by the Reverend Sally S. Weaver
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Does anyone know what the word “advent” means? It means coming or arrival. What is coming? What are we waiting for in Advent? Yes, after 4 Sundays of Advent, 4 Sundays of waiting, we celebrate Christmas Eve on Dec 24 and Christmas Day on Dec 25 as the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
We are waiting for Jesus. But Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago, he was crucified by Pontius Pilate, died and then rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples for a time. So Jesus has been with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit for a very long time.
And to complicate things further, we have the reading from the Gospel of Mark that Deacon Kevin just read. In it Jesus describes a time in which he will return to earth. He says, “’the Son of Man [will come] in clouds’ with great power and glory.” The Son of Man is the way Jesus refers to himself. So Jesus is talking about himself, after his crucifixion and resurrection. He’s talking about what we call “the Second Coming of Christ,” when Jesus will show up on earth again. When will this happen? When is Jesus coming back? He tells us: “…[A]bout that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus, the Son of God, doesn’t even know when he’s returning. No one knows.
To summarize: Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead a long time ago. Jesus lives forever as God. Jesus will return at some unknown time; when that will be, no one knows. Jesus was, Jesus is, Jesus is to come. Jesus was – he lived and died a long time ago. Jesus is – Jesus lives as God now and forever. Jesus is to come – at some future date Jesus is coming back. So why is that important to you and me and what are we supposed to do about it?
It’s important because we have Jesus, we have God, within us. Every single one of us. We human beings are amazing creatures. But we cannot create life. Said more formally, we cannot animate that which is inanimate. We can’t take a person or an animal that has died (or never lived) and make it alive. Only God can give life. That spark that is life, that separates the living from the dead, is from and of God. That spark of life is the spark that is in all of us sitting here. It’s the piece of Jesus within us, it’s the chip off the old God block.
So what are we supposed to do about the fact that Jesus was, Jesus is, and Jesus is to come? In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us: “[K]eep awake…what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” We sang that in our first song this morning: “Stay awake (clap, clap), be ready (clap, clap), the Lord is coming soon.”
Do you think that Jesus means that we’re not supposed to sleep and get good rest? No, that’s not what he means. What Jesus is saying is that we need to pay attention to our life and our world. Life is hard for most of us right now. How many of you feel sad sometimes? We miss hanging out with our friends. We miss giving and receiving hugs. We miss being with a group of people, watching a live musical performance or a sports event or a school play. And it’s OK to feel sad; it’s perfectly normal to have those feelings and to talk about them. Jesus felt sad at times, too. Keeping awake means paying attention to how you’re feeling, seeing, thinking, and acting. Being aware of yourself and others – that’s what Jesus is asking us to do. Letting parents and teachers know of your thoughts and feelings, sharing them, is part of keeping awake.
And seeing Jesus in other people is also part of keeping awake. When someone says or does something kind, we are hearing and seeing Jesus, that spark of Jesus Christ shining through them. When you walk outside and feel of the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the chatter of birds, or the crimson sky of sunset, you can thank God for all of that beauty and wonder. You’re honoring Jesus by keeping awake and aware of precious moments of your life.
What are we waiting for? We’re waiting for Jesus. Every year on Dec 25 we remember and celebrate Jesus’ birth. Jesus was a baby and then a child, just as every one of us was a baby and a child. And that fact overwhelms me, because it shows me just how much God loves you and me and all people on earth.
Bear with me as I try to show you what I mean.
So these are my dogs Gracie and Eli. We human beings know a lot about dogs. Scientists run studies on them and continue to find out new things about their senses and even their memory. We know that dogs have an amazing sense of smell, right? Their noses are so much keener than ours. They hear sounds we can’t hear. They can see in the dark much better than we can. So we know a lot about dogs. But we don’t know what it’s like to be a dog. We don’t know what it’s like to have a tail and wag it. Or to eat dinner standing on 4 feet, head in a bowl, only using your tongue and teeth. We understand a lot about dog behavior. But we don’t know what it feels like to be a dog.
Well, God had the same experience with human beings. As soon as the earth could support human life, God made human beings. God knew a lot about human beings. God knew that humans have a range of emotions. God knew that humans need food every day to survive. God knew that humans need each other to thrive. But God didn’t know what it was like to be a human person. And God loved people so much, God decided to become one of us. So God had Mary give birth to Jesus. God became human in Jesus, so God could know firsthand what it’s like to be cold or warm; hungry or full; happy or sad. Jesus was both a person and God, fully human and fully divine. So Jesus knows what we feel because he felt those feelings too.
So now we wait for Jesus to be born on Dec 25. And while we wait we stay alert and ready to see Jesus in the people around us and in ourselves. Jesus is in all of us, we just have to look. Amen.
The Reverend Sally S. Weaver is co-priest in charge at St. John's.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at email@example.com