Christmas is Waiting to Happen
Preacher: Catherine Staziker, Cathedral Reader (2006-2010)
30 November 2008, 10:30 (Advent Sunday)
Isaiah 64: 1 – 9, 1 Corinthians 1: 1 – 9, Mark 13: 24 – 37 (Year B)
Kairos (a Greek word) – the time is near
Maranatha (an Aramaic word) – come Lord Jesus
Emmanuel (a Hebrew word) – God with us
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prepare the way of the Lord
Wake, O wake! with tidings thrilling
Hark! A herald voice is calling
Cast away the dreams of darkness
let the earth-bound soul arise
Let us haste
The dayspring from on high shall break upon us
No more delaying
Let us prepare
Make us watchful
Keep us faithful
Make us ready to meet him when he comes in glory
May he find us active in his service and joyful in his praise;
Now is the time to wake from sleep
TIME FOR ACTION!
TIME TO BE ALERT TO THE SIGNS OF THE REVELATION OF THE GLORY OF GOD.
The message is very clear in today’s liturgy.
Mark has already warned us at the beginning of his gospel:
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” i ,
He is speaking of kairos, a Greek word used to mean time, but time specifically meaning a propitious time, a favourable time – a time without a specific date – when something important will take place. A second coming perhaps?
This term kairos is used here again in today’s Gospel. Mark tells us that we must be observant and know how to discern the time the Lord has chosen to come and encounter us: “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” ii
But isn’t it common sense?
Don’t we know when He will come?
Don’t we always celebrate Christmas on the same day of the year?
Today is Advent Sunday. The beginning of the season of Advent. For Christians it is, in many ways, a solemn, sombre season. Although we are surrounded by preparations for the holiday festivities, Christmas trees and holly berries, Christmas bells and tinsel fairies, and may even have bought the odd Christmas present or written a few Christmas cards, the Church calls us to thoughtful repentance, and utters dire prophecies about the end of earthly joys.
And yet, I also find Advent to be a quietly exciting season, full of deep spirituality, promise, expectation and wonder; a season full of hope and joy. Those first few notes of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” hold within them for me all those emotions, not to mention tonight’s carol service. As nature prepares herself for the long and frozen sleep of winter, the Church calls the spirit to awake and put on the armour of light. As the days grow darker, and the light fails, the Church calls us to open our eyes to the rising of a new and glorious sun. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." iii
On this first Sunday of Advent, our readings shake us out of our humdrum, static chronological perspective. Kronos – the other Greek word for time.
Without preparation, December 25th could easily come and go without us encountering God in the now of our lives and the now of our history and future.
From the end of October, we are encouraged by the media ad nauseum to purchase gifts which neither we or our families, really need. Things which are, in any event, well out of reach, of at least half of the world’s population who live on less than $2.50 a day. In the UK alone, 1 in 5 people don’t even have enough to live on, are not able to afford essential clothing or to heat their homes. Children go to school hungry, or to bed without enough food. I wonder what they are hoping for for Christmas?
In any event, will one more or one fewer gift really make Christmas what Paul calls “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”? iv Christmas may easily come and go without changing our lives and those of others. or in the words of the Epistle: without the testimony of Christ being strengthened amongst us. v
We Christians are like the doorkeepers in Mark’s Gospel vi We need to be attentive to what the Lord wants to reveal to us and through us.
In the current global recession, the daily lives of the poor only deteriorate further, and economic and social differences just get worst: Death, poverty and suffering increase. The world condemns injustice, yet largely remains cocooned in passivity.
Sometimes, it all looks hopeless, yet in the words of Gerard Kelly (whose poem you have) “Oppressed peoples everywhere cling wildly to prophecy and song and whisper the word: Messiah” vii
Preparing to receive Jesus, on Christmas day or at whatever time means refusing to accept injustice. Vigilance implies there is a commitment to our actions:
Raising the hopes, not the illusions, of the poor in making ourselves ready for the advent of the “faithful God” viii who is coming to us. The time of this encounter is God’s design, but it is also our task to engage fully in that encounter.
Just because, as Isaiah says God “meets those who gladly do right and remember his ways” ix doesn’t mean that we can remain passive. Justice needs to be practiced with joy, hope and encouragement and the Lord will meet us. The feast of Christmas will then give meaning to our lives, to the lives of others, to the history of the people to whom we belong, and to their future. For this to happen, we have to stay alert, stay awake, not stagnating in a comfortable Christian life we think we have acquired once and for all.
We must use Advent to prepare for the coming of the Lord, whenever that might be, and ensure that Christmas comes to transform our lives, so that we, in turn, can transform the lives of others.
During Advent, let us work towards making Christmas happen everywhere.
Kairos – the time is near
Maranatha – come Lord Jesus
Emmanuel – God with us
And so, this Advent
May God bless you with DISCOMFORT ...
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with ANGER ...
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with TEARS ...To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war.
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into JOY.
And may God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS...
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can DO what others claim cannot be done.
i Mark 1: 15
ii Mark 13: 33
iii Romans 13.12
iv 1 Corinthians 3: 8
v 1 Corinthians 3: 6
vi Mark 13: 34
vii Christmas is Waiting – Gerard Kelly
viii 1 Corinthians 1: 9
ix Isaiah 64: 5
x A Franciscan Benediction