Sermon for St Edward’s, Sun 27 Nov. Advent 1 and Baptisms service.
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24: 36-44
Ok, I’m going to start with a little quiz:
- Hands up if you have sent any xmas cards yet?
- Hands up if you have got some xmas decos up – including outside lights!
- Made a xmas list of the pres you want?
So it seems some of you are more prepared than others!
The thing is, Advent is a season about preparation and getting ready, but also of waiting and of HOPE. Both, as we are waiting to celebrate Christmas, the birth of the baby Jesus; and also as we continue to wait for that wonderful future that is offered to us forever with Jesus.
Now our readings today can be a little heavy – they are called: ‘apocalyptic’ – so they are pointing us to the future. A future which Isaiah says is wonderful – he says God will be with us, there will be peace, and we will walk in the light of the Lord. There is that wonderful line –
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Which essentially means they will make their weapons into something useful to help grow food and plants – they won’t need weapons, because people won’t be fighting, there will be peace.
I mean that sounds good right? A future of no more heating bill rises, or not enough food, no need for refugees, no more fighting: just peace, no more climate change. But we might feel a little like: well that is so far away, especially when things are not great in our own country now, it feels unreal, how could we possibly attain that? Right?
But you know Isaiah wrote this in a time of massive uncertainty too. He lived over 1000 years ago and he was a prophet (someone God spoke to clearly). The lands around him had been at civil war and, there had been bad kings and good kings. Those who followed God and those who didn’t, and constant threats from other nations. Lots of people turned away from God in that time. But it was Isaiah who amidst this darkness said – come on – look to the future, & he pointed out God’s plans, and it was him who told people that Jesus would come. The Hope of the future.
So if we can hold on to this wonderful picture in difficult times like Isaiah did, this is partly what we are reminding ourselves we are preparing for, in Advent
But Matthew as we heard, puts a downer on it and reminds us we don’t know when this will be, and yet we must always be ready. Sounds a bit stressful right? How can you prepare for something you don’t know when it will happen?
In our house we have a thing called the ‘Extra half hour’ because some members of my extended family are always at least half an hour late for everything, so we just factor that in now – because how can you prepare to have the perfect roast potatoes if you don’t know when the guests will arrive?!
How can you always be prepared?
Well we don’t need to do lots of preparation actually in this case. We don’t need to be running to the shops, or putting up decos, for this gift, we just need to know who Jesus is.
And the preparation for that is simply to say: yes Jesus I want to know who you are and for you to be in my life. I want to turn away from anything I have done wrong and walk in your ways. It’s quite simple really!
And that is essentially what baptism is all about. For children: adults do this on behalf of the baby. They say actually we want this child to know about Jesus, we want them to know him now and in the future.
And that’s partly why we all join in some of the responses, because we remind ourselves who we are waiting for too.
Now Matthew talks of in this waiting: a thief coming in the night into our homes. Like Jesus is staking the joint, ready to break in or something! But actually that’s quite a helpful picture because instead of it being a negative, we might think, well maybe he has come to take some of our bad stuff, saving us from ourselves.
And again in the baptism service we talk about turning away from the bad things in our lives – making a choice on how we hope that child will live their life. We are declaring for them a future we hope for, just as we hope for in eternity as well as the now.
But we can all say this for ourselves too.
And maybe instead of a Christmas list for things we want, in Advent we could make a list of the things we want Jesus to take from us?
I don’t know what might be for you – but things like greed or anger, or pain & hurt, addiction, shame….
What do you need to let go of and let Jesus take from you?
You know Advent is actually the start of the church year, rather than the end, today is day 1.
And so the idea is we start the year with this time of reflection and preparation, before we celebrate the coming of the Lord, so that when the day comes we are fully engaged and can celebrate in abundance.
This time is an early Christmas gift if you like. A time to pause, to stop for a moment, to ask ourselves what are we even preparing for anyway? And to focus on the hope we have of what is to come, now and in the future.
So I encourage you to take some time to pause this Advent and to reflect. And even this morning, as we all say our responses in the baptism service to remind ourselves this is essentially all we need to do to prepare. To know Jesus, to let him take the hard stuff in our lives, and then when the day comes to celebrate lavishly.