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Sermon for the 1st Sunday of Advent Well, our English word „Advent‟ comes from the Latin

„Advent‟ comes from the Latin words


Sunday 30 November 2008 „Adventus Domini‟, meaning „the coming of the Lord‟. At this
time of year we are all waiting eagerly for Christmas. And at
Isaiah 64. 1-9 Christmas, every year, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, the
1 Corinthians 1. 3-9 coming of our Lord as the Christ-child in Bethlehem more than
Mark 13. 24-37 2000 years ago. In a way, during Advent, we are preparing for
the biggest birthday party of all. That‟s what all our frantic
planning and shopping and baking, cards, wrapping paper,
decorations and crackers are really about.
Happy New Year!
Of course, part of our preparation for that great birthday party
Today is the first day of the Church‟s year. The rest of the lies in remembering how the birth of Jesus came about so long
world does things differently. The calendar year begins on the ago. We re-visit, through the words of the prophets, the
first of January. The financial year begins in April. The yearning of Israel for its Messiah, the one who will reconcile
academic year begins in September. But this is the Church‟s God and mankind, in whom the glory of God will be revealed:
„New Year‟s Day‟. And so today is a time for new beginnings. the one who is the „Morning Star‟, the „King of Nations‟,
„Emmanuel‟ or „God with us‟. We share with Mary and Joseph
Today, we start a whole new calendar of seasons, feasts, the waiting and the wonder and the worries of pregnancy. We
festivals and holy days. Today, we also start a new cycle of learn, with Mary, that the child who is to come is very special.
Bible readings. The Church has put together a three year He will be great and holy and powerful and will be called Son
scheme of readings to help us to make sense of the Bible. It‟s of God.
given the rather grand name of a „lectionary‟. Today we begin
Year B. In the course of the year most of our Gospel readings The birth of a baby is always a time of rejoicing. It‟s a new life,
will come from St Mark‟s Gospel. And today also marks the a fresh beginning, a time of hope. So how much more will we
beginning of a new Church season – which is given the name rejoice at the birth of this special child.
of „Advent‟.
“Comfort is here; help has come down from heaven”, wrote
The season of Advent comes around at the same time every Bernard of Clairvaux, more than 1000 years ago. “God the
year. I suppose we think of it as the run up to Christmas. But Father has sent to earth a sackful of his mercy… Only a little
what does „Advent‟ really mean? sack, but it is full. To us a child is given indeed, but in him
dwells the fullness of God.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that
So Advent is a time of joy and excitement and anticipation. everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have
eternal life.”
But Advent is about more than remembering the birth of Jesus
and preparing for his birthday celebration. It‟s also about We long for the coming of „a new heaven and a new earth‟ in
looking ahead, into the future, to another new beginning when which God will make his home amongst his people and be with
Christ will come again – and God‟s new world will come in all them to wipe every tear from their eyes - and in which death,
its perfection. „Keep awake!‟ says Jesus, „for you do not know mourning, crying and pain will be no more.
when that time will come‟. During Advent we wait with
renewed hope and longing for the time when Christ will come, As Martin reminded us last week – “the world we live in is far
not as a vulnerable child in a stable, but in power and glory, from perfect”. As we hear the news today from Mumbai in
for the completion of God‟s new creation. India, from the Congo, from Zimbabwe, from Afghanistan and
Iraq - as we recognise the suffering of people around us who
The Jews of Jesus‟ time had their own views about what would are in pain or distress - should we not be joining today with
happen in that „end time‟ – and about the signs that would the passionate cry of the prophet Isaiah to the Lord, our
herald it. They envisaged a powerful and terrifying upheaval in Father:
the created universe, when „the sun will be darkened and the
moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”
heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.‟ For the
Jews, this „Day of the Lord‟ would be a time when God would
actively intervene to punish sin – as the prophet Zephaniah So Advent, „the coming of the Lord‟, is a season in which we
foretold : „a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day remember the coming of Christ into the world as the baby in
of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of Bethlehem and in which we anticipate the second coming of
clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle Christ to usher in God‟s reign of love and peace.
cry‟.
But Advent also reminds us of another coming of Christ which
As Christians we pray fervently for the „Day of the Lord‟, for is perhaps even more immediate and meaningful for us. Jesus
the time when „God‟s kingdom will come and God‟s will be was „God with us‟ during his lifetime in 1st century Israel. Jesus
done in earth‟. Our Christian hope for the coming of God‟s will come again to reign in God‟s new world. But Jesus is with
kingdom is lodged firmly in the promise expressed in John‟s us, too, today – here in this ‟in-between-time‟ in which we find
Gospel: ourselves living out our lives.
Remember the lines of the popular Christmas carol: Advent is a time for new beginnings.

“No ear may hear his coming, If we are to prepare ourselves for „the coming of the Lord‟, it‟s
but in this world of sin, a time to hear the call of Jesus to wake up. And, as at the start
where meek souls will receive him, still of a new day, it‟s a time for cleansing and refreshment – a
the dear Christ enters in.” time to turn away from the darkness and look into the light – a
time not for sleeping but to be active in the service of Christ.
What is really in our minds when we pray for the Holy Child of
Bethlehem to be „born in us today‟?

Perhaps we are inviting Jesus to be with us at the difficult Today is the start of a New Year for the Church. Let‟s make a
times in our lives - to bring hope when we are depressed, resolution to strengthen our faith in Christ who is the same
comfort when we are in pain, and reassurance when we are „yesterday, today and forever‟, to rejoice in the knowledge of
anxious. Or perhaps we are asking Jesus to help and guide us his presence with us today, and to pray with all our hearts and
when we are trying to make sense of the problems and minds for the coming of God‟s kingdom.
complexities of life – to prompt us to seek out ethical
responses and to make love the focus of our relationships with New Year is a time for celebration, for new life, new vision and
others. Maybe we want Jesus to be with us, to walk with us new hope.
and talk with us, in every part of our lives.
So „Happy New Year‟!
The spiritual writer Esther de Waal reminds us that we can find
God in the ordinary things of life as well as in its highs and
lows. She writes:

“I should look around me and see that God does not demand
the unusual, the spectacular, the heroic. [My rule of life] asks
of me as wife, mother, housewife that I do the most ordinary,
often dreary and humdrum things that face me each day, with
a loving openness that will allow them to become my own
immediate way to God.”