Sermons are meant to be heard – so listen along here!
I have said it before, but it bears repeating: If you’re sick of Christmas on Dec 25th, you’re not doing Advent right.
I love Advent.
Everything about it.
I love the preparing.
The music. Oh the music. (just ask Nate).
Advent is a season that asks us to wait and prepare for the coming Christ.
The word means arrival.
We wait and prepare and hope for the arrival of God into the world.
Into our world.
Each year it seems like we forget.
We get distracted by the to do lists and gatherings and news cycles.
And it seems so dark.
Not just the news and the world, but literally dark.
This is the darkest time of year.
Especially in MN, we have this winter darkness thing down.
Maybe that’s why I love Advent so much. Because the darkness here is REAL.
The days are still getting shorter and will continue to get shorter until December 21st, which we sometimes call the longest night.
And it is into this darkness that Christ comes.
So we need Advent. Every year.
We need this season to stop and look and wait and watch.
We need to prepare him room.
So we come together today, on this first Sunday in Advent.
And we begin to slowly bring light into the darkness.
We lit the first candle.
Did you hear the words they said?
“Rouse us from sleep, That we may be ready to greet our Lord when he comes”
So we lit the candle of hope.
Hope – That Christ is coming.
This is the not yet, the hopeful anticipation of Advent that I love so much.
Because most of us have experienced it already.
And instead of making it boring, we just know how awesome it’s going to be.
It’s like going to bed and knowing that tomorrow is going to be the best day ever.
You know what I mean?
Your eyes pop open in the morning and you’re just full of excitement for what’s to come.
The day is finally here!
God’s promise is coming true!
And we don’t want to miss it.
This is Advent.
It’s when we wake up.
When we get ready.
I think Matthew’s Gospel today reminds us not just that Jesus is coming this Advent, but instead tells us the HOW. How Jesus arrives each Advent is important.
And he does it in two ways – one, unexpectedly – and two, as a thief.
Jesus is coming at an unexpected hour, so we have to get ready and stay awake – so that we don’t miss it.
This can sound a little like a scare tactic one might use on a misbehaving child.
You’d better be ready because you don’t know when Jesus will come.
Now I don’t know what you picture when you hear that – but I picture this a jack in the box.
Jesus could jump out any time so be ready.
I don’t really love these things.
They put up a guard.
You know what I mean?
Where the jack in the box is about to pop and so you kind of lean away and tense up because you know it’s going to scare you but you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen?
Jesus is not a jack in the box.
We don’t need to be scared by his coming.
But the unexpected nature of Jesus’s arrival is purposeful.
Not to scare us, but to remind us that it will happen.
See, if we know when Jesus is coming and how He’s coming, we might not let it happen.
We like life the way it is.
We’re safe and happy.
So we might bar the doors.
If we’re honest – we don’t really want to wake up, and we don’t actually want to make room.
So this surprise of Jesus isn’t to scare us, but to remind us that the arrival of Jesus into the world is going to interrupt it.
It’s not what’s expected.
And we know this.
We know that time and time again we’ll hear Jesus say and watch him do the opposite of what is expected.
This is just the beginning of the ways in which Jesus is going to break into the world.
Even if we know it’s coming, it still has a way of surprising us.
And then Matthew says Jesus is a thief in the night.
I confess I’ve never had a great understanding of this idea of Jesus as a petty criminal.
Someone who is going to break in and take your stuff.
How is this good news?
Lutheran pastor and author Nadia Bolz-Weber had this same question about Jesus as a thief and how she reimagines it is just lovely – so let’s watch together:
An Advent list.
Not a Christmas list, but an Advent list.
To prepare him room.
Today we lit the candle of hope – the hope that while we wait and prepare, we hope.
Hope for this holy thief to come and break in and interrupt the status quo and steal the things that are weighing us down.
So with permission from Nadia and her community, we’re going to make Advent lists of our own today.
I knew this was coming, so I made mine already.
I asked Jesus to come and take rid of my need to always be right.
To steal my doubt that I am enough.
To rob me of my exceptional ability to judge instead of love without boundaries.
What about you?
What is making the arrival (the advent) of Jesus difficult for you right now?
What do you need Jesus to come in and steal from your life?
The ushers handed you a piece of paper on your way in, and as Alys/Nate play a little bit, we’re going to take a little time right now and prepare him room.
(2 minute activity)
I want to end with a poem by Kelly Ann Hall – which she wrote to celebrate Advent, and the call to make room –
I am making my way.
Leaving everything I’ve known for solidarity.
To be with you.
Can you make room?
Like Mary? Open your womb; give me refuge, make living space within?
I am growing a body
One beating heart for creation-kind.
Two arms to carry my love.
Shoulders to bear it.
Legs that will walk me to the end.
That it takes a divine act,
An angelic messenger, or miracle
An unwinding strong
Of unbelievable yet real circumstances
To convince and inspire real world change
willing souls also make a difference
People courageous enough to resist death-dealing
and consecrate space for holiness
Life begetting life
fresh eyes –
This kind of resistance calls you with me
to offer dignity
House the refugee
Grace the infringed, the exiled, the homeless, the stranger
To become the innkeeper
Allowing just one more family
his last bit of room
Just enough for me.
Grow with me, expand.
Breathe deep, welcome, make room
There is more than enough
I am, after all,
for every last one of you.
Lead one another my way
Leaving everything you’ve known for solidarity to be with me.
I am expecting you.
Make room, beloved,
there is more than enough.