The First Sunday of Advent, Year C, Dec. 2, 2012
‘Your redemption is drawing near.’
‘The Kingdom of God is near.’
‘It will come upon all who live.’
‘Stand before the Son of Man.’
Scripture is stirring us up, raising our awareness of holy things.
Advent means ‘coming’.
God has come into the world and lived among us in Jesus, the child born at Christmas.
Advent speaks also of another coming, one for which we wait.
Like God’s people of old, we too do not know when, where, or how.
What does this Kingdom of God look like?
Will we embrace this new time or hide in the shadow of the familiar?
Despite what many will tell you, Christmas traditions are rich in scripture’s portrayal of advent, the time leading up to God’s time.
How many stories or films do you enjoy this time of year that describe someone discovering themselves and all that is really important in this life before it is too late?
Redeemed life in the nick of time is one of the voices of Advent.
Charles Dickens captures the spirit of advent in Ebenezer Scrooge’s late repentance and transformation.
Saved by the bell, his old friend, though long dead, appears one night to warn Scrooge that he must change his ways before it is too late.
He prepares Scrooge to receive three spiritual beings who reveal the impact his stingy, cold-hearted ways have had on his life and people around him.
Scrooge repents of his old ways and the Kingdom of God is nearer in that old town than it had ever been!
Dicken’s creative literature reveals the blindness of the human condition and the potential for a kinder way of being, a Godly way.
The agent of such transformation need not be the ghosts of Christmas past, present, or future, but will be divine touch nonetheless.
God does not give up on us, not even the hardest of hearts!
God reveals hope for us.
Jesus warns us that we will see signs of a new day, just as new growth on a tree proclaims summer’s coming.
Advent is not an end time, my friends.
Advent is a time of waiting for God’s presence, actively waiting, ready with open hearts.
I can remember a moment of intentionally choosing God’s ways.
A new awareness of God had come into my life creating a new way of being.
I think old Ebenezer Scrooge discovers something similar.
Living God’s ways which is what the bible calls righteousness is so full of joy we can dance a jig as Scrooge does at the end of The Christmas Carol.
Grounding your life in God, compassion for others, giving as Sue Charlton describes, all point to God’s ways, the Kingdom of God here and now.
The German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, says that the hidden future of God for the world is already present. But it is present in the form of promise and awakened hope … it is an earnest of things to come and binds us to itself in order to point and direct us to greater things.’ *
Does the promise of greater things for our world encourage us to make the effort to live a more righteous life?
Moltmann seems to be saying that we are not the sole authors of God’s Kingdom, but our participating in God’s future for the world is part of it’s creation.
We may doubt that our lives will have the impact of Scrooge’s transformed life.
Again, trusting in God’s guidance, we do not need to worry if our little contribution will change the world
It simply will.
I remind the church that this teaching is not for us to practise alone for the sake of our salvation or that of the church.
Instead the universal truth of human potential divinely blessed and all that means, is a truth we need to make manifest in our lives for the hope of the world.
Scrooge’s life is saved by an old friend’s condemned and restless spirit.
Church, even today, can be a channel of God’s saving grace through our relationships with others beyond this place.
Let us bear witness to the advent of God.
For the hope of the world, may our lives proclaim God-with-us.
Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, SCM Classics, p. 309.