The First Sunday of Advent; Year C (11/29/2009)

The Season of Advent

Lessons:     November 29, 2009     Jeremiah 33:14-16     Psalm 25:1-10 (1)     1 Thessalonians 3:9-13     St. Luke 21:25-36 

Prayer of the Day     Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and redeem us for your life of justice, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place,

St. Luke 21:25-36 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The season of Advent is upon us: Four weeks of preparation, designed to make us ready for the celebration of Christ’s birth towards the end of this month. Traditionally, the church has considered this as a time to slow down and to nurture spiritual growth. Advent is often marked by additional weekly opportunities for worship, personal times of devotion and prayer, and attempts to reach out to the community in acts of service.

If the whole world was tending towards that kind of experience, it would be a simple task. But as we all know, December in our country is anything but slow and quiet. It is a hectic month, filled with parties, school programs, gift purchasing, college students returning home... and countless other additional demands on our time, attention, and energy. The reality is that while the church is honoring Advent (for four weeks before December 25th) as a time of waiting and watching for the coming of Christ, the secular culture’s “Mid-Winter Festival” is in full bloom, with schedules that are packed to their fullest, and it is futile to try and pretend otherwise.

There is sadness in that. This can be, for believers, a season of hope. This can be a season that draws us nearer to God, and grounds our spirits in the power of God’s grace and presence. This can be a season that fills our hearts, and prepares us to celebrate the birth of Christ with great enthusiasm. Yet this season is often one that leaves its celebrants empty, lonely, exhausted, and disappointed – often times people arrive at December 25th, grateful that it is “all over” for the year.

There is little likelihood that the church’s practice of Advent will soon change the way our wider culture celebrates at this time of year. The task, then, is to find ways that we can honor the ancient traditions of our faith, even in the midst of the joy and the delight and the commotion of our culture’s celebration. For some of us, that may mean giving ourselves permission to say “no” to some of the many invitations we receive. It may mean committing ourselves (or our families) to a daily time of prayer and devotion. It may mean worshipping every Sunday, and taking advantage of mid-week opportunities our congregations may offer during this season. It may mean selecting some special acts of service – of reaching out to the needs in our world – as Christ instructed us to do. It may mean including gifts to charitable organizations that are working among the most vulnerable in our society.

These are some of the ways that believers have set Advent aside as an intentional season of spiritual growth. These are also some of the ways that believers have sought to prepare themselves for the coming end that Jesus describes in this week’s Gospel lesson. We are instructed to “be on guard” – to “be alert.” Advent is a season where we learn what it means to live expectantly. As someone once said: “Live your life as if every day could be your last because eventually, one day, it will be.”

I wish you a blessed Advent season as you prepare for the coming of the Christmas Season. I pray that in the midst of the busyness of this season, you might make time for the kind of Advent preparation that the church has encouraged for hundreds of years. It will definitely make a difference for you. And who knows? It might even be habit-forming...

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (November 29, 2006)

For more information about how to reclaim Christmas for Christ, see Pastor Dave's booklet: Advent and Christmas; A fresh look at an ancient tradition

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How did Jesus’ describe the eventual end of this world’s history?
  2. What would be expected of the faithful during those final times?
  3. How might “being on guard” and “being alert at all times” change the way his followers live?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What will be speicifically “Christian” about the way I will participate in the Advent and Christmas seasons this year?
  2. How will I carve out significant time for devotion and prayer during this season of preparation and renewal?
  3. What are my hopes for how this time of devotion and prayer can affect my life and my faith?