Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Wisdom; follow the instructions and wait

I am really behind the times. I have been preaching, obviously either too busy or not good enough to post? ah well, here's tomorrow's. I apologize that I haven't take the time to remove the caps that I use for spoken emphasis.

Christmas Amaryllis: (read box) Trav table from office; Children’s advent calendars
Have you grown one of these Amaryllis plants? 

My family will tell you that I grow very little. Only the simplest, sturdiest plants can withstand my sporadic attention. So waiting for an Amaryllis bloom and timing things right is a challenge for me. Altho it seems pretty simple. All I have to do is follow the instructions, wait patiently, and trust that nature's built in timetable will cause a bloom to result. 
That's the wise message for our journey to ADVENT and it comes right out of today’s scriptures; in Advent we are to follow the instructions and wait!

Let me read you part of Ps. 25 designated for today; Read psalm,
Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
Teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
For you are the God of my salvation;
For you I wait all day long.
Along with Jeremiah’s message about a promise to be fulfilled, Ps. 25 offers us an entrance or beginning for Advent. 

Advent IS a time of waiting, a time of preparation. But it is NOT the same as a countdown to Christmas. The rest of the world can’t wait for the END of their waiting, the 25th is their day of giving and GETTING. 
WE wait not for an END but for a BEGINNING.1
 We wait for God to birth new life into the world and its the BEGINNING of our Christmas Season - which lasts for 12 days and THEN we get to celebrate again, at Epiphany, the revealing of God to humankind.

With all the emphasis (and excitement) that surrounds our waiting we naturally want to know just WHAT we are supposed to do to prepare.
No matter which text we read, You see an admonition to 
follow the instructions and wait!

I think the best exercise for me this Advent is to take on this dead-looking bulb that holds the promise of new life.
With a little help, we can get this Amaryllis planted and ready to burst into bloom.
I remove from Box, read instructions,
Set pot on tray, remove bulb
Add dirt, bulb, more dirt, a little water.
...the instructions say..moist not wet and lots of sun, never below 60’

Together, I think we can do this...

   Advent waiting is also something we do in community.
Our Waiting is an act of faith. That’s why it takes all of us together to keep us on track.
In Advent we wait for the promise of new life to be fulfilled .  . .we Trust that God's natural calendar will result in the bursting forth of new life; a lovely bloom, at just the right time.
Jeremiah says, “
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made...In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

The Right time is καιρος time. Which is that special word for God’s time that adds mystery to the clock - in fact it pretty much tosses a regular clock and our daily calendars out the window.

I realize that lost calendars can be frightening to us, especially when schedules are full of extra events. If you want to put any professional, a soccer mom or dad, or a student, into a panic - just hide their agenda or daytimer calendar and watch what happens.

We are used to living by the clock and calendar. We think we understand time. But God’s time, καιρος, needs a different set of instructions. “teach me your ways, O LORD” means learning a new way to tell time.  And we learn how to wait...for just the right time. - καιρος

Life's normal operating instructions say pay attention to your calendar, sync your watches, and you will BE ON-Time and not miss anything.
καιρος time says live according to God’s rules, regardless of what day it is; wait, watch, ....
καιρος  is not so much about BEING ON-time as learning how to MAKE time for God's priorities. 
Secular life says Christmas is very nostalgic, so we review the past. OR we consume like crazy because we are conditioned to think we NEED everything we’ve been told to WANT in the very IMMEDIATE present.
Advent is a FORWARD looking time, where we learn to wait with expectation for what God brings about in God’s time and our immediate present is spent following those directions for living.
When we do, We find out what life is REALLY about - and we don’t miss what is really important about Advent, Christmas or all life.
Learning to live in καιρος  is learning how to participate in the justice and righteousness that the Lord of Life will birth into our world. - some of it begins right now; with us.
The day is coming says Jeremiah; a day when the Lord will execute justice.
Jesus said, the day is coming and is now here, when those who hear my voice, even the dead, will live. (John 5:25)
The new life of Christmas comes not only to Mary & Joseph but to the world, then and now, every time we join with God in bringing about justice and righteousness.

