A sermon for the First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2022
The Rev. Mark Nabors, Vicar
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, I don’t mean Christmas. Here’s your annual reminder, my annual screaming into the void: Christmas doesn’t begin until the sun goes down and three stars are visible to the naked eye on December 24th, and it lasts for twelve days, through January 5th. Hold off, Mariah Carey.
No, by the most wonderful time of the year, I mean Advent, our time of preparation for Christmas. A season that, in a sense, takes us out of time itself. Just as Lent prepares us for Easter, Advent prepares us for Christmas. It prepares us to await and see Christ’s advent, his coming: on the last day, in the holy Sacrament, in the face of our neighbor, and in our own hearts. By the end of it, we are prepared to return to Bethlehem to see Christ’s first advent, his first coming, as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Over the next four weeks of Advent, I’ll be exploring the Advent of Christ on the last day, in the holy Sacrament, in our neighbor, and in our own hearts. Today, we look East, to the last day, to the moment when Christ has promised to rupture reality with his glory, when he has promised to eclipse history’s time with eternity’s day of unending peace. The day when, as our opening hymn said, “he comes with clouds descending.”
Isaiah talks about this great day of the Lord. “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
When God initiates the unending day of peace, the earth will be transformed completely into the kingdom of God. Christ shall rule. Peace will reign. The warring, the contempt, the jockeying for influence, all of that shall have its end. All will look to the city of God and will stream to it.
This is the promised day Jesus is telling his disciples about in the gospel–the day when God will rupture reality and inaugurate the Kingdom of Righteousness and unending Peace. When the Son of Man comes again, Christ says, the parousia will happen.
The people to whom Jesus was talking knew what a parousia was. They had seen it take place before. The emperor shows up. And while he is still far out, the inhabitants of the town that are looking for him go out of the town to meet him. They form a procession with palms, with chants of joy, and they usher them back into the city to take his throne, establish his reign, and administer justice.
So it will be at the end. Those looking for Christ will see him coming in the eastern skies. They will hear his trumpet call. And they, the living and the dead, will meet him in the skies. With songs of praise and thanksgiving, they will bring him to this broken and divided world, this hurting and unreconciled world, to take his throne, to establish his kingdom, to bring healing, to usher in his day of righteousness and peace and justice and love. And everything will change. Everything will be transformed. Everything will be made new. For in the perfect light of the Lamb, it must.
And so week after week we gather. We face east looking for Christ’s triumphal advent. We sing songs of thanksgiving and praise–dress rehearsal for the great day of the Lord. And like the Christians of ages past, we pray maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly, and heal us, and help us, and save us, and make us your people in your perfect and everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace.
Wake up and stay awake, people of God. Keep praying, keep singing, keep loving, keep the faith, keep on. “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.”
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