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  • Writer's pictureFr Robert Randall McDonald Bagwell

Attention: It's Advent!

Human beings are people of waiting. We wait 9 months to be born typically; we wait for the weekend, our birthdays, the day to be over, an appointment, in the post office. in a dinner line in the parish hall. One problem: we hate waiting! As we observe the frenzied, frantic, scurrying about at the stores, in the streets and in our own homes and places of employ the Church says suddenly: WAIT!

Patience. Patience. Everyone likes to receive it from another, but few of us like to exercise it. Patience is a spiritual virtue. Galatians five calls it one of the fruits of the Spirit, and evidence that the Spirit of God is in control in our lives. As it appears many times in the Bible, you might not be surprised that it is something the Church urges us toward as well. Our current culture urges us toward immediate satisfaction, but the Church says: wait, think this through experience waiting on the Lord.

Why do you suppose the Bible and Church are concerned with patience? Well: Because without patience you cannot live in hope; Because it is the internal regulator of self-discipline. Good things come to them that wait, we are told. Yet we live in a culture that says, "don't wait...charge it, finance it, eat it, drink it; don't save for it, don't wait; why withhold pleasure that you could receive right now?

Advent is about waiting. I always like to emphasize our Jewish forbearers in the faith during Advent. They were a people who kept the hope for a Messiah alive for centuries, thousands of years always waiting with anticipation for the day. They lived in a time where reality could be harsh. Food and drink depended on the weather. The attacks of nearby hostile nations a measured possibility. They longed for a day of peace and security when God's Messiah would judge the nations and preside over a government of which there would be no end. We still await that day of which St Julian of Norwich wrote: "all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well…"

We are at the daybreak of the Christian New Year. We are put face to face with the spiritual and physical realities that we live in a greater cosmic reality than our personal lives can ever fathom or begin to understand. Advent is stepping on the plain of history which is His-story (that is Jesus' story) and onto the plain of the apocalyptic, the world yet to be and yet already is in the mind of God. It is a bit like all of those who are already subsuming their lives into Christmass which is the already but not yet. Therefore we must have hope for the actualization of what is to be. The foretold that we both anticipate and dread. We are an odd lot, we followers of Jesus. We worship a crucified God yet we shirk sharing in any of those sufferings ourselves. Historically the church has commemorated the "four last things:" death, judgment, heaven and hell. Today we prefer to limit that to one of those: heaven. We prefer to ignore the realm of responsibility, accountability, and judgment. Yet we all know that we do not attain the greater good, our greatest potential, our hopes and dreams without living out those very things we avoid. The culture of our day prefers to ignore such things as: death, judgment and hell. We will either confront and deal with these sober realities of the Christian experience or wait for an outcome, not as Christ would have provided for. In other words, will you embrace the Son of God while living by faith and belief or will we wait to see if our “churchianity” is enough. We must decide and while Advent looks forward in hope it also proclaims decision.

So Advent teaches us to be still. To listen to the words of Psalm 46: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth,” and with Psalm 122 "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:"May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls and quietness within your towers. "

Advent says to us: stop! Access…consider…let God encounter your personal space and the trajectory your life on. Less a "little Lent" it says that our lives are not haphazard and God has a plan for our lives in Christ. We can pilot our own destiny or let God guide us on that path of destiny. Let God in the driver's seat of your life: He knows where he is going.

Advent teaches us to live in readiness and anticipation. Paul said in our reading for today: "You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near." Not in fear but in eager expectation.

Each year Advent reminds us to look for that day when all will be well, as Julian of Norwich said. When all wars shall cease, all poverty and starvation be eradicated, all injustice brought to justice and God reigns in a new heaven and new earth. We call it the Parousia or Second Coming of Christ. We speak of it in the Creed every week: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end". In the Lord's Prayer: " Thy kingdom come". Even in the Christmass collect we pray: "grant that we who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge." But Advent is cosmic and timeless. It is in God's time, in Greek: Kairos. Time outside of time. It points us to restoration, reclamation, wholeness and healing. But like exercise and learning it doesn't come without pain. We know: no: pain, no gain.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just avoid all of the bad stuff at the end? C.S. Lewis said, "the Christian faith is a thing of unspeakable joy but it does not begin with joy but rather despair. And it is no good trying to reach the joy without first going through the despair.”..thanks, C.S."

This is the way of the cross. It is the heritage of the children of God to put on the armor of Light. Paul tells us: "put on the Lord Jesus Christ". Do we every day "put on" the Lord Jesus Christ. Not "are you puttin' me on" but clothing ourselves in Christ like a robe of ownership of the household of God. When people see and experience us, like soldiers in uniform, like the postman at our door, like the policeman at the crossing, do they see who we represent, under whose authority we operate, whose will we are operating and whose will we are trying to accomplish???? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, at least that is how it is for me. I'll bet that's how it is for you. It is good to remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are. If each of us was the only gospel, experience of Jesus they ever experienced, would they be moved toward the Lord who is coming in great glory one day. He comes in glory every day as we let Jesus Christ shine through us. Anticipate God shining through you. Anticipate God Let God be God. Get out of the way this Advent. God is God and we are not.

In considering how we will keep in mind that as the scripture says: "the time is short" let me relate an apocryphal story written by CS Lewis. It is about three devils who to finish their apprenticeship were to be sent to earth. Meeting with Satan: he queried them about strategies to thwart the work of God. The first devil said: "I will say there is no God" Satan replied: "only the most foolish would believe that." The second said: “I will say there is no Hell." Satan replied: most of humanity believe there is hell for some." The Third said:"I will say: 'there is no hurry'." "Do that" Satan said, "and you will ruin humanity by the thousands."

There is no hurry? That would depend upon your perspective. There is no guarantee of another breath, another car ride anywhere, another day on this planet. How many Ukrainians went to sleep last night to never awaken again? How many across the globe are in the same situation. What will we do with the time we have? What will God do with us when we make ourselves available to him? Each day of the next weeks of Advent--let us begin again to begin again as we walk in the Light clothed in the anticipation of that coming Light of Jesus Christ in the Bethlehem Star. AMEN

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