The Advent of the Lord
by Sue in Cuba, KS
Advent is a funny, church kind of word. Why don't we just say coming
or arrival? Advent, to come to, to arrive. So who are we waiting for? The Webster's
dictionary says that we are waiting for Jesus Christ. Friends, Jesus comes everyday into
the lives of people. Jeannie, a prisoner, excuse me, a resident at a state
failed to return after her furlough home.
When the authorities caught up with her, they
sent her straight to the prison. The prison officials put in disciplinary cell block.
Jeannie sat on the bed, feeling very sorry for herself, when the voice of the Lord said,
"Gloria Jean, stand and praise me, for if I had not brought you here, you would
surely be dead." "Jeannie, what did you do?" "I'm no dummy, I stood up
and praised the Lord."
The Advent of the Lord. All of the Scriptures reminds us that
the Lord is present. Zephaniah tells us, "The LORD your God is with you, God is
mighty to save." Isaiah tells us, "Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Paul tells us that the Lord is near.
The love that is shared in this group makes it obvious that each person has experienced
the Advent of the Lord. Aunt Marie tells us that when she worries she starts to pray,
finally, the love of God comes like a warm blanket and she feels as light as a feather.
Only the reading about John the Baptist gives us pause, John presents a picture of an
angry God. Angry with people who cheat and leave others unsatisfied. Angry with people who
are selfish and covetous. Angry with people who look only for the good life but do not
seek a godly life. John's anger burns hot as he calls the people to repent, to change.
Even as loving parents warn their children about the dangers in the world, John warns us
to stop chasing after all the things of life. How rich are we if our life is not full of
When the time comes that none of our belongings brings us delight, what magic will
we use to create a lifetime of loving experiences to surround ourselves with and to
treasure? John longs for the Advent of the Lord. God's anger has John's complete
attention. Through John's witness God hoped to wake up the people before it was too late.
John preaching stirs up a response that every preacher seeks, the people ask, "What
do we do?" John tells them to share, to be just, not use force to gain one's way.
Rather commonplace ideas, but then goodness is rather commonplace, love one's spouse and
be faithful to the marriage, love and care for one's children, lend a helping hand to
those in need, deal fairly in business transactions.
Even so, the newspapers are full of
stories about people who rob, kill, maim others. Even in the financial news section the
stories are about Orange County Investment portfolio or the high flying investor at a
small Texas college who's errors wiped out the college endowment funds. Sin is still among
us. Do we long for the Advent of the Lord? It doesn't surprise us that in Jerusalem of
John's day, the priests gained their positions through corrupt means. Worship had become a
way of raising money and maintaining power. After all there are people like that in our
world, turn on the TV to watch various ministries. Which ones are genuine, which ones are
fake, which ones started out genuine and were corrupted by money and power?
Who in our age
is the Elijah or John the Baptist calling the people back to a true worship of God. John
knew that he was not the Messiah, John knew that Another was coming to save the people
from their sin. John had to finish his ministry before Jesus could begin. John waited for
the Advent of the Lord, knowing that John's ministry would end. When Herod arrested John
the Baptist, John's followers were left without a leader. The people who had found comfort
in his teaching were left to grieve.
We know that Jesus was the one John expected. Jesus'
very name tells us his mission, Yeshua Bar Joseph means the Greater Salvation of God. Luke
tells us, "For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." Jesus
shows us that God is Gracious, rich in love. Jesus shows us the poverty of our life when
we are not full of God's love. Knowing that this Jesus is the Lord, we await the Advent of
the Lord. My Lutheran colleague has a poster of Clint Eastwood standing with that 357
Magnum pistol and snarling, "Go ahead, make one more change." We all have to
deal with change, with transitions, shifts in leadership, in technology, as our families
grow up and leave home. Change is a constant, we can cooperate with change or we can curse
Years ago a member of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church told me, "You seminary
students come and we love you, you go away and break our hearts." We may also say
that clergy come and you love them and they go away and break your hearts. When preparing
to leave Prairie View I was telling the people in my Wednesday Lunch Group how much I
appreciated them. The Director of the Day Hospital slammed her palm on the table and said,
"How did you do that?" Everyone turned at looked at her in amazement, she
continued, "I never get close to students because they leave." Then I knew what
was happening, I replied, "I love you too, Justina." Saying good-bye was so hard
for Justina because of all the losses she had suffered in her life. Justina had decided
not to build relationships with short term personnel so that she would not be hurt when
Sheila, a member in my CPE group had decided not to develop friendships during
her internship because we were only going to be there for nine months. She had just left
the warm fellowship she had experienced at seminary and the pain of leaving was so great.
This decision was a costly mistake. In February 1988, Sheila was admitted to a psych
hospital in Wichita, suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Her chaplain,
Sister Bernie asked Sheila, "Why didn't you build a support network for
yourself?" "I wasn't going to be here long enough." We never know how much
time we have, it behooves us to develop relationship with the people around us. We never
know if we will pass by this way again. Let us love the people we meet.
Life is a process
of partial relationships in which we hold reservations in our commitments because we are
afraid of the risks that are involved in any relationship. We feel safe and secure in
comfortable and familiar surroundings, we come to fear change. We cannot hold back the
tides of change. We can trust in God who leads the way. Security is not possible without
dependence in God. The Midwestern floods four summers ago and the earthquakes January of
1992 in Los Angeles serve to remind us how quickly things can perish. As a Girl Scout I
learned: "Make new friends but keep the old; One is silver and the other gold."
Building new relationships assure that others will be there for us in times of need.
friend Bonner Phillips at age 94 told my teenager that for every friend you lose, find two
more friends 20 years younger that you are. Jennifer smiled and replied, "People 20
years younger than I am won't be born for 4 more years." "Oh, you know what I
mean," retorted Mrs. Phillips. CS Lewis wrote, "On the whole, God's love for us
is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have
devout feelings; and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian love, either towards God or towards others is an affair of the will. But the
great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does
not." Thanks be to God.
CS Lewis experienced the Advent of the Lord. Both the threat
and the process of change can be frustrating because they involve doing something before
all the details are in. Actions are taken before all the circumstances are understood, and
before the outcome can be projected with any certainty. Oh, Lord, is that what you mean?
We walk by faith not by sight. We walk by faith our relationship to God, for the life,
death and resurrection of His Son are guarantees that life is best lived in relationship
with God who calls us to be faithful and to leave success In His capable hands. Even in
the midst of our busy schedules preparing for the secular holiday that falls on December
25, we need to remember that God is our Lord and King.
Our scriptures today remind us of
the awesome power of God. It is comforting to know that the same God who can shape the
heavens and earth also shapes us with grace and love. We may lose sight that there is one
who is stronger, wiser, than we are. No advances can bring about righteousness and equity
or execute justice unless it is through God's power--a power so great and so delicate that
it can transform our lives through grace and forgiveness. Remember the awesome power and
grace of God through these weeks before Christmas, remember and trust in God's love to
carry us through.
Saul of Tarsus was a well educated man, angry at a collection of folks
who believed that the Messiah had come. Jesus met him on the road to Damascus to invite
Saul to change his ways. Saul experience the Advent of the Lord. As it is so often in
Scripture, his name was changed to show that he was a new man, under new management. Our
dear brother Paul wrote to the Christians at Philipi telling them, "Rejoice in
the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident
to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about
such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen
in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
The Advent of the Lord. Amen.