Advent 1 – November 29, 2020

Faith Lutheran Church

Isanti, MN

Grace to you all and peace from God our creator, and our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

I love suspense movies and TV shows. I think it is so cool when a TV show or movie can make me sit on the edge of my seat, wondering what is going to happen next. And even though a person can get a suspicion that SOMETHING is about to happen–maybe the music changes, or you can’t see what is happening behind the main character–a good suspense show or movie always keeps you guessing. You are always wondering, waiting, watching to learn what comes next.

This Sunday we have entered into the season of Advent, a season of wondering, waiting and watching. And while I hope that no one is expecting someone to jump out like in a suspense show, how can we find ourselves, in this season sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering what is going to come next? Waiting and watching?

While for many people outside of the church, Christmas begins right after Thanksgiving with Christmas carols playing 24/7 on the radio straight through December 25th, within the church, Christmas doesn’t even begin until December 25th, and then it goes through January 6th–Epiphany. All of the time before then is Advent, and Advent is a season of wondering, waiting and watching.

But what are we wondering about, waiting and watching for? With Jesus’ birth approaching, “Christmas” would seem like an appropriate answer. And it would be a correct answer, because as the church, we do look forward to Christmas and remembering that God came in the form of a baby human and lived among s. That is definitely something to look forward to and to be excited about.

Yet there is another answer that is equally correct. And in light of our gospel reading today, that is where our lessons all point. Because in the gospel of Mark, we didn’t hear about a baby in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. There was no mention of shepherds or animals in stable. No, in the gospel reading, Jesus was telling his disciples to wait and watch for when he would return. The disciples were not learning of Jesus’ first coming, but were being told to prepare for when Jesus would come again.

And so what did it mean for those earliest disciples to wait and to watch? To be alert and awake?

It was obviously not something passive the disciples were called to do, but it was an active response to the gospel. It meant for them to engage in faithful witness, and to continue carrying out what Jesus said to do: to grow in discipleship, to announce the coming realm of God, to cast out demons, to carry the message to the gentile people. And to continue in following Jesus in these tasks even when it was hard.

And this would have been a big task for those earliest followers of Jesus. We know from all the stories in our bible that they were not the best at following Jesus in what he said. At times, it seems like they weren’t even listening to him. So for these disciples–the same disciples who would end up falling asleep in the garden where Jesus would be arrested–to keep awake seems like an impossible task.

For us gathered here, the task given to the disciples is a task also given unto us. As we are entering into this Advent season, we should answer how is it that we are waiting and watching for Jesus. Because the question is not so much about what will happen when Jesus comes again, but rather it is how we will live between Christ’s first and second coming. And another question worth asking is: What is the risk, if in this in-between time, we fall asleep when have been called to watch and wait?

In our reading from 1 Corinthians, we heard Paul’s greeting to the Church in Corinth and from the sound of the greeting, everything was going well there! They seem to have been fully awake, and yet, they were anything but that!

You see, Paul had heard from them about issues they were having, really scandalous things: Rich people were eating better food at the Lord’s table, there were factions forming and dividing the congregation, and there was even a member sleeping with his stepmom! The congregation at Corinth had fallen asleep.

Yet even having fallen asleep, Paul didn’t believe that they were forsaken. No, he reminded them that all they have received was a gift of God. That as people of God, the gifts they had been given by God were to be used to build up the church even as the church waited for Christ’s return. There was grace for these believers, and time (though not much) for them to awake from their slumber.

The church as we know it these days is in many ways like the congregation in Corinth that Paul wrote to. We are torn by many different issues, and are divided over what allows a person to be in or out.

Yet in this time in-between, dear people, there is still grace and possibility for us to awake. There is the opportunity for us to wait and watch for the return of Christ. And in our waiting and watching, in this advent season that extends beyond these four weeks before Christmas, like those earliest disciples, we can follow the call of Jesus.

Just as the earliest disciples were encouraged to grow in discipleship:

  • we can engage with scripture and get to know God as revealed through the proclamation of the gospel. We can recognize the living word that, like a fire burns within us.
  • We can announce the coming realm of God, a vision for the world where with Jesus we can bring good news to the poor, proclaim release of the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
  • We can cast out demons! And this doesn’t mean acting like in the exorcist, but it means naming the evil we encounter in the world, and speaking against it in Jesus name.
  • We carry the message of Jesus to the all people, sharing how knowing Jesus changes our lives and how we engage in the world.
  • And we can continue following Jesus in these tasks even when it is hard, because we know that even though the message we bring is not an easy message, that it is a good message. That it is good news.

As we journey in these four weeks of the Advent season, I encourage each of us to consider how we can be awake and hopeful for the coming of Christ in our world and in our lives.

And in that waiting, watching, and wondering we can recognize the ways in which Christ is with us today, in the water, in the bread and wine, and we can begin to get a glimpse, a foretaste of what is to come. That certainly makes me sit on the edge of my seat.