Sermon for Advent 1 ~
December 1, 2013
that old Pontiac would last forever. It was Christmas Eve in my first parish.
We packed the trunk with all our Christmas gifts, luggage and stuff we needed
for our 2 year-old. Her car seat was strapped in and we had extra blankets
because it was a cold night and we had a two hour drive after services.
The 7 pm
service in the first town went well. We got in the car and headed down the
highway for the next service at 9 pm. It was snowing and we were talking when
something happened. The car pulled hard to one side and didn't steer right. I
thought it was a flat but the wheel bearings had seized. I got the car onto
the shoulder of the highway. It was still running but we were stranded.
There is not much traffic on Christmas Eve. It was 1983 BCE (Before cellphones
pulled over in front of us. A lady offered to give us a ride. I still wonder
who that was. I put the flashers on and we returned to our house. When I called
the parish chairman who lived across the back lane, he said, "Take my van, we
don't need it." We did that. We hurried to the broken car and quickly
unloaded it into the van, then on to the church. I went in, threw my parka on
a chair and walked into the pulpit. The people were leading the service and I
got there just in time for the sermon.
worship someone offered to take care of my car, and we got into the van and
made it to our family home in Edmonton at midnight. What was expected that
evening all changed – but we found our way home.
you can count on. Some things you just don't know. Even Jesus admitted that.
In a few minutes we will confess our faith in the words of the Apostles
Creed and say that God is creator of heaven and earth… and judge
of the living and the dead. We can count on the fact that beginnings and
endings, creation and closure belongs to God. There is much we don't
know, but the Psalm, Isaiah and Paul remind us this morning that God is central
to this experience that we call life.
Who is this
this God of fingerprints and snowflakes, of humpback whales and heartbeat? How
do microscopic cells reorganize and become a newborn infant with a cry at birth
that seems to echo the ancient name of God: "I am!" Some things we
don't know, but some things are proclaimed to us… unexpectedly.
"I and the
Father are one" Jesus
said one time. Our faith receives a message that Jesus is God in a way that we
can understand. The mystery of the faith is put this way: Christ has
died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! He came to give us a kind
of "way" of knowing that despite mysteries of creation and fearful images of
endings – we are loved.
drinking, marrying and rejoicing, field and kitchen
Against this mystery
of the faith, Jesus steps forward with his words this morning. People still
eat and drink, they marry and rejoice – it's not that much different than
Noah's day. People work in field and kitchen – life continues on. However the
question behind the Gospel lesson today is: Do we get the big picture – that
God is with us in the very "ordinariness" of life? God has been there with us
even as marriage becomes a paper exercise; as funerals drift from churches to
halls; as birth loses its wonder and sunsets get lost behind buildings.
Will the Noah
story remind us of climate change, shifting seas, water issues, keeping species
from extinction, the power of storms, the gathering of family, and needing space
for all? Do we see that God cares about such things? Or, do we miss the boat
of God's present care?
in that story. Some didn't. Isn't that the way life is? Whether we
understand it or not, the person next to us can be gone.
time this week in and out of palliative and intensive care settings. There are
things we need to say to each other, do for each other, while we can. Did you
take the time to talk, to laugh, to sing, to pray with the one next to you?
Will you transform your conflicts into something life-giving? Will you quiet
the quarreling and make the most of the time? How will the memories that you
are building help those next to you walk in the light when you are gone?
questions of the ordinary life – the kind of life that Jesus lived with us.
The words of
Jesus today draw us to the fact that sometimes we face the unexpected. That
can be shocking… like the invasion of a thief who steals something away from
us. So Jesus, God in a way we can understand, brings us God's heart:
a cross of love.
whispers of compassion and welcome.
coming to gather his people like a shepherd.
never letting us go, whether waters rise, storms come or loved ones leave.
of Man calls us to be "ready" and "wake up" to arms of love that have
always been there.
As the days
shorten and the darkness grows, we are lighting Advent candles each week to remind
us that we do not face darkness alone. The light of the world has come, shining
on to illumine our lives and lead us forth not in fear but courage … and even
We got back
to Edmonton that alarming Christmas Eve 30 years ago. So much was unexpected, but
God was there in the "ordinary." So we stayed close as a family, people came to
our aid, we had to leave a car behind (the old Pontiac didn't last forever),
new hope was provided, we stood and sang with others, and then in the quiet
darkness, we found our family home and stepped into arms of welcome.
you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by
paths untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good
courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and
your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.