace whatever it is that we do. Join in. Bring your hearts, your prayers, ourselves. Find Jesus, prepare for Jesus all over again. If you can take time for just one deep breath in an “out of church” frenzied season, then take that one breath in the coming weeks.
Advent is a time of holy-making, of sanctification, and the holiness comes from God. God makes us holy, honors what we do in making room for Jesus. If it is only one breath, and maybe and imperfect “more” of something, we are making room for Jesus. We are making room for Jesus during this expectant season of Advent, and we are making ourselves available to have Jesus with us forever.
We do not make this journey alone. There are over two BILLION Christian worldwide who take this same faith walk. We might think that we are just a bit different, weird, even, in lighting purple candles, waiting expectantly, asking those tough questions … but there are two billion others of us asking those same questions:
What is it that we are waiting for?
How is it, in what manner, we will wait?
In addition to those other two billion people, there is one more part of creation making this journey through Advent.
Jesus already made this journey to a stable and to the cross. Jesus is with us now. Our Christian paradox is that:
We are waiting expectantly for that first earthly journey
And for the one that is yet to come.
Advent is our joyful journey. At the same time that it is a journey of deep reflection and prayer.
I invite you to a holy, joyful, questioning, discerning, imperfect Advent.
We will our Lord again, in light, in perfection, in a rugged, holy manger.
Come, Lord Jesus!