The Readings for the First Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44.
You may watch Seminarian Lindsey’s sermon here: https://youtu.be/q-dDdHIVqHY
Or you may read it here:
Welcome to the first Sunday in Advent. As I was preparing for this week, I found myself thinking a lot about what exactly the season of Advent is for us. And it’s a two-fold thing. One, as Christians we are awaiting the second coming of the Christ, anticipating that day when we meet our savior face to face.
And secondly, we are remembering the first coming of the Christ, a baby named Jesus, who was born in a barn, sent to deliver the Jewish people from the hands of their oppressors. At least, that was the idea.
As our spiritual ancestors waited for the Messiah, they waited for another David. They waited for a warrior. One who would take up the sword, raise an army, and defeat all the human enemies of Israel, delivering God’s chosen people into eternal victory.
But that’s not what happened. God’s plans always seem to be bigger than we can imagine, and now we know that Christ came not only to deliver the Jews, but also the Gentiles, and that the enemy that Christ defeated was not the Romans, but death itself.
Because Christ didn’t come to defeat human enemies. He came to turn the status quo on its head. He came as a warrior, but not another David. Instead, He subverted evil that creeps into the hearts of humans, and he did it not with a sword, but by being a servant to all. He fought fear with love and after descending to death he rose up again and said “see? What did I tell you? Don’t be afraid. Love each other.”
The thing with this old testament reading is that it shows us that the Kingdom of God is different from where we are right now. Isaiah 2 is a reflection of the Kingdom, and in that reflection we see the difference between the place of peace Isaiah tells us about and the world we see when we look out our front door, or turn on the news, or scroll our facebook feed.
But Jesus also tells us that the kingdom of God is now. So how do we reconcile the reflection we are told about in Isaiah 2 and the fallen world in which we find ourselves?
I think we do it by realizing that when Christ brought the Kingdom of God to earth, he didn’t erase what was here. Instead he gave us the ability to rise up with love despite the harshness of the world and to bring hope to the hopeless. He gave us armor against the darkness and told us to go out, and be God’s Kingdom in the fallen world.
And we do that by loving our neighbors as ourselves. By standing with the oppressed and telling the devil “you don’t get to tell me who to be afraid of.” When the refugees come we love them, and we love without reservation, and we say no when Muslims are told to register and we say no when the LGBTQ community is told it is second class and we say no when people in Ivory towers tell us to be afraid.
3 weeks ago we were warm and cozy, snuggled under the covers and smiling. But the alarm clock has gone off. It’s time to get up, it’s time to get dressed, rub the sleep out of our eyes and go out into the world wearing Christ on our sleeves and in our hearts. It’s time to remind the devil that the book has been written and he doesn’t win. Because we’re going to love when we’re expected to hate and we’re going to face into the very heart of darkness and tell it we aren’t afraid because we don’t just see the light, we bring it.
The earth right now is a forge fire. It’s heating up, and the swords are in it waiting to be shaped into something new. The church is being called upon to decide what shape it’s going to take in this newest incarnation of a fallen world. In the face of this manifestation of evil that shows itself in the city of Aleppo where there are no hospitals left, and in our own country where we have seen an unprecedented spike in hate crimes in the last 3 weeks, and in the gunning down of 4 police officers less than a week ago, who were shot for no other reason than the uniform they put on that morning, we are called to fight evil with service.
We fight by standing with the oppressed. We fight by reaching out to those who are afraid. We fight by sharing the hope of our messiah and by working to serve our neighbors with love. We look the devil in the face and we say: “You don’t get to tell us what we’re afraid of. You don’t get to dictate where the light reaches. Because we put it on, and we’re gonna walk with it wherever it’s needed because that’s what God is calling us to do.
When we were baptized we put on Christ. We let Him soak into our bones and we were filled with the Holy Spirit and every single day we carry that with us and on us. So when hate and fear is pounding on the door and telling us it’s coming for us we aren’t going to hide under the covers. We’re gonna open that door wide and we’re gonna say “You know what? I’m coming for you.” And we’re gonna walk out that door together and be God’s Kingdom in this fallen world.
Brothers and sisters, we are being called. That alarm clock is going off and the sun is coming in through the windows and it’s poking us in the eyes and it’s saying get up! The world is out there. There are places of darkness that we didn’t know about 3 weeks ago. So we’re gonna put on that armor and we’re gonna go out into the world and we’re gonna find the dark places where hopelessness lives. Where hate directs action. Where fear leaves people despairing, and we are going to light them up. We’re going to remember that the Holy Spirit is in us, that Christ is in us, that God made us for this time, right here and right now, and we’re gonna fight the darkness, and we’re gonna win.
We’re gonna win because Christ already came. 2,000 years ago, Christ faced the same darkness and He lit it up. So until He comes again it’s our job to put on the light. To go bravely with Christ and with each other into the dark places and to tell the world that the Kingdom is here.
Do not be afraid. Love each other.