Sunday, December 2, 2007

Waiting - A Sermon

  Today we enter the season of Advent which means, as we all know, waiting.

Waiting waiting in line at the mall.  Or perhaps, waiting for those endless Christmas tunes on the radio to finally stop. Or even, for some of the kids, waiting to hear Santa’s reindeer on the roof.

Pretty much captures the spirit, doesn’t it.  

Fortunately for us who celebrate the other Christmas and actually know the word Advent, we are waiting for something else.  Something infinitely less stressful and annoying.  

We are waiting for Christ.  As you probably know, we’re waiting NOT only for the Baby Jesus to be born.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important that Jesus came and lived AS ONE OF US.  That’s a huge part of our belief as Christians -- God sent his only Son to be one of us -- to know us intimately.  It’s irrelevant whether he was born in a stable on a December night, but it’s very important that he was born.

But we Christians are waiting for more than that.  We’re waiting for Christ to come again.  And it could be a very long wait.

You may have wondered why we bundle these two sorts of waiting into one season -- waiting for Christ’s birth is easy to grasp.  We know when it’s going to happen because it does every year.  You can put out the creche, and pretty much figure that on December 25 there’s going to be a baby in it.

But the problem with that is, we tend to get this baby image stuck in our heads.  If you ever saw that movie, “Taledega Nights,” you know what I mean.  There the famous race car driver Ricky Bobby is, praying at the family table.  And who does he pray to?  “Baby Jesus.”  Dear sweet baby Jesus.  He goes on and on about how sweet and innocent Baby Jesus is that his wife finally yells at him that Jesus grew up.  But Ricky says, “I like the baby.”

  Well, Christ is so much more.  Christ is God incarnate, not sweet and helpless.  Kind and loving, yes, but no longer lying in a manger. 

Advent tells us that Christ’s first wondrous coming to dwell among us is nothing compared to what we can expect.  The scriptures all speak to that time that is out in the future but already on its way.

Isaiah -- who is in the middle of warning the kingdom of its imminent demise -- takes an early break to give the people a vision of what can be.  A vision of that longed for future when none of us will learn war anymore.  Paul, in his letter to the Romans, is vague about what it will be like when Christ comes again, but he says, “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.   The night is far gone, the dawn is near.”  He’s waiting, and he knows that what we’re waiting for will be good.

The vision Jesus himself gives us is a little more sobering.  The coming of the Son of Man will be at a time when nobody expects; and according to Matthew, it’ll be almost like those Left Behind books.  One will be left while another will be taken.   What is in store for either is left to the imagination.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

But we believe that when Jesus returns to earth, whatever it looks like, it will a return filled with love, mercy and compassion.  Jesus tells us we won’t know when that second coming arrives until it’s here.  But he tells us to be ready nonetheless -- to live in a state of readiness.

Which is to say, to live a life of loving, caring for, and reconciliation with all people at all times.  

The coming of Christ, the longed-for Kingdom of God where people finally will beat their swords into plowshares and when we will see Christ face to face -- that coming which we’re waiting for seems impossibly far away.  Then again, when you’re a small child, waiting for Christmas morning is an impossibly long wait, too.  But just wait; this is better.  Amen.