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1 First Sunday of Advent November 27, 2011 Denver, CO Pastor Dena Williams Isaiah 64:1-9 Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 I Corinthians 1:3-9 Mark 13:24-37 The Holy

Gospel according to the community of St. Mark in the 13th Chapter Glory to you O Lord "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you O Christ Tear Open the Heavens and Come Down When our son Walker was six years old, I took him to see a production of the musical, “Cats.” “Cats” is a story about professional actors and actresses and their adventures on and off stage. The characters, however, are all cats. The performers are dressed in cat costumes with elaborate, fantastic masks and make up. As the play begins, the lights are lowered in the theater.

2 A huge lighted, shining, colorful ball is lowered from the ceiling onto the stage. There is no music, the theater grows very quiet as all eyes gaze in awe at the light filled globe descending onto the darkened stage. While all attention is thus diverted, the “cats’ slip into the audience, slinking along in the dark. No one notices. Walker and I sat transfixed by the light and color, we were seated on a cross aisle, with a low wall in front of us, and as we gazed in wonder, a huge black cat sprang up right in front of our faces. I jumped, but Walker, Walker let out an ear piercing, terrified scream that echoed and bounced around the silent theater. There was a moment of silence and then the entire audience broke into laughter. When I recovered my senses, I put my arm around Walker and whispered words of assurance to him. As suddenly as the terrifying cat had come, he was gone into the shadows. Later, during the intermission, I was in the ladies’ room and I heard someone say to a friend, “Wasn’t that neat, how at the beginning, they got that little kid to scream so loud?” There are several other places in “Cats” where the characters pay visits to the audience. Imagine with me the conversation that went on among the actors, behind the scenes: “So who scared the little kid?” “I did, but he scared me as much as I scared him.” “Where’s he sitting?” “How old is he?” “He’s halfway up at the cross aisle, about a dozen seats down the row.

3 He’s sitting with his mother and his sister. He has blond curls.” “Well, I want that row next time.” Sure enough, every time the cats came into the audience, a different one came to visit Walker. I spent the rest of the play watching for cat shapes to appear at the end of the row. I would take Walker’s hand and point and whisper: “Here comes another one Walker. Now you know they’re just pretend. They can’t hurt you.” In spite of my assurances of his safety, Walker would begin to tremble all over, his eyes would get wide, his face would freeze in a half grin. He would wait for the cat to come with fear and joy and amazement, steeling himself not to scream. We made it through the play. I don’t think either of us remembers much about it, except for the cats. Not long ago I asked Walker what he remembers. “A huge black head with pointy ears and glowing green eyes silhouetted against the stage lights. That’s it!” And now, here we are 20 years later, Walker turned 26 on Friday, and Advent, the season of his baptism, has come. So why are we talking about cats? Shouldn’t we be talking about sheep and donkeys? Well, not quite yet, because it is the season of Advent. It is not time yet to speak of sheep and donkeys. In our lessons for today there are no sheep, no donkeys, no star, no manger, no baby. For it is Advent and we are called to wait.

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The prophet Isaiah waits for the coming of God in today’s lesson. He cries out: “Tear open the heavens and come down!” He asks for God to come, but he knows that the waiting is good. Isaiah writes: “From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, you are God who works for those who wait for him.” God makes a promise to those who wait. God promises to work to work on behalf of those who wait for him. The Prophet reminds us of the work God will do for us when we wait for him: “Those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as an eagle, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Even so Isaiah cries out to God, “Tear open the heavens and come down!” Those who wait . . . We do not always wait well. We are products of our culture, a culture of instant gratification. We can drive up to a window at Starbuck’s, or the drugstore, for a hamburger or even to get a flu shot. We do our banking, instantly, on line. We have a world of information at our fingertips, can e-mail across the world in seconds. We want it now and we can get it now. Waiting, then, is counter cultural. The ancient tradition of spending a month preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ seems bizarre in our culture,

5 a waste of time, a nuisance. Some other cultures wait in better ways than we do, I think. Their ability to wait is reflected in language. There is a word in Spanish—esperar. Esperar is a verb that means “to wait;” it also means “to hope.” There are no other words in Spanish for our English words, to wait and to hope, only Esperar—to wait and to hope. In Spanish, then, it is impossible to wait without hoping and impossible to hope without waiting. That makes this word, esperar, a perfect word for Advent. We wait for the coming of our Lord. We wait with hope for the coming of our Lord. We wait; we hope. As we begin this Advent season, may each of us consider how we will spend these days of waiting, days of hoping. It is a time to prepare, to wait. but also a time to pray, to hope. a time to reflect, to wait, but also a time to rejoice, to hope. a time to celebrate our joy, but also a time to anticipate with fear and trembling, with deep longing the God who comes. We are called to wait with the same excitement that little Walker waited for the cats to come. We are to wait with fear and trembling, with joy and holy anticipation, with longing for God.

6 And so we wait. We wait because our need for Christ is so deep. We wait because the waiting, the anticipation is so sweet. We wait because it is what God calls us to do. Even as we cry: “Tear open the heavens, O God, and come down.” Our prayer will be: “Teach us Lord, to wait.” Amen