Advent 1 December 2, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

ADVENT 1 Year C

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13;

Luke 21:25-36

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

 

 

Today, the first Sunday of Advent,

we begin

a new church year,

a new liturgical year

with its round of seasons

of celebration:

 

Advent / Christmas / Epiphany;

Lent / Holy Week / Easter . . .

 

all a celebration of the Mystery of Christ.

 

The liturgical year

is like a prism

through which a beam of light,

shining,

is refracted,

separated into all the colors

of the rainbow

so that each color

stands out clearly

among the others.

 

 

Just so,

as the great light that is Christ

shines through the liturgies of each season,

we see God’s saving work

in all its many colors,

the many aspects of this Mystery,

now focusing on one hue,

and now on another.

 

 

Advent,

the first season of the year,

contemplates the mystery of time,

that place where we finite beings dwell,

 

and the gracious and loving presence

of the God of all eternity among us,

in time . . .

time past, time present, time yet to come . . .

 

 

Once, in time,

a very long time ago,

a very particular child was born . . .

one small child

in whom all the fullness of God

was pleased, impossibly, to dwell.

 

Advent looks back in time

to that first coming of Jesus,

the eternal Word of God

born into a particular time and place,

the silent and secret new beginning

that changed the whole world.

Advent looks back

even as we look forward

to a time certain,

December 24th and 25th of this particular year,

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2018,

when we will celebrate that time past,

and all that it means for us today.

 

 

Once, in time,

one final, future moment of time,

all time will be swallowed up

in eternity.

 

At a time uncertain, but promised,

the Risen Christ,

the Lord of the Universe,

will come again . . .

 

and God’s kingdom of justice and peace,

whose seed

was that little child,

will flower forth in all its vivid beauty.

 

 

Advent looks forward in time

toward that time,

toward an ending and new beginning

so earth- and heaven-shaking

that the Biblical authors

found that only the cosmic images

of apocalypse

would do:

 

“. . . signs in sun, moon, stars,

distress among nations,

the roaring of sea and waves,

people fainting with fear and foreboding,

the powers of the heavens shaken,

‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’

with power and great glory.”

 

When you see these signs,

“Stand up and raise your heads,”

Jesus tells us,

“because your redemption is drawing near . . . ”

 

The corrupt and cruel kingdoms of this world

are overthrown,

and the kingdom of God

in all its fullness

has come at last.

 

Now, in our own time,

in the present,

the signs of our times . . .

 

poverty, violence, war,

disease, disaster,

all creation itself in distress . . .

 

reveal our urgent need of

God’s promised salvation,

and deepen our longing for it

in the here and now.

 

Signs that

might discourage us

to the point of despair . . .

 

obscuring as they do

the vision of God’s salvation

present among us

right here, right now.

 

 

Advent looks past

the signs of our times

seeking signs of Christ present . . .

 

For now, in time, our time,

in this very moment,

in every moment,

the risen Christ

is with us . . .

 

Present

in us, his risen body, gathered,

in the Eucharist we celebrate

and the communion we share . . .

 

Present

in the early morning hours

and in the dark of night,

in every kind, generous, loving act,

in our joy and grief and fear and courage and doubt

and anger and disappointment and yearning . . .

 

Present

in the one who hungers,

and the one who brings food;

in the one who shivers with cold,

and the one who offers a coat;

in the one who has no home,

and the one who gives shelter;

in the one who is alone,

and the one who comes to visit;

in the one who is shunned,

and the one who reaches

across the divide . . .

Present, in fact,

as a most felicitous phrase

in a Malcolm Guite poem*

shared with us by Father Torvend

at yesterday’s Advent Quiet Morning

has it . . .

 

“disguised as everything.”

 

“disguised as everything.”

 

 

Advent says:

The Christ who was born into the world

once in history,

who will come again at the end of time

to gather all time into the kingdom,

is already, at every moment,

with and among us now.

 

“Heaven and earth will pass away,”

Jesus said to his disciples,

“but my words will not pass away.”

 

All is ephemeral . . . but I am eternal.

Advent contemplates

the mystery of time . . . and hope . . .

 

life lived trusting

in the promise of Christ . . .

 

that for which we yearn

is already ours . . .

 

we are gathered into a reality

invisible,

yet as substantial

as this concrete building

which holds us

in its embrace . . .

 

we are already caught up

in eternity . . .

that which is coming

is already here.

 

 

The kingdom of God

is like winter

in the Pacific Northwest,

which, most days,

might convince us that the sun

is gone from our lives forever.

 

Who knows when, if ever,

we will see it again?

 

Then a sudden brilliant sunny day

renews the promise . . .

 

But here,

east of the Olympics

and west of the Cascades,

we live mostly in hope of the promise

as these ever darker fall days

decline into winter.

 

And there is January,

and there is February . . .

 

And there are winds, and storms,

and flooding rivers,

falling trees, and mudslides,

and every kind of wetness

enveloping the land . . .

fog, mist, drizzle, showers,

intermittent rains,

steady all-day-long rains,

sudden and fierce downpours . . .

 

and there are only

hints of that for which we hope . . .

 

these hints are called sun-breaks . . .

 

but time moves on inexorably

through winter’s gray

toward springtime green  . . .

 

Until once again,

the fig tree puts forth its leaves,

and we know that summer is already near.

 

The signs of the risen and living Christ

are all around us,

invisible though they may be

to the eyes

of the reasoning mind . . .

 

Advent says,

Look beyond the winter

of this world

with the eyes of hope

with the eyes of the wondering heart,

 

and see

that the kingdom of God is already here . . .

 

disguised as everything.

 

 

 

*”O Sapientia” by Malcolm Guite, in Waiting on the Word: A poem a day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, Norwich, England, Canterbury Press, 2015 page 66.

 

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