As you know, today is the First Sunday of Advent. Throughout Advent we prepare for the coming of Jesus. When we talk about preparing for Jesus it’s a little confusing, even for those of us who have been a part of the church for a long time. During Advent we prepare for the birth of Jesus. But as some people have wisely pointed out–wasn’t Jesus born last year?
It gets more confusing when we read different parts of the bible. During Advent we read about what it was like before Jesus was born and how God’s people waited for Jesus. And then we read stories about Jesus’ birth and that all makes some kind of sense–waiting for Jesus, the savior, to be born and then Jesus is born.
Yet after Jesus’ death people began to wait for Jesus to come back again, what is sometimes called the second coming, Jesus’ birth being the first coming. Waiting for the second coming, well, this is what is going on in the book of Romans. All that language about being awake and ready for the day is just another way of saying be ready for Jesus to come back again.
All of this can get very strange. Are we preparing for Jesus to be born, or to come back again?
The short answer to that: Yes.
It’s not the only thing that’s mysterious about the time of Advent. Jesus’ birth is one of the great mysteries of our faith. God became human in Jesus, something we call the incarnation, or when God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus was fully human, just like us, and yet fully divine, just like God. That’s another pretty confusing thing, I would say.
It’s hard to understand this all, but the good news is I don’t think we ever have to understand it perfectly.
What the season of Advent teaches us year after year is how we can keep our hearts and minds open to whatever it is that God is doing in our life. It’s difficult to grasp how God is at work in the world. It might be as surprising as the salvation that came through birth of a tiny baby in the most unlikely of places.
This Advent I want to be curious. I want to be ready. I want to be watchful.
Have you ever waited for someone at the airport? Maybe you’re one of those people who have perfected the timing of picking someone up from the airport, circling around in your car, waiting for the arrivee under the giant number three. But there’s something a little different when you’ve parked the car, the few dollars it costs to do so totally worth it, and set yourself up with a homemade sign ready to welcome someone.
I remember my family all waiting for my brother’s flight to arrive after he had spent a semester studying abroad in Jordan. We had our cardboard sign all ready: “Welcome home,” it said. Do you know what it’s like when you’re waiting on someone and you get all jittery and impatient? I think my family was doing these mini-laps around the baggage claim area. We had been tracking his flight on our phones and the monitors at the airport. We knew when he had landed and we just were waiting for him to descend down the escalator.
Of course, when his face came into view we all leapt out of our seats and excitedly gathered around to greet him. Since he is our little brother we, of course, shrieked about his haircut and started asking him all kinds of questions. And even though I’m sure it was a little overwhelming, I know he secretly loved all that attention.
I get a mini version of this every day it a bit of a different setting. Do any of you have pets? I know it’s the thing for loyal, lovable dogs to be the ones to greet you when you get home. Do any of you have dogs that come run to meet you when you open the door to your house?
Well, I don’t have a dog, but my husband Josh and I have a cat; her name is Cortez. And I’m not sure she has the same loyalty as a dog, but I do feed her every day. So sure enough, when walking up the stairs to our apartment I think she hears and gets her cat self all situated right behind the door so right when we walk in she’s there for us to trip over. Then she runs all around under our legs before deciding that she’s bored and ready to not pay any attention to us.
So why am I telling you these stories? What I’m saying is during Advent be like Cortez.
Be waiting at the door. Be sitting on the edge of your seat at the airport, ready to jump up and offer a big hug. Be awake and keep watch.
We are going to be ready this advent to see Jesus. And that’s mysterious and beautiful and holy and surprising. Being ready is not being distracted, ready to spot Jesus because we just don’t quite know how this is all going to play out, so we have to be ready in every moment. God surprises us.
Here’s a few ideas I’ve written down for myself to follow this Advent, inspired by Romans, especially the part that encourages Christians to live honorably. This is my list.
Be mindful. Breathe deeply more.
Don’t numb out scrolling through instagram.
Don’t get jealous about other’s gifts.
Don’t overdo it on the eggnog.
Be ready to be a witness to my faith.
Who knows when you or I might encounter Jesus!
As we take communion together this morning I hope you will be open to the wonder and mystery of this season.
A new day is coming, let us be ready.