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First Sunday in Advent

 

Wake Up!       Romans 13:8-14   November 28, 2010
 
The season of Advent invites us to consider again the character of Christian existence “between the times.” Living between the times, we give thanks to God for the Christ child, even as we plead with God to realize, once and for all, the kingdom that Jesus declared to be at hand. Advent calls us into a continuing history of relationship with the Christ who meets us whichever way we turn, whether toward the past, the present, or the future.
 
Most of us who live in North America live under the tyranny of time. We consume it just as we do other products, and however much we “have” (as if one could possess time), we never seem to have “enough.” The speed of communication in our world has only enhanced time’s tyranny. Since we can communicate instantly, we feel we ought to be available 24/7.
 
Instant communication has caused us to perceive time in digital form—one second at a time—ticking off on our LCD displays like a never-ending timer. This second by second, minute by minute, format contributes to our seeing time as a series of discrete, disconnected units.
 
Minute by minute, digital time tracking gives the illusion of loosing a moment as soon as the next minute rolls around. Take that on a larger scale, and you have a huge disconnect with the day-to-day events most of us live out as time passes.
 
Something different happens when time is displayed on a clock face. The hands move around and time can be seen passing, rather than disappearing. You can visualize both future and past time in any given 24-hour period. 30 minutes until lunchtime, 90 minutes to that doctor appointment in Monroe; 4 hours ago, we had breakfast; 5 hours from now, we’ll have dinner with a friend.
 
This way of counting time more closely resembles the rising and setting of the sun and the moon—the natural cycle. We know, more or less, where we stand between the beginning and the end of the day.
 
Paul is thinking of time in this second way, moving from past to future, but he then adds another dimension. Just as God brought all things into being, there will also be a time when God will end the history of this world and usher in the promised new creation.
 
Paul compares this new creation to a new day; the day is near, but not quite here. This is a time of anticipation; it is time to get up and get dressed! We are to put on Christ: his life, his way of life as we get ready to meet the future. What Paul wants is for Christians to start living now as though this new day has already begun.
 
Paul's message to the Roman Christians is, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 14).

Wake up and see that "salvation is nearer to us now ..." (v. 11);

Wake up and see that the "night is far gone, the day is near" (v. 12);

Wake up and "lay aside the works of darkness ..." (v. 12);

Wake up and "put on the armor of light" (v. 12);

Wake up and "live honorably" (v. 13);

Wake up!
 
OK. OK. You say; you have my attention. However, what am I supposed to wake up to?
 
One thing to wake up to might be this very moment.

Ann Wells, in a personal email, explains it this way: "My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package.

"'This,' he said, 'is not a slip. This is lingerie.'

"He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite: silk, handmade and trimmed with intricate lace. The price tag, still attached, showed an astronomical figure.

"'Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.'

"He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, and then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. With hands on my shoulders he looked me square in the eyes and said,
"'Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion.'

"I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she had not seen or heard or done.
 
I am still thinking about his words, and they have changed my life. I am reading more and dusting less. I am sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden.
 
I am spending time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings. Whenever possible, life should be savored, not endured.
I recently heard a great line in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” that illustrates this well.
 
One of Julia Robert’s Italian friends was trying to explain the art of savoring life to the over-active, anxious, and distressed American. He described it as “the sweetness of doing nothing.” In other words, enjoy moment. Don’t miss it. Don’t let it pass you by.
 
This is not the life the media presents to us in this consumer-driven 21st century nation. Instead, we’re encouraged to beat the crowd by lining up at 4AM in the morning to go shopping! And there are people who do it! Absurd, isn’t it?
 
Ann continues by saying, Try to recognize those every-day special moments now and cherish them. “I'm not 'saving' anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event - such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, and the first camellia blossom.

"'Someday' and 'one of these days' are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

"I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. In addition, every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that this day is special.

"Every day, every minute, every breath truly is ... a gift from God"
(dwills@ christ-churchum.org, May 2, 1998, personal e-mail).

Wake up! This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
 
Not only do we need to wake up to the moment but we need to wake up to God. In fact, we need to wake up to the moment so that we can hear God.

12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,….
 
Are we looking for God in our lives? Do we stop and say, “Thy will be done, not mine?” … or do we plow ahead unconscious to our surroundings?
 
The late Malcolm Muggeridge, British journalist-theologian, describes his awakening to God in his book Jesus Rediscovered. In it, he notes that he didn't find God where he thought he might, in some sort of social utopia or manicured gardens, but rather in the postwar rubble of Berlin and Moscow, in the squalor of India, in the back alleys of Manhattan.

He puts it this way:
"I never caught even a glimpse of you in any paradise - unless you were an old shoeshine man on a windy corner in Chicago one February morning, smiling from ear to ear; or a little man with a lame leg in the Immigration Department in New York, whose smiley patience as he listened to one immigrant after another seemed to reach from there to eternity ...."

Then, in a note appropriate as we begin to remember the meaning of Christ's birth, he adds, "And you? (Speaking of Jesus) A living presence in the world; the one who, of all the billions of our human family, came most immediately from God and went most immediately to God
while remaining most humanly and intimately here among us, today, as yesterday and tomorrow; for all time ... you have overcome history. …
 
…You came as light into the world in order that whosoever believed in you should not remain in darkness. Your light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Nor ever will" (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1973, 48ff).

Yes, God's light shines in darkness! As God’s children, let us reflect the light of God that is in us.

Wake up to the light of God. Wake up to the Advent Hope, and let your light shine! Let us pray:
 
God, at this time of Advent, help us prepare our hearts anew to receive your wisdom and goodness and healing, at this time, now, and always. Amen.
 
 
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
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