“Awake to Wonder”

Nov 28, 2021

The Scripture

Luke 21: 25-36

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

The Sermon

This Advent Season we are following the theme titled: “Close to Home.” It fits this season, doesn’t it?  Sanctified Arts has created this idea of “Close to Home” when thinking about events and situations that affect us deeply…journeying toward Christmas does affect us in a profound way. The writers talk about how during the Advent and Christmas season we explore and read through scriptures and rituals that are tender, and heavy with emotion. Our hearts change during this time, I believe we become more open to the hope in what the Christmas message brings to us. If we let it, we can be awakened to the wonder of new possibilities. We carry the memories of the past and truths of this season close to our hearts. The passage in Luke that is our scripture for this morning seems out of place for Advent. It seems far away from hope and joy and wonder. But as we enter Advent, we must be grounded in reality…a reality that the world is not what we hope it to be. We yearn for what is not yet…and in a way we’re homesick. We’re homesick for how we used to see the world. We are homesick but yet we hope!

I was right when I told you earlier that this passage doesn’t seem like it belongs in Advent, right? “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.” What is this about?  This section is known as the “Little Apocalypse,” yes the end times, the destruction of the world. The end of the world doesn’t fit with the birth of Jesus, but wait a minute in some ways it does seem like we are experiencing a “little apocalypse”.  Just maybe, this passage is speaking to us right now.  Our world does seem to be cracking apart.  We have this pandemic that has been a devastating force for over two years and counting. For many this holiday season will mean there will be empty seats at our tables. We have the housing market exploding leaving more and more people unable to own a home. The “houseless” population is increasing and for even more paying rent is challenging.  We have a political divide that just seems to get become more expansive week by week.  The fighting, the bickering, and the inability to work together is troubling.  And then let’s not forget our environmental concerns. The environmentalists are predicting irreversible damage to our planet with the inability to sustain life on earth.  Have you heard enough?  This is the reality we are facing right now…this is the reality from where we long for things to be different, to be like they used to be.  We’re longing for a different time…and as the theme suggests we’re “homesick” for a world we remembered where the worries didn’t seem so heavy.

We are “homesick” and yet we are people of hope!  As Mark and Ben said when lighting the Advent Candle of Hope, we hope for a world where all are fed, we hope for a world with contagious laughter, we hope for a world where trees grow tall, and creeks run clean. That hope for this restoration, for a righting of all the wrongs is built into each one of us…it is a hope that is planted like a seed in our hearts of faith.  Hope arises when we face the reality that life is not how it should be. Remember we’re homesick for what could be again!  Hope is an expectation…a belief that God is not finished with us yet, not finished with the world! And now Advent is all about claiming our hope.

Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living naturalist along with Douglas Abrams just coauthored a book titled “The Book of Hope”.  Now one might think someone who is a life scientist working almost her whole life with the natural world would have a rather bleak view of our future. Jane says this, “Probably the question I am asked more often than any other is:  Do you honestly believe there is hope for our world?  For the future of our children and grandchildren?  And I am able to answer truthfully, yes.”  Jane Goodall now does lectures, talks, participates in community gatherings and she has coined a phase that has gone viral.  Yes we can!  Yes we will!  It is a call to action…a call to not sit back and hope that someone else will do what needs to be done to clean up our world but that everyone would jump and do his and her part to make the change a reality.  It is a call to action.

In many ways Jane Goodall’s call to action and her steadfast claim of hope for our world is not that much different that our own claim of hope in the One born in a manger.  We long for that baby to be born, for our lives to change for the better and also quite frankly, I think we sit back or go to the sidelines and wait.  We simply wait.  We are longing for someone else to intervene to step in and change the course of action, we long to no longer be homesick for the way things used to be, we long for healing to come…and so we wait.  What if instead of waiting…we become awakened to the wonder of what can be?  What if we become awakened to our own ability to step up, step forward, and say “yes we can” be the light for others?  What if we believe that we have an important part in transforming our hope into a true reality?  The birth of Jesus gives us courage and strength to hang onto this hope…the living Christ gives to us an invitation to say yes we will help you restore the world.  I wonder what you can do?  Amen