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The Advent of the Lord
Luke 21:25-36
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 prison, 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 love?

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 it.

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 they left.

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.

My 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.