|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 18, 2012||Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 11, 2012||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 4, 2012||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Mark 8:31-38|
|Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 26, 2012||First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15|
|Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012||February 22, 2012||Ash Wednesday||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B||February 19, 2012||Last Sunday after Epiphany||2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 12, 2012||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 5, 2012||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 29, 2012||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 22, 2012||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 15, 2012||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51|
|First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 8, 2012||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:4-11|
|Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012||January 6, 2012||Epiphany||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011||December 25, 2011||Christmas Day, 2012||Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011||December 24, 2011||The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord||Luke 2:1-20|
First Sunday in Advent
Sermon Date:November 27, 2011
Scripture: Genesis 28:10-17; Isaiah 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37
Liturgy Calendar: First Sunday in Advent, Year B
Doorways and gateways appear frequently in the story of our salvation in scripture.
Way back in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis, Jacob tricks his twin brother Esau out of his birthright, and then Jacob runs for his life.
When darkness falls, he lies down on the ground and using a stone for a pillow, goes to sleep for the night. He has a dream of a ladder set up on earth, stretching all the way up into heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it.
And God comes to Jacob in the dream and promises him land and descendents so numerous that they will be like the dust of the earth.
And God says, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land—I will not leave you.”
Jacob wakes up and cries out, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!
And filled with wonder, he then says, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
“The gate or doorway of heaven….”
Another year has passed, and we have come again into Advent, the first four weeks of the new church year in which we prepare for the coming of Jesus.
We have many ways of observing Advent—one of these customs is to open the doors of an Advent calendar.
Most of you are probably familiar with these calendars. Each day of December is hidden behind a little door.
Each day, you open the door for the day, and depending on the particular calendar, you may find a piece of chocolate, or a little Christmas ornament, or a festive little picture.
But the most important thing about these calendars is that they have doorways—because these doorways remind us that the four Sundays of Advent are doorways, doorways that are shut when we first come upon them, doorways that we must wait patiently to open.
Now Advent has three main doorways that have to do with the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I want to talk about all of those for a minute, because throughout this month, we are going to be coming upon these doorways and opening them one by one.
Obviously we are waiting for the birth of Jesus. Jesus comes into the world as a tiny baby, who will grow up to live and die as one of us, through the gateway of a human mother, Mary.
And we will open that doorway on the fourth Sunday of Advent, as we see for ourselves an angel come to Mary to announce the fact that Jesus will be born, and then as we watch the events of the birth of Jesus unfold before our eyes.
On the second and third Sundays of Advent, we come to the second major doorway of Advent. This doorway can be summed up in that famous passage from scripture in the last book of the Bible, the great book of Revelation, the words of our Lord and Savior himself:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to you and I will dine with you and you with me.”
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door—so during the second and third Sundays of Advent, we will be praying over how we, individually, wait and prepare for the coming of Jesus into our hearts, and our acceptance of and response to his presence, once we open the doors of our hearts to him.
The first door of Advent that we come upon and that we will open today is the doorway of the Second Coming of Christ. This is always the first theme of Advent, and it is the doorway that is frequently overlooked as we rush to hang our proverbial wreaths on that final doorway of Advent, the doorway of the birth of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas every year.
And so today on this first Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves standing at this doorway of the Second Coming of Christ.
This is a doorway we might prefer to leave shut, because the images are so disturbing—the cataclysmic end to the world as we know it,
When, as Mark puts it,
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.
We sing about this theme in the Christmas hymn, “In the Bleak Midwinter” in the second verse
“Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain, heaven and earth shall flee away, when he comes to reign…”
“Death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, heights, depths, everything in creation”
All that we know will come to an end when the events come to pass that we see through the doorway of the Second coming.
In the gospel according to Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that at the beginning of thisnew reality that will come to be, the Son of Man will come in clouds with great power and glory—and 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.
So through this door we have just opened, we see into the future—We see in the distance, through this open door, the blinding radiance of God’s passionate love for each one of us.
And if we look hard enough, we can see through this radiant light, the new community of love that we will be given as those elect who have been gathered in by the angels.
But we are peering into this light filled vision from this side of the doorway, and we wait in the cold and darkness.
So what do we do while we wait? What is the first lesson of Advent for us?
In the last part of the passage from Mark that we have just heard today, Jesus tells a parable about what we are to do while we wait for him to come again in glory.
“It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”
And then Jesus says, “What I say to you disciples I say to all: (and that is all of us)
Keep awake to begin our work now
To recognize like Jacob that we are standing on holy ground, at the gate of heaven itself, when we dare to do the work we have been given
And that work is to begin to create, here and now, the new community of love that points toward the community that we will someday be gathered into when Our Lord and Savior comes in great power and glory.
Our work is to create as best we can, being the broken people that we are,
A community of love in which we care for the least and witness to the lost among us,
A community of people with faith in God’s power and might,
A community of prayerful expectation
The expectation that when we call upon God’s name,
God will indeed, as the Psalmist says, show us the light of God’s countenance
And that God will surely save us and gather us in on that last great day.
So let this cry be our prayer as we stand in this first open doorway of Advent, in this gateway from which we see into heaven itself–
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down—
And restore us, O Lord God of Hosts.”