Rev. Sandy Johnson
December 3, 2017
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen
“In the early 1950’s four expectant fathers were in a Minneapolis hospital waiting room, while their wives were in labor. The nurse arrived and announced to the first man, “Congratulations sir, you’re the father of twins.”
“What a coincidence” the man said with some obvious pride. “I work for the Minnesota Twins baseball team.”
The nurse returned in a little while and turned to the second man, “You sir, are the father of triplets.”
“Wow, that’s really an incredible coincidence ” he answered.
“I work for the 3M Corporation.” My friends at work will never let me live this one down.
An hour later, while the other two men were passing cigars around, the nurse came back, this time she turned to the 3rd man – who had been quiet in the corner. She announced that his wife had just given birth to quadruplets.
Stunned, he barely could reply. “Don’t tell me another coincidence?” asked the nurse. After finally regaining his composure, he said “I don’t believe it, I work for the Four Seasons Hotel.”
After hearing this, everybody’s attention turned to the 4th guy, who had just fainted, flat out on the floor. The nurse rushed to his side and after some time, he slowly gained back his consciousness.
When he was finally able to speak, you could hear him whispering repeatedly the same phrase over and over again.
“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up “I should have never taken that job at 7-Up “I should have never taken that job at 7-Up…”
“Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the season of expectation.” The word Advent itself “comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit,” and begins the four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is also the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians.” Today is our new year from a liturgy standpoint. So, Happy New Year!
“During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of the Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we are also looking forward, anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.”
“We are entering a season that journeys through a story that is familiar to so many. It is like a favorite movie that we have binged watched, over and over again. We can recite our favorite lines, chuckle in anticipation of an upcoming funny scene, cringe in knowledge of what is going to happen next, or begin to tear up at those moments that always seem to tug at our heartstrings.
“If the story of the birth of Christ is our favorite movie, then today’s Scripture reads like the movie trailer. Imagine the voice-over setting the scene: “In those days, after the suffering of that time, the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light…” The camera pans over to a fig tree that is beginning to sprout new branches, shoots, and leaves. The voice-over continues: “…but nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows.” The trailer ends, “Watch out! Stay Alert!” The trailer shapes this familiar birth story of cute sheep, wise men with gifts, holy angels, and curious shepherds into a suspenseful, action-filled, ominous plot titled “Advent Apocalypse.”
“The Christmas story read in this way is very different from the G-rated version we may tell our children. If read in this way, how does it affect the way we enter into this advent season – a season known for expectation, preparation, and waiting? Are we merely waiting for baby Jesus to be born, or are we waiting for something more?”
When I was a young girl waiting for Christmas was excruciating. Maybe you remember also being a young child and the wait to Christmas seemed to take forever. Christmas Eve was the worst. My sisters and I would try to keep busy, playing games, reading, doing anything to make the time pass more quickly, but our efforts always fell short. Usually early afternoon we would give up and decide to take a nap because time moves quickly when you’re sleeping. I could take a nap at 2pm and wake up and it was dinner time! Man, that was what I needed…time to move quickly. Waiting was the worst.
The parable of the Fig Tree was about waiting. This parable was less concerned about “revealing what we are waiting for, as much as it is illuminating how we should wait. And nowhere does this trailer reveal the release date of this movie. It can arrive at any time; so constantly check your listings. Stay tuned!
Scripture shares with us a “sense of urgency because what this parable describes is not an event that will occur in the far-off future. It is here and now. There is no time for patience or complacency. On the contrary, we are told to wait impatiently.”
This time of Advent is our own time to contemplate where we are in our faith journey. How do we interact with our Savior, how do we exemplify our own Christian faith through our religious practices, in our families and in our world? Take a moment to consider where we stand in relationship to God. Do we feel close to Christ in our daily life? Are we feeling a longing to spend more time fostering our relationship with Jesus? Do we desire an intimate friendship with our Lord, that relationship that will sooth our weary soul? Christ is waiting for us to fall into his arms and receive his love and forgiveness. Christ longs for us to be alert and follow him.
“What would it look like if we lived our life alert, not missing out on the beauty and miracles before us, not denying the ways that Jesus speaks to us and calls us? How can we be constantly on the lookout for places that desperately call us to make known God’s forgiveness, generosity, justice, abundance, and love? What if we came into this Advent season already out in the fields like the shepherds, ready to receive the angel’s message that the time has come, or like the astronomers, constantly searching until they see the star that will guide them to what they have been looking for?”
The Christmas story, like our favorite movie, brings joy to our hearts and awakens memories of time gone by. We know how the movie begins and how it ends. We know that Jesus is born in a stable in Bethlehem, to Mary and Joseph. We know that the world was changed by that singular event and we too are never the same. And we know that he must face a horrific death only to be raised again on the third day to God’s glory.
We come into this season, expecting to experience Christ anew. It is my prayer that we would long to experience Christ’s birth with fresh eyes, that we would view it as if we hadn’t seen the movie before. Just imagine what that might be like if we really could see it fresh.
How would the story impact us differently if we didn’t just breeze through the script, because we know it so well? What if? What if we listened, I mean really listened to the telling of the story in the coming weeks, and pretended that we had never heard it before. What would we hear for the first time? What detail would be illuminated for us?
As we stay tuned to the coming attractions and prepare for the coming of the Christ child, let us be intentional about extra time spent in prayer and meditation, sharing our hearts and listening to the Holy Spirit speak to us. It won’t happen by accident, in fact we must be purposeful. Let me give you an example.
Most of you know that two weeks ago I spent five days in Laughlin, holed up in a hotel room studying, praying and discerning our sermon series for the coming year. It is something I have done for several years and is one of my favorite things I do. I spend the year putting resources and books aside, those that I think might be interesting fodder for a sermon series.
When I arrive in my hotel room, I unpack the box of books and lay them out on the second bed. Heather was witness last year – it was covered up in books and articles. The first two days I spend reading, studying and praying, listening for God’s direction. By the third day he begins to guide my steps. I feel led to pick up a book, review it and either it grabs me and I know this is part of the series for the coming year, or it is set aside.
The third day, God and I sort through the resources and he makes the cut of those that aren’t what we need, those get set aside. Then we spend the next two days deciding which topics should go where. It always amazes me how things simply fall into place, almost as if God had it all planned. I receive confirmation after confirmation about the selections when they fall into place, perfectly supporting the others.
It’s hard to explain, but what I know is that I expect to meet God in the hotel room in Laughlin and he never disappoints. I expect to be inspired and to be led by God in the planning of the sermons and lessons he believes we need in the coming year. In the process of waiting, I do what I am to do – study, pray, meditate and maintain a positive expectancy – and when the time is right God reveals himself to me.
That is the same with this time of Advent. We must prepare ourselves with our own study, prayer, meditation, and sense of positive expectancy so that we will be ready. We must stay tuned. Stay alert. God is ready to make his move among us. Will you be ready?