First United Methodist Church, December 3, 2017
Pastor Toni L. Carmer
As this season of Advent begins, I'm not sure that I need to tell you to "keep awake," really. Too many of you are already operating in a state of sleep deprivation. You have too much to do and too little time to do it. You are in the habit of being over-scheduled, and you do your best to get as much done as possible, and then fall into your chair at night, exhausted. Your body may be done for the day, but at the same time your brain is still working hard; shutting it down and actually resting or falling asleep can take real intentional effort. (Not that I would have any idea of what that's about J).
That's an everyday-this-is-your-life kind of phenomena, and then we enter this season of Advent, this time we set aside to prepare for the coming of Christ, and it only gets worse. The delight that you experienced as a child has evolved into a to-do list. The joyful giving gets turned into too much shopping and sometimes spending too much money. The gleeful unwrapping of the gifts we give requires staying up just that much later to get them wrapped to begin with (though gift bags seems to work nicely enough)… Our preparations become one—or 12—more things to do.
We've grown accustomed to our preparations, to our traditions, and it's kind of like that train that was less than a block from our home in Elkhart and rumbled by several times a day. After awhile, we didn't hear it anymore. We didn't notice the house vibrated just a bit. Not a big deal. Hanging the greens, putting up our trees at home, it's just something we just do.
And yet, deep down inside, we know that it is so much more…we long for this time to have meaning and purpose, and that it will help us "wake-up" to God's presence in our lives, and to more clearly see and be prepared for his coming.
Our waiting is similar to God's people that we read about in the Old Testament. They were waiting for the Messiah to come and save them, to redeem them. They didn't know when the Savior would come, what day, what time, what hour.
We know. We know that the Messiah did come and each Christmas we celebrate how he came into the world. Born of Mary, laid in a manger…we know that story, and over these next few weeks we'll remind ourselves of his first coming and how that tipped the world on its ear and changed our lives forever.
But these words from the Gospel of Mark are words from the mouth of Jesus. He's come once, and he's reminding us that he'll come again. We don't know when that will be. But his warning is to be aware, to keep alert, because no one knows when. I don't know if God's kingdom will come with Christ's return during our lifetimes, but I do know that someday, we'll each meet him face to face. At the end of my life here on earth, I want to be ready for that. I want to enjoy every day I've been given. I want to see and receive the beauty of God's creation, to give thanks every day for every moment. I want to bless my family, my loved ones, my church with my presence, my engagement, and I don't want to ever allow my eyes to glaze over and forget the things that are truly important…to be too busy to notice. I want to be reminded when the candles are lit that God's light breaks into the darkness, I want to receive the sacrament of communion, and remember Christ's presence in the bread and the juice. I want to remember. I want to see. I want to notice. I want to be alert.
This time of preparation was given to us as a gift. Let's use our time well. Let's worship and sing together, let's enjoy the lights and the colors and the food and the gifts and the people. And remember always, how blessed we are. Amen.