December 1, 2019, the Rev. Carolyn Legg, Deacon
Sermon preached by the Reverend Carolyn Legg, Deacon
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The First Sunday of Advent
In the name of our Creator; our Redeemer, and our Sustainer. Amen
Happy New Year!! No, I am not rushing the calendar; it is Advent and the beginning of the church’s New Year. The word advent comes from the Latin prefix ‘ad’ meaning ‘to’ and the root ‘venire’ meaning ‘come’. To come and the English word is derived from the Latin ‘adventus’ meaning ‘arrival’. Advent; Jesus is “to come” and we wait for his arrival . It is not known when the period of preparation for Christmas, now called Advent first began – it was certainly in existence from about 480 under Pope Felix III and the novelty introduced by the Council of Tours in 567 was to order monks to fast every day in the month of December until Christmas. We thankfully do not have this requirement.
Scholars do not think that the gospel of Matthew was written by the disciple with same name. The writer of Matthew was considered to be a Jew who converted to Christianity and Jesus was his hero, mine too. Part of his writing informs us about church discipline, the Virgin Mary, teaching, prayer, baptism and the promise that Jesus would always be with us. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus is always depicted teaching his disciples.
Along with the Christian teachings Matthew contains a little bit of history, myth and apocalyptic eschatology. Eschatology is the part of theology that is concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind. Apocalyptic concerns the destruction of the world. All this sounds very forbidding and frightening. In Matthew verse 29 of this same chapter we read, and I paraphrase, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give light and the powers of heaven will be shaken. That is enough to keep me awake at night along with all the news about murders, people starving, wars and general insensitivity.
What we do not hear is the word Parousia. Parousia is about the coming of Christ for the second time. People in the time after Jesus’ ascension expected Christ to come right back. During this time in one of our previous lessons Jesus warned the disciples and warns us to be careful because many will come and proclaim “I am he” but they are false prophets.
Our lesson begins with Jesus continuing to teach his disciples. This lesson is confusing because this is Advent and a time of anticipation for the second coming of Christ. But we read that Jesus is telling his disciples about the flood in the time of Noah, men working in the field, one taken and one left and the women grinding grain, one is taken and one left. Jesus is explaining that everyone will be doing the normal everyday things; working, playing, in school, and maybe in church when he returns. If we read this lesson at face value we would think that the people thought there might be some kind of alert to let them know that Christ was coming in all his glory. But Jesus continues talking about the flood. No one in the story of the flood was expecting forty days of rain. All were drown except Noah and his family. People experiencing the flood probably thought it was the end times. Not only did Jesus tell his disciples about the flood and people being taken he added a story about a man whose house was robbed. He had no warning that his house would be robbed in the night. What Jesus is revealing is that we have no idea when Jesus will come again, the angels do not know and Jesus himself says even he does not know. Only God the Father knows and he isn’t telling. If the people had known about the flood they might have been prepared. If the people taken or the man whose house was robbed had been prepared things might have been different.
Jesus always told stories to illustrate the meaning of his teaching. He is telling his disciples and us to be prepared. We prepare for our meals and we prepare for Christmas, vacation, parties, storms and other catastrophes. But do we prepare for the second coming of Christ. We are very good at preparing and celebrating the nativity of Christ but do we think about the second coming. Every Sunday we are reminded that Christ will come again, we say it at every Eucharist. Advent gives us these for 4 weeks to reflect on his words, be prepared.
This Advent Season gives us the opportunity to focus and to anticipate his second coming. As Christians how do we prepare for the second coming of Christ?
Jesus himself left us instructions, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22). And who is our neighbor; everyone regardless of race, color, creed, sexual oreintation or sexual preference. In Jesus world each one of you is my neighbor. Jesus told us another way to prepare and it is found in Matthew 25 and I am paraphrasing; feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick and welcome the stranger.
In our epistle for today, St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans; Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day. If we follow Christ who is the light of the world we will be prepared as we bring light and love to our neighbors.
This is what Advent instills in us. It reminds us that the light of the world is coming and that the divine love is the final Word. And so we wait in expectation of the Coming of the Son of Man. The Incarnation, the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, has begun for the final arrival of God’s light into the world. Let us be prepared.