2022-11-27 Advent 1
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
Advent! It is here once again whether we are ready or not. It has arrive and it reminds us that Christmas is coming! We are running out of time to get all the stuff done that we need to get done. Stress begins to rise. Black Friday has come and the crazy, must-have sales have begun! You’ve already started untangling the Christmas lights before even putting away the fall decor! It’s no secret that the days before Christmas starts are ones of preparation and getting all of our ducks in row. The shopping, the baking, the decorating … it all needs to get done. And the Church season of Advent came about for largely the same reason: to prepare and get ready for the big event of the birth of our Savior.
Not long ago, people were whining and complaining about getting smacked with speeding tickets near a school zone. The playground was fairly big, with a fence up along the perimeter to help keep the kids inside and off the streets. Likewise, there were signs up, a half block before the school zone area warning the drivers that there were children playing up ahead and that the drivers needed to slow down to 30km/hour. People had tons of time to slow down to prepare for the school zone. There was really no excuse! Yet, people just kept zooming on by the playground area like their house was on fire. So, the police setup shop and started ticketing anyone not heeding the speed limit. The people who got whacked with tickets whined and complained. But they had ample warning! They had more than enough time to slow down and prepare!
Advent functions in much this same way. It’s like God’s own speed-zone reminder. Slow Down! Get ready! Something really important is coming up ahead. Prepare! Don’t get distracted! Instead of a school zone though, it’s the coming of Christ Jesus our Lord that we prepare and get ready for. The Savior is on His way. The Messiah is coming. Get ready! From all the way back in the Old Testament, way back to the opening pages of Genesis even, the Savior was promised of old. Moses and the Prophets, they all acted like signposts telling people to get ready, there’s something exciting that is going to happen and we need to be prepared for it.
The Prophet Isaiah speaks of this. He speaks of the end times Advent of the Messiah. And really, there are 4 different kinds of Advent we should be aware of. There is the “Prophetic” Advent, that being Christ promised in the Old Testament to the people of faith who came before us. Then there is the “Incarnate” Advent, that being the birth of Christ our Lord in Bethlehem (we are most familiar with this one). Also, we have our Lord’s “Sacramental” Advent, how He comes to us and dwells with us in His Word and in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. And finally, we have the last Advent, that of the “End Times” or “Eschatological” Advent - the promise that Christ has come and will come again. You’ve got the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the One “who is, and who was and who is to come.”
So the Prophet Isaiah speaks of our Lord’s end times Advent. He says “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths”) (Is 2:1-3). Here the prophet speaks of all people, all nations, each tribe and race flowing to the mountain of the Lord, this house of the God of Jacob. One can’t confuse how close this sounds to Christ’s own words in John’s Gospel “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (JN 12:32-33).
The death of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection, are like a giant magnet, drawing all people to our Lord by faith. This is what the prophet Isaiah means when He says all nations will flow to this high mountain of God. The people of old held onto this prophecy and lived in such amazing hope that they would see the Advent of the promised Messiah. We know, by the Holy Scriptures, that He has indeed come to His people! That is what Christmas is all about. But now, we also cling to the promise that our Messiah will come again. But the real question is, will we be ready? Will we be prepared? Will we watch for and see the signs of His coming? If we don’t, we might find ourselves complaining and whining about those speeding tickets!
With Remembrance Day a couple weeks back, I got to thinking about the World Wars and the terrible things our Veterans had to endure. No doubt many a faithful soldier thought “this is it, this must be the end! The Messiah must be coming back.” They no doubt thought it in WWI and for sure thought it in WWII! But at least in those great wars, you knew who your enemy was. He wore a grey coloured uniform and would form lines and fight you man to man. Compared to the more recent battles in Afghanistan, your enemy could be anywhere. It could be anyone – men, women, children. You could come under attack at any time and in any place. This kind of stress would be excruciating. Having to be on high alert at all times, knowing that anything can happen at any time would be nerve wracking, putting it mildly. Almost as bad as shopping on Black Friday in person!
And as odd as it may sound, the season of Advent has a similar flavour of readiness and being spiritually prepared. Advent reminds us to be ready for our Lord’s return, His second Advent, at any time. St. Paul writes in Romans: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (13:11). Staying awake and alert takes work and effort. Especially if we are tired and sleepy. It is so very easy to drift off into dreamland - spiritually speaking. It is easy to follow the ways of the world, to become drowsy when it comes to living out our Christian faith in expectation of our Messiah to come again, to get lulled into apathy and neglect of prayer, reading the scriptures and serving our neighbours. Maybe you find yourself catching 40 winks when you should be staying awake? It is good that Advent is here. It wakes us up and shakes us up and causes us to get ready and prepare for our coming King.
The King is coming. Get ready. Stay awake. Prepare! This is the heart of Advent. Get ready for the world that is coming and that is already here in Christ Jesus our Lord and our Messiah. God is drawing us to Himself that we might go up to His Holy Mountain of salvation and walk in the light of the Lord. “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light” (Rom 13:13) the Apostle writes. Repent of your sins. Remember your Baptism. Prepare your heart and mind for your King who the prophets longed to see and hoped for. He is the very same Messiah who comes to greet you in the manger, and the One who comes to dwell and make His home within you by bread and wine. And, He is your precious Savior who will one day come to take you to be with Himself forever more. Watch for the signs of His coming. Get ready! Stay awake. Prepare the way of the Lord! Amen. Come Lord Jesus!