First Sunday of Advent
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Afterthoughts: Big God
Last Sunday we celebrated the first Sunday in Advent.
Advent is an interesting time of year.
It begs us to enter into the mystery of God while forgetting the story ahead.
It requires much patience on our behalf.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas,
we are called to watch, prepare, hope and wait.
Last week’s readings were certainly a call to be aware of the one foundational truth that should mark any season of the Church year;
God is in Control.
That message may be hard to discern given the nature of last week’s readings.
From Jeremiah, we get the prophesy that God will come through for the people of Israel and Judah. At the time the northern and southern kingdoms were being exiled and oppressed by the nations around them, causing a bit of worry and concern. But the prophet wishes to give them some hope that God is in control. Even in the midst of their calamity and the error of their ways (idolatry).
Then, in the Gospel reading, Jesus gives the doom and gloom pronouncement:
“Jesus said, ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’”
This message, for the disciples, would be a heads up for times yet to come. At the moment that Jesus was speaking to them, they were content under the teaching of their Rabbi. But soon, a time would come that would test them. They, like the audience for Jeremiah’s prophecy, needed to remember that God is in control.
This is an important message for us to hear too.
Many times in our life, we feel in control.
We have our ducks in a row.
We have a fairly predictable pattern of life.
Then life can throw us a curve ball.
We can be taken aback.
Leaving us feeling unbalanced and not in control
or maybe even out of control.
It is most important to remember during these times that God is in control.
What if our first response in a difficult time was to watch, prepare, hope and wait?
What if we took on an Advent posture in times of trouble?
Well, it would certainly get our head up, meaning,
that we might gain a much broader perspective.
So much of what we go through in our life could be navigated better by getting a clear perspective of what the reality around us is,
and not just reacting to our circumstances.
In Psalm 73, the Psalmist writes about a predicament that he (and sometimes we) find ourselves in: how can we see life as “fair” when the people that do not love God, who actually mock God, “get ahead” in this life.
To communicate his frustration, he uses phrases like:
“For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people.”
“They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues range over the earth.”
“And they say, ‘How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?’”
The Psalmist looks out at the state of things and is frustrated,
questioning his faith and is jealous.
How will he get out of this predicament?
The resolution is found in verse 16 and 17,
“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.”
Clarity for him was getting outside of himself and seeing the big picture from God’s perspective; namely that all things, in time, will be taken care of by God.
God is in Control.
And we would do well to have the same perspective.
It should involve the curiosity and mystery of Advent that is waiting on God to show up. It is the anticipation of something bigger than ourselves working “behind the scenes” of our lives for our good.
This is what God did for His people Israel in the Old Testament reading from last Sunday
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 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. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”Jeremiah 33:14-16
This is what Jesus prophesied to His disciples in the Gospel reading from last Sunday,
Jesus said, ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’”Luke 21
And this is what God does for us.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”Ephesians 3:20-21
May we, together, lean on the God who has saved us and called us His own to provide those things which He has planned for us. May we watch, prepare, hope and wait for the coming of the Lord in all things.