The famous theologian H. Richard Niebuhr called this the work of the church, “The purpose of the church is the increase of the LOVE of God and neighbor.”2

We can’t love our neighbor and allow them to be subjected to injustice. We can’t love our neighbor and allow them to go hungry, or without shelter.
We can’t love our neighbor and kill them - that’s not justice in anyone’s time.
Without a doubt it is GOD who brings justice to earth, but we have instructions to follow too. The old Brethren called it “living to the Glory of God and for our neighbor’s good”. It’s not a new concept, but it’s one the world continues to wait for Christians world-wide to embrace.

Advent begins the church year with stories that are not new to us. About a time when God created something REALLY new in Jesus. Over the next few weeks we will hear John the Baptist talk about how radical God’s time is. 
We will revisit the stories of people whose lives were turned upside down as they waited, thru pregnancies, thru muteness, in jail, and thru years of oppression for the καιρος  time to arrive and bring their salvation. 
They didn’t give up, they followed the instructions they had been given and waited for what would come. Advent teaches us that we live best by waiting on God. -Instead of trying to make things happen ourselves.

The Amarillus’ ugly, dry exterior that promises such beauty reminds us that everything about Advent is a bit mysterious and not what we’d expect. 

Advent is not a quiet time but requires we find some- or MAKE some - time of quiet. What could be more counter to a typical December’s Day of frantic activity, loud Christmas music over store intercoms, and the pressure of much to do? But being still IS necessary - at least for a little while - as we wait.
“Seeing, especially when we are looking ahead, is not always something we do with our eyes; there is a depth of vision to be gained from stillness.”

Our lives may Not be completely peaceful. Certainly this December brings some worries of a fiscal cliff, and job security, of financial indebtedness and concerns about 2013. 
For us to learn how to wait with trust for the new life to come, will take GREAT discipline. That’s where the stillness comes in. It provides us with time for renewal so we can see where God is pointing. We can begin to envision a world of justice and righteousness.
We can’t see it with our eyes yet, but in the quiet, we begin to see what God sees. It’s a hope beyond anything the human race can produce.
It is there in the stillness that we discover we HAVE learned how to wait for καιρος - God’s time to come. In the stillness we can really feel the excitement that comes with anticipating God’s future.

When company comes in for the holiday, we have lots of preparation. Sheets to be washed, food to buy, meals to plan, a calendar of days to organize. The expectation fills us with joy, so much so that we don’t MIND the work that keeps our waiting so busy.
Paul tapped into this feeling in the last text we need to hear today; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the JOY that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

Joy, and the longing to see each other face to face. Is that not the appropriate way to wait to meet Christ? 
And Paul was bold enough to tell his friends that he wanted to restore whatever was lacking in their faith. He was coming with instructions, - all they had to do was - wait.

We come back to our Advent agenda; ‘follow the instructions and wait’. 
When we plant an Amaryllis, we don’t know what its future self will look like. 
We have a picture, here on the box, but its of a previous bulb, ours may look different because it is grown in our own special place in this congregation. 
Surely a picture can’t compare to what will actually bloom here. 

We don’t always know what God’s future plans for us are. Even sitting in stillness may show us only a glimpse, and not the full vision of new life to come. 
But I trust,
that if we follow God’s instructions and wait for new life to appear,  we will discover the Advent of life all around us already. 
So in the weeks ahead, as you wait, Watch - for what is beautiful, look for the unexpected, let our waiting teach us skills of observation so we will see every tiny shoot of new life wherever it begins. 

OUR Christmas gift will be the spark of life -birthed by God for us to nurture. 
And the new year will find us Working alongside of God's creative power to bring alive a new world of justice. 

What could be more worth waiting for?
1Deborah A. Block Feasting On The Word -Pastoral (Louisville: WJK, 2009)4
2quoted by Phillip E. Campbell Feasting On The Word -Pastoral 1Thess (Louisville:WJK,2009)16

3 Jacqueline Winspear Pardonable Lies; Maisie Dobbs (New York:Henry Holt & Co.)

1 comment:

Terri said...

I do love Maisie Dobbs...and I love this line of this sermon: We can’t see it with our eyes yet, but in the quiet, we begin to see what God sees. It’s a hope beyond anything the human race can produce.

Lovely, Nancy.