For Unto You a Child Is Born
January 3, 2018
December 5, 2017
Wedding Banquet Gone Wrong
A Hot Button Issue
70 Times 7
But I Do Know This God
October 8, 2017
You Can Run...
May 9, 2016
In Her Name
March 25, 2016
A New Direction
March 18, 2016
Whose Wife Will the Woman Be in Heaven?
March 15, 2015
Where Isn't Jesus Tonight? A Christmas Eve Homily
December 25, 2014
Is That Any Way to Treat a Friend? Moses & God
March 31, 2015
December 3, 2017: Beware
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
In our house, we have three cats. Peaches and Herb, and Senor.
One of them, Herbie, is profoundly deaf.
We know this not because the vet tested him and told us so,
But because we can sneak up on him.
Herbie doesn’t go outside any more –
and can you really blame him?
But he does like to sit
in front of the sliding glass doors
in the dining room and look outside.
His ears twitch when he sees a squirrel,
and his tails sweeps back and forth
when the birds take flight.
But, if you walk softly enough,
you can sneak up behind him,
and he just doesn’t know.
We all, I think, like to be prepared.
We want to know what is going to happen.
Well, actually, what we really want to know
is that everything is going to turn out OK.
That all of our preparations are going to lead
to that which we want to happen—
We study to get an A or pass our driver’s test.
We clean the house before company comes,
so they are comfortable when they are with us.
My son practices on his drum set –
Well, you get the idea.
And then we come to Advent.
Hurrah! I often think.
Something I am good at! Something I can do!
Advent is the liturgical season of preparation.
Preparation for Christmas and Christ’s entry into the world.
And I can prepare!
And after almost 50 years on earth,
I have come up with several ways of preparing for Christmas.
Seems logical, right?
We all probably have some version of this list
tucked away in some file cabinet in our minds:
Go to church, shop for presents,
buy a Christmas tree and decorate it,
turn in your pledge card,
bake Christmas cookies,
send out Christmas cards,
make sure that each kid
has the same number of presents for under the tree…
And so on, and so on, and…
So, I suppose this is where
I am supposed to say
that there is another way, a different way,
to prepare for Christmas.
But I’m not going to.
I’m not going to add anything to your list,
In Mark’s Gospel this morning, Jesus says:
From the fig tree learn its lesson:
as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves,
you know that summer is near.
So also, when you see these things taking place,
you know that he is near, at the very gates.
Mark is speaking to a devastated people.
The words from Jesus
that we hear this morning
are the end of a long speech.
And this speech begins
with Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Most scholars date the writing of Mark’s Gospel
and the actual destruction of the Temple by the Romans to 70 AD.
So in this context, Jesus’s words take on a different texture:
Suddenly, the foretelling of destruction
Is not ominous,
But somehow comforting.
If this is part of what Jesus said would happen
In preparation for his return,
Mark seems to be saying, we can take heart!
It will all work out.
Jesus’s earliest followers expected him to return.
Not at some point in the distant future,
But within their lifetimes.
Some 2000 years later,
It’s hard to imagine how that felt –
I mean, we know that didn’t happen.
So, this “little apocalypse” – as it is often called –
From Mark’s Gospel needs to be read
In the light of the belief that Christ is coming.
The trick is, how do we do that, some 2000 years later?
How do we not turn a deaf ear
to a prophecy that seems to have expired?
And that’s why I’m not going to add anything
to your Christmas preparations list this year.
I do not find the cultural Christmas traditions
To be incompatible with Advent.
Yeah, they started playing Christmas music –
nonstop I might add –
on Halloween, but so what?
Yeah, the retailers started their Black Friday attacks
on Thanksgiving day,
but so what?
We get to choose when we listen to Christmas music
And whether we enter a store on a day set aside to give thanks
And exactly how we will prepare for
and accept Christ into our lives this Christmas.
The idea that retailers and capitalists are trying to sell us Christmas
Kind of makes me laugh.
Apocalyptic speeches are lumped into a broad stroke category
of destruction and end times.
And there are without a doubt elements
of the end of the world in Jesus’ speech.
The way Jesus speaks to us, however,
is filled with hope and promise –
You know the signs to look for! He says.
You’ll know summer is coming when the fig tree blooms
And that dawn will break by the cock’s crow!
Take a closer listen to what he is telling us:
The focus is on the fruit of the fig tree
And the dawning light . . .
On what the signs bring forth,
Not on the signs themselves.
And just as the preparations we have made –
Can bring forth the things that we want –
The test my daughter got an A on
And the concert where the drums sound amazing
And the dinner with family and friends
in a beautiful dining room
We can look for signs, some 2000 years later,
That signal Christ’s imminent presence.
Because they are all around us.
Do you see them?
For all we prepare, and wrap things in glittery paper this season,
Where do you see Christ coming into your life?
Because staying awake means recognizing
that there is a Holy both/and about Advent.
We prepare for Him to come,
even as we know,
we are assured,
that He is always with us.
We know that Christmas is something more –
It’s more than a day or a season.
It’s more than a package or a bow.
And that is what all the fuss is about.
I have to confess that, sometimes, I sneak up on poor Herbie
And I poke him, startle him.
Because when I do,
he makes the most wonderful noise of surprise and not surprise.
We call them Herbie noises.
His little sign, that, yeah, you got me,
but, also, I knew that was coming.
And now I’m going to go back to watching.
In 2017, my friends, that is the danger –
That we somehow become immune to the surprise
That we manage to reduce Christmas
To a card or a cookie or a dinner.
That we become so caught up in the signs of the season
That we miss out on Christ’s real presence – here, and now.
Yes, watch for the signs.
Listen to Christmas music and deck your halls.
Family and friends are coming over.
Dinner smells wonderful in the oven,
And oh! Did you hear the choir sing!
Christmas is coming!
But Christ, he is already here.
January 2018 (1)
December 2017 (4)
October 2017 (1)
May 2016 (2)
March 2016 (2)
March 2015 (3)
December 2014 (1